• 23Sep

    House Republicans Pass Farm Bill Nutrition Title

    Will there be a comprehensive new farm bill before expiration? Probably not.

    Will there be a new five-year farm bill this year? The likelihood of this happening increased on Thursday, September 19, when the House passed a farm bill nutrition title. There is now a chance a comprehensive new farm bill could emerge.

    But it is unlikely an agreement will be reached before the expiration of the current farm bill extension on September 30.

    What about the nutrition-title that just passed? The bill passed by a narrow margin – 217-210 – only garnering Republican support (though some GOP members joined Democrats in opposing the bill). The basic stipulation of the nutrition-title that passed the House is that about $40 billion dollars in food stamp benefits would be cut over 10 years, and some of the rules about how food stamp money is allocated and governed would be altered.

    It seems that every farm and food group (and beyond) had something to say about the nutrition bill. Keith Good at farmpolicy.com offers a round-up of all of these statements, while also providing a helpful synopsis of what the bill says, and what the implications are for food and farm policy.

  • 13Sep

    Congress is back in session. Will there be any movement on the Farm Bill?

    What will the impact be on beginning farmers?

    Congress returned to Washington this week after its recess, during which, little progress was made on the farm bill. Last week, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) reported that the debate on Syria should take at least this week, if not more, which will delay action on the farm bill and agriculture appropriations bill.

    The current farm bill extension expires at the end of September. And it does not appear likely a new farm bill will emerge prior to expiration. So, what’s going to happen if the farm bill expires? Expiration means different things for different programs. Some programs which have ongoing farm bill funding would lose the ability to spend funds if the farm bill expires; these programs include the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Chesapeake Bay Watershed Program, Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and many of the major agricultural export programs.

    Some programs were excluded from the current farm bill extension; these programs would continue to be out of business if a new farm bill is not signed into law. These farm bill programs include programs for rural development, renewable energy, beginning farmers, minority farmers, organic farmers, and specialty crop farmers, as well as disaster assistance for livestock producers.

    Read more »

  • 02Aug

    Farm Bill Updates from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, August 2nd, 2013

    Moving toward the Brink as They Head out of Town: Just when you think things cannot get any worse for the farm bill and for agricultural and other domestic appropriations bills, it does in fact get worse.  This week, both the House and the Senate were unable to proceed to a final vote on the annual appropriations bill for the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a bill known in Hill-speak as the THUD bill.   The acronym proved prescient this year, falling with a very resounding thud.  Read more…

    Conservation, Rural Development, and Fair Markets & Contracts – Groups Weigh In on Farm Bill: This week NSAC signed onto letters to Congress concerning conservation, rural development, and fair competition provisions of the House and Senate farm bills, ahead of what could still possibly be an August replete with Agriculture Committee staff meetings to begin to work out the details of a final farm bill.  NSAC was one of 20 national conservation organizations delivering a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, urging the two chambers to begin conference negotiations on a farm bill as soon as possible.  Read more…

  • 31Jul

    PRESS RELEASE (July 31, 2013) - Time is running out for lawmakers in Washington to pass a national Farm Bill before the current bill, a one-year extension of the previous measure, expires at the end of September.

    The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has rounded up hundreds of signatures from groups representing farm, food and conservation interests, urging legislators to act quickly and fairly to get the bill passed. NSAC policy director Ferd Hoefner is asking the House and Senate to work together to pass a Farm Bill that includes funding for farm, food and nutrition programs, commodity and crop insurance reforms, and conservation and rural economic development programs.

    “Whether that’s creating jobs in rural communities, or making sure that minority farmers get treated fairly by the Department of Agriculture, or that beginning farmers can get access to credit so they can into agriculture and start as new farmers,” those are all important, he said.

    The groups also want provisions removed from the bill they say would weaken protections for consumers and small farmers.

    According to Diane Conners, senior policy specialist with the Michigan Land Use Institute, a group which is one of the letter’s signers, small-scale farm operators and young farmers rely on programs offered in the Farm Bill.

