The Dirt

Farm Bill 2012 Update

Friday, February 17, 2012

On February 7, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chair of the US Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee announced a planned schedule for hearings related to the 2012 Farm Bill. On the House side, the “mark up” of the bill by Ag Committee members is set to begin soon.  Senate hearings started February 15, but there is still time to have your voice heard.  SFC has followed some of the key elements of this year’s Farm Bill that will help advance sustainability in our food system and support great access to healthy food for all.  For more on the 2012 Farm Bill, including detailed information on specific Farm Bill components and guidance on how you can get involved, click here…

 

Farm Bill Hearings Get Underway

On February 7, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chair of the US Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee announced a planned schedule for hearings related to the 2012 Farm Bill. On the House side, the “mark up” of the bill by Ag Committee members is set to begin soon. 

 

While Texas is a major agriculture-producing state, we have no members on the Senate Agriculture committee.  The House committee includes three Texas representatives, Randy Neugebauer, K. Michael Conaway, and Henry Cuellar.  We strongly encourage individuals to contact their lawmakers and get involved in the 2012 Farm Bill.

 

SFC has followed some of the key elements of this year’s Farm Bill that will help advance sustainability in our food system and support great access to healthy food for all.  These issues are detailed below, along with additional information for contacting your lawmakers.

 

Farm Bill 2012 Issues list

1. Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act

 

2. The Local Farm, Food, and Jobs Act

 

3. Limit direct farm subsidy payments, close loopholes in the cap on other farm payments, and re-align subsidies to reward farmers for climate friendly methods

 

4. The Expanding Access to Farmers Markets Act to increase purchases of local and healthy foods through the SNAP program

 

5 Authorize both WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and increase funding to $100 million annually and eliminating the state match requirement for both programs

 

6. Ensure that effective conservation programs remain in place, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative and the Conservation Stewardship Program.

 

7. Bar federal crop insurance and disaster payments for conversion of native sod and fragile lands to cropland.

 

 

Farm Bill 2012 Issues details

1. Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011 [H.R. 3236] highlights federal programs that help support economic opportunities for young and beginning farmers and ranchers.  The bill addresses many of the barriers that new agriculture entrepreneurs face such as limited access to land and markets, hyper land price inflation, high input costs, and a lack of sufficient support networks. Some of the specific proposals that are included in the Beginning Farmer bill are:

 

  • Individual Development Accounts (IDA) and FSA Microloans
  • Loans and set asides for conservation programs
  • Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program
  • Agricultural opportunities for military veterans

 

From: Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, http://www.ssawg.org/home/2011/10/27/beginning-farmer-bill-introduced-in-congress-for-inclusion-i.html, with additional information from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition at http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/lffja-introduced/

 

2. The Local Farm, Food, and Jobs Act

This act will improve federal farm bill programs that support local and regional farm and food systems.  The legislation will help farmers and ranchers engaged in local and regional agriculture by addressing production, aggregation, processing, marketing, and distribution needs and will also assist consumers by improving access to healthy food and direct and retail markets.  Of utmost importance, this legislation will provide more secure funding for critically important programs that support family farms, expand new farming opportunities, and invest in the local agriculture economy.

 

From: The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/lffja-introduced/

 

3. Limit direct farm subsidy payments, close loopholes in the cap on other farm payments, and re-align subsidies to reward farmers for climate friendly methods.

Unlimited subsidies are the single most wasteful and counterproductive feature of current farm policy. Enough money could be saved by these reforms to reduce the deficit and invest in the future of family farming, land conservation, and in building a bright future for our small towns.

 

The Committee should start with federal crop and revenue insurance subsidies to mega farms. They are the most expensive element of farm programs, costing $7 billion annually. If one big corporation farmed all of America, USDA would pay 60 percent of its insurance premiums on every acre for protection from low prices and crop failure. Why should the federal government pay 60% of crop insurance premiums on every acre of the largest farms and richest landowners in America in the midst of record high farm income and record federal deficits?

 

The Committee should also close loopholes in the cap on other farm payments. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Tim Johnson (D-SD) have again introduced legislation to close those loopholes, but it is not incorporated in either the President’s proposal or any of the budget proposals introduced in Congress.

