National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Policy News Report from May 16-20, 2011
The Long and Winding (Budget Deal) Road: Washington continued down the long and winding road toward a budget agreement this week. Depending on one’s point of view, nothing happened or lots happened. What did not happen was introduction of a Senate budget resolution, much less mark-up of a resolution in the Senate Budget Committee. But here are some of the things that did happen.
- The gang of six bicameral, bipartisan congressional leaders meeting with Vice President Biden has so far agreed on approximately $200 billion in spending cuts as part of a potential deal that would secure majority congressional support for an increase in the debt ceiling.
Senators Introduce Bill to Protect Livestock Farmers and Ranchers from Packer Price Manipulation: On Thursday, May 19, Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY), Chuck Grassley (D-IA), Tim Johnson (D-SD), and Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced a bill (S. 1026) with measures to protect independent livestock farmers and ranchers from price manipulation by packers and processors. Senators Enzi, Grassley, and Johnson co-sponsored a similar bill in 2009.
House Members Join Big Packers’ Effort to Deny Justice to Farmers and Ranchers: At the conclusion of the May 5 meeting at Blair House between Vice President Biden and six congressional leaders, all parties to the talks said progress had been made toward a deal that would lead both to a deficit reduction budget deal and a positive vote in Congress to raise the federal borrowing limit. Beyond general platitudes, however, it was not clear to those outside the room just what exactly constituted progress other than they met and agreed to meet again next Tuesday. Republicans leaders insisted that discretionary and entitlement spending was on the table and tax expenditures off the table, while Democratic leaders insist that everything must be on the table.
National Genetics Board Being Re-Established: On Monday, May 16, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) published a notice or intent and request for nominations in the Federal Register for the National Genetic Resources Advisory Council. The Council has been dormant but is in the process of being re-established. Its purpose is to formulate recommendations on actions and policies with respect to the federal collection, maintenance, conservation, and utilization of genetic resources. The Council’s deals with the full range of agriculturally relevant life forms: plants, animals, insects, microbes, forest species, and aquatics.
Merrigan Keynotes Monterey Bay Aquarium Sustainable Foods Gathering: Introduced by Congressman Sam Farr (D-17th/CA) as “someone who really gets it,” USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan keynoted Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Cooking for Solutions conference on May 19. The event attracted food and agriculture writers from around the nation. The good news, Merrigan explained, is that “there’s more interest now in agriculture than there has been in my entire professional life.” The bad news, she joked, is that “my timing is a little off,” because she reached the “pinnacle of her career” during a “time period when we are not going to have any new resources,” referring to the current budget-cutting climate in DC.
Healthy Farms, Healthy People Summit: A diverse group of over 100 farm, food, and health stakeholders came together in Washington, DC Tuesday and Wednesday for Healthy Farms, Healthy People: A Farm & Food Policy Summit for a Strong America. The summit was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and convened by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Public Health Institute, California Food & Justice Coalition, Public Health Law & Policy, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, and American Farmland Trust. A.G. Kawamura, former California Secretary of Agriculture and co-chair of Solutions From the Land, opened the summit with a discussion about the current state of agriculture and public health, both domestically and abroad.