    These include “things like micro-loans, and training and marketing plans, because a lot of the local food economy is built on a different kind of relationship than selling into the commodity markets.”

    Conners said the Farm Bill also helps support Michigan’s robust tourism economy.

    That’s “both in the sense that people like to visit the farms and taste the flavors of this area, but it also is something that is a signature part of our landscape,” she said.

    The U.S. House and Senate are expected to start their summer recess at the end of this week.

    More information is at MLUI.org and at SustainableAgriculture.net.

  • 27Jul

    Latest News from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition: End of July, 2013

    Farm Bill and Agriculture Appropriations – Clear as Mud: The congressional month-long August recess is just a week away.  In more normal times, as those types of deadlines loom, deals get done on Capitol Hill.  Not so this year.  The path forward on a new five-year farm bill and on the set of appropriations bills to fund the government for the coming fiscal year are clear as mud.  With the federal debt ceiling to be hit this fall, it promises, sadly, to be another season of manufactured, interlocking crises in the nation’s Capitol.  Read more…

    Food Safety Comment Deadline Extended; NSAC Releases FSMA Issue Analysis for Farmers: Earlier this year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released new proposed regulations detailing standards for food safety on produce farms and in facilities that process food for people to eat.  The rules are not yet final, and FDA is seeking comments from producers, processors, and stakeholders to help shape the final rules before they become law.  All of these rules are part of FDA’s implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which President Obama signed into law in 2011.  Read more…

    Conservation Reserve Program Sign-Up Results: On Monday, July 22, USDA announced it is awarding new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts for 1.7 million acres starting on October 1.  There are currently 26.9 million acres enrolled in the program, but on October 1, 3.3 million acres are scheduled to leave the reserve.  Hence with today’s additions, it brings the total to about 25.3 million acres, the lowest total since 1988 when the program was in its infancy and the farm crisis loomed large.  Read more…

    Organic Research and Outreach in the North Central Region: The Ceres Trust recently released a report, Organic Research and Outreach in the North Central Region, that documents the growth in organic research, extension and teaching in the 12-state north central region, and includes state-specific details about student organic farms, certified organic research land and animals, sources of organic research funding, dissemination of organic research results through field days and peer-reviewed journals, organic education efforts of nonprofit organizations, and other relevant information.  Read more…

  • 24Jul
    chicken picture

    The question EVERYONE on the farm is asking…

  • 12Jul

    House of Representatives Passes a Farm Bill, which Excludes Nutrition Assistance

    The House of Representatives passed a farm bill Thursday, but with food stamp provisions removed. This is the first time a farm bill passed without the nutrition title since 1973. The nutrition title constituted about 80 percent of the cost of the House bill that had previously failed. Except for the removal of the nutrition title, as just noted, the bill that passed keeps changes from the version that failed last month.

    The bill passed by a slim margin, 216-208. No Democrats voted for the bill, and 12 Republicans also voted no; six Republicans and five Democrats were not present to vote.

    What does this mean for beginning farmers, or aspiring beginning farmers? It was potentially disadvantageous for beginning farmers that the bill had been hung up in the House. We reported on beginningfarmers.org on June 22, following the initial failure of the 2013 House bill, that “this is bad news, since the beginning farmer program is one of the many that has been unfunded since the 2007 bill expired last September.” Thus, passage of the House bill increases the likelihood a new farm bill will pass before expiration September 30, which may be good news for beginning farmers.

    Read more »

  • 09Jul

    Alternative Analysis of Farm Bill Failure: A Decline in Ag Lobby Power?

    While some agriculture groups blame partisanship in Congress for failure of farm bill passage, Ron Nixon reports that some analysts do not think this is clearly so, writing for the New York Times in “Farm Bill Defeat Shows Agriculture’s Waning Power.”

    There are clearly disagreements on the cause(s) of the farm bill failure in the House. For example, according to Vincent H. Smith, a professor of agricultural economics at Montana State University (cited by Nixon): “There are a small number of Congressional districts where farming continues to carry much sway … [but] Especially in the House, the farm lobby has been substantially weakened.”