 

Many policy makers and agricultural organizations have called for eliminating the direct payments made every year when prices are high, in return for stronger protections against falling prices and failing crops. We agree. However, the protection should be aimed at family size farms. There should not be a safety net to protect against the risk of farming the whole county and driving the neighbors out of business. [bm1] 

 

From: Center for Rural Affairs, http://www.cfra.org/ and http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2715/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=8383

 

4. The Expanding Access to Farmers Markets Act to increase purchases of local and healthy foods through the SNAP program

The bill amends the Food Stamp Act to include 'wireless' access, creating an automatic mandate to support farmers markets and farm stands with access to EBT technology for SNAP (formerly food stamps).   The act would provide an Amendment to the Food Stamp Act, as the term 'wireless' does not currently exist in the Act but is essential to authorize the expansion of EBT to more farmers’ markets.  The bill would also support statewide networks for the effective and efficient promotion and implementation of EBT at the community level.

 

There are already 30 FMC members signed on as organizational supporters of this ground-breaking legislation, but more are needed. Simply reply to this email to offer your organization name, city, and state so Sen. Gillibrand's staff may include your organization in a letter used to inform other legislators about the bill. Today is the last day, so don't delay! Let us know if you have any questions.

 

From: Center for Rural Affairs, http://www.cfra.org/ and http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2715/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=8383; and additional information from the Food Research and Advocacy Council, http://frac.org/leg-act-center/farm-bill-2012/strengthening-snap-in-the-2012-farm-bill/

 

5 Authorize both WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and increase funding to $100 million annually and eliminating the state match requirement for both programs

 

From: The National Association of Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs, http://www.nafmnp.org/featured/2012-farm-bill-proposal

 

 

6. Ensure that effective conservation programs remain in place, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative and the Conservation Stewardship Program.

 

7. Bar federal crop insurance and disaster payments for conversion of native sod and fragile lands to cropland.

 

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative helps producers transition into organic production systems. It also helps those who are already organic add additional conservation practices. The 2012 Farm Bill should maintain this support.

 

The next farm bill should make better use of the Cooperative Conservation Partnerships Initiative to bring conservation and rural development together as compatible goals. Uncrowded natural space is a key environmental amenity that many farm and ranch communities could provide. This program could give priority and bonus payments for enrollments that allow public access as part of a community development plan.

 

Last but not least, the new farm bill should bar federal crop insurance and disaster payments for conversion of native sod and fragile lands to cropland in response to high grain prices. The consequences of lost grassland are a significant step backwards in conservation.

 

Congress should remember that while we have a moral obligation to leave the land better than we received it, the public has an obligation to protect the land and water on which all of us – current and future generations – rely for survival. With continued pressure to reduce spending and bring our budget in line, important conservation programs that provide public benefits need not be sacrificed.

 

From: Center for Rural Affairs, http://www.cfra.org/ and http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2715/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=8383

 

 

Steps to contact your members of Congress:

 

Steps to contact your members of Congress:

  1. Identify your Senators and Representatives at www.congress.org (enter your zip code to find your Reps and Sens)

 

  1. Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121; ask to be connected with your Member of Congress.

 

  1. Tell them your name, and that you are a constituent calling about the 2012 Farm Bill, and that you support access to healthy food and a sustainable food system. 

*You may choose to include a bit about why you care – for example, “I am a parent and I want healthy food for my family” or “I am a family farmer and I make my living by raising healthy food for my community.”

 

  1. Deliver this message: I encourage (Sen.___ or Rep.___) to support healthy food and food systems, too, by co-sponsoring particular bills or supporting these key issues:

* Mention all of some of the issues from the list above or other specific priorities you have identified, along with the reason that you are in favor of them.

 

  1. Ask if they have any questions for you, and thank them for their time.

 

Things to remember:

  • Letters are very effective, but phone calls also work, especially compared to the countless emails they receive.
  • Be courteous and respectful
  • Be clear and concise
  • Take notes, including the name of the staffer you speak with, in case you’d like to follow up with them later.

 


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