Sustainable Agriculture Policy & Farm Bill News Dec. 5-9, 2011

Agriculture Policy News from The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition for the week of Dec. 5-9, 2011 includes updates on the farm bill process; healthy food initiative; GIPSA rule analysis; info on crop insurance and conservation policy; organic survey; food safety grants; ecosystem credit training; and farm safety net programs. Lots to think about, and important information on the future of sustainable agriculture. Food and Farm Bill Alive in 2012!: We previously reported to you that a 2011 Food and Farm Bill appeared imminent.  Days before Thanksgiving the Congressional “Super Committee” failed to reach agreement on $1.2 trillion in budget cuts.  With that, the 2011 Farm Bill proposal intended for inclusion in the Super Committee’s deficit reduction bill is thus no more.  Read more... ACT NOW If you eat and live in America: If you eat and live in America, you should be concerned about the future of farming in this country.  The average age of our nation’s farmers is 57 years old, with more than a quarter of all farmers 65 or older.  There are many people inspired to farm, but as recent studies show, our nation’s young and beginning farmers face tremendous obstacles in starting a farming career.  With a large segment of existing farmers and ranchers at or beyond retirement age, it is critical that we support those new entrepreneurs who will produce our food in the future.  Read more... CONGRESSIONAL NEWS More Farm Bill News from the Farm Journal Forum: At the annual Farm Journal Forum in Washington, DC today, Senate Agriculture Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said the farm bill prepared for consideration by the congressional Super Committee will serve as the “foundation” for efforts to write and enact a farm bill next year, starting in February.  Read more… Healthy Food Financing Initiative Re-Introduced in Congress: On Wednesday, November 30, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representative Allyson Schwartz (D-PA-13) introduced identical bills (S.1926/H.R. 3525) in the Senate and House, respectively, to establish a Healthy Food and Financing Initiative (HFFI) within the USDA.   Five Representatives and 10 Senators joined as original cosponsors.  Read more… USDA NEWS GIPSA Contract Fairness Rule Finalized: USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration has issued a rule, to be published today, that finalizes some provisions of the GIPSA rule proposed in June 2010.  The provisions are intended to increase protections for farmers who produce poultry and hogs on contract.  Read more… Crop Insurance Restrictions on Cover Crops Eased: On December 1, the Springfield IL Regional Office of USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced that it was easing some restrictions that limit crop insurance coverage on crops that are planted following a cover crop.  The modification affects corn, popcorn, sweet corn, hybrid seed corn, pumpkins, soybeans, grain sorghum, and processing beans grown in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.  Read more... New Gulf Coast Conservation Initiative: On Monday, December 5, USDA announced the creation of the Gulf of Mexico Initiative (GoMI), through which the agency will distribute up to $50 million in financial assistance over three years to improve ecosystem health in the Gulf Coast.  Read more… USDA Mails 2011 Organic Production Survey to Producers: USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is conducting a survey of certified organic farming to gather production and marketing information on organic farming in the U.S.  The survey runs from December 2011 to April 2012, and focuses on crop and livestock production.  The USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) will use the results to improve federal crop insurance for organic crops, as required by the 2008 Farm Bill.  Read more… USDA Awards Grants to Universities to Improve Food Safety: On Wednesday, December 7, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced 17 grants to universities in 13 states to improve the safety of our food supply through research, education, and extension in a number of areas.  A total of $10.4 million was awarded by USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through the National Integrated Food Safety Initiative (NIFSI).  Read more… OTHER NEWS New USDA Guide Highlights Ecosystem Credit Trading Opportunities and Challenges: The USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service recently released a new guide, The Natural Resources Credit Trading Reference.  The reference is intended for NRCS staff, policymakers, and others interested in the potential of the marketplace to incentivize conservation and ecosystem services from agriculture.  Read more… New Report on Overlap in Farm Safety Net Programs: A new report from USDA’s Economic Research Service analyzes potential overlap and duplication in federal farm safety net programs.  The report, Identifying Overlap in the Farm Safety Net, clarifies competing definitions of what is meant by the terms “farm safety net,” provides an overview of where overlap can occur in these programs, and presents an analytical method for measuring this overlap.  Read more...

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