    In stark contrast to Smith, Barry L. Bequette, dean of the School of Agriculture, Research, Extension and Applied Sciences at Alcorn State University in Lorman, Miss., (also being cited by Nixon), said waning power or a lack of power is not the issue. Rather: “Farmers just haven’t learned how to utilize the power they have … All the groups are fractured and focused on their own narrow issues.”

    We want to know what you think. Is there a monolithic farm lobby whose power is waning in the face of an urbanized and suburbanized society? Is there fracturing of the farm lobby? Why did the House farm bill meet with failure, two years in a row?

  • 22Jun

    More information on the House of Representatives Failure to pass their version of a 2013 farm bill:

    As we reported earlier, the House rejected passage of a new farm bill (the Senate has already passed their version) by a vote of 234-195. You can see how your congressperson voted here.

    For beginning and aspiring farmers this is bad news, since the beginning farmer program is one of the many that has been unfunded since the 2007 bill expired last September. As the Michael fields Agricultural Institute reports”…the lack of a Farm Bill continues the status quo, which means that many programs that have gone unfunded will continue to go unfunded: beginning farmer programs, value-added programs, organic programs, local food programs, renewable energy programs, and so many more.”

    Typically, the seems to have been killed by the deep political divisions that exist in this congress. Republicans voted against the bill because they believed it was too expensive, and Democrats voted against it largely because they didn’t believe it included enough funding for food assistance programs. According to To the Center for Rural Affairs “The final passage of the House Farm Bill failed in part because of huge cuts to the food stamp program and because the rules established for the debate did not allow for further consideration of needed reforms to federal crop insurance premium subsidies. The House Rules Committee did not allow amendments that would have reduced premium subsidies for those making over $750,000 in adjusted gross income. Nor did they allow a vote on an amendment that would have placed a cap on federal crop insurance premium subsidies to mega-farmers.  This failed vote sends a clear signal that the Farm Bill needs to include much greater reform to achieve passage.”

    The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) reported that “very early on the morning of Wednesday, June 19, the House Rules Committee decided …which amendments members of the House of Representatives [would] vote on…  The final list included 103 amendments, but excluded several of the most important amendments related to crop insurance reform, rural development, local food promotion, organic agriculture, and outreach and assistance to minority farmers and ranchers.” You can read more about the process, debate on amendments, and House rejection of the bill from NSAC.

    What happens next is anyone’s guess. There has been some talk of reviving debate in a few weeks, though some insiders think this is unlikely. So for now, and possibly for the foreseeable future,  many farmers are simply being left out in the cold.

  • 22Jun

    House Fails to Pass Farm Bill

    The House of Representatives failed to pass their version of the 2013 farm bill by a vote of 195-234 on Thursday June 20. This vote comes about a year after House leaders removed a prior version of the bill from House consideration. The bill had been shelved because conservative lawmakers said they required deeper cuts from the SNAP program (formerly food stamps) than Democrats would abide. The Senate passed its version of the farm bill on June 10.

    An amendment by Representative Southerland (R-FL) in the 2013 bill to allow states to add work requirements to the SNAP program adopted just prior to vote on the whole bill, likely reduced the quantity of Democratic votes secured in support of the bill. After the bill failed to pass, House Leader Cantor (R) and Whip Hoyer (D) had a spirited exchange about the Southerland amendment, and each claimed the other turned a bi-partisan bill into a partisan bill.

    In a press release, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas of Oklahoma said that although he was disappointed the bill did not pass, he has “no doubt that we will finish our work in the near future and provide the certainty that our farmers, ranchers, and rural constituents need.” However, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) in a statement on its blog wrote: “it is unclear what the path forward now is for the 2013 Farm Bill.”

    For greater detail on the nature of the bill the House rejected, a very good account is provided here at the New York Times, and here at farmpolicy.com.

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