• 03Apr

    FDA Responds to Farmer Concerns Regarding Intrusive Farm Visits
    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is changing the way they do certain on-farm visits, according to a recent Q&A published to the agency’s website. FDA is authorized to do what’s called “surveillance sampling” of certain products to test for bacteria and assess whether the preventive approach to food safety is working. FDA routinely does this sampling in grocery stores and manufacturing facilities, and recently began carrying this practice out on farms, including farms that also do some processing activities, like cheese-makers.

    Budget Resolutions Set Stage for Appropriations; Farm Bill Re-Opening Still a Possibility
    This week the House and Senate both passed their respective budget resolutions for fiscal year 2016. The House passed its budget on Wednesday, March 25 while the Senate passed its budget in the wee hours of Friday morning. The House budget resolution, which passed 228-199, busts the strict cap that Congress set in 2011 for defense spending by adding $38 billion to the Oversees Contingency Operations account.

    Bill to Thwart GMO Labeling Effort is Back
    Rep. Mike Pompeo has reintroduced his bill that would block federal and state efforts to require the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms. The 2015 Pompeo bill – dubbed the “Deny Americans’ Right to Know” or DARK Act by opponents and “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling” by supporters – continues the 2014 bill’s efforts to preempt state law requiring the labeling of GE food and regulating “natural” claims.

    USDA Proposes to Continue Farm Subsidy Abuse
    The US Department of Agriculture released its proposed “actively engaged in farming” rule defining eligibility for the receipt of farm commodity subsidies. The proposed rule fails to implement anything remotely resembling the real farm subsidy reform that bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate approved during debate on the 2014 Farm Bill.

    Last Chance to Contribute to Organic Production Survey!
    There are just two weeks left for organic farmers across the country to complete their  2014 Organic Production Survey! This important survey is a follow-on to the 2012 Census of Agriculture and focuses exclusively on issues and trends facing organic producers. NSAC encourages organic producers to participate by filling out the survey to ensure that farmers, policymakers, and other organic stakeholders have access to the most comprehensive and timely information on the current state of our country’s organic sector.

    Digging Deeper into Continuous CRP Enrollments
    The Continuous Conservation Reserve Program is a voluntary, non-competitive enrollment program that helps protect millions of acres of America’s most environmentally sensitive farmland. CCRP targets specific blocks of land that are most vulnerable to erosion, key for preventing polluted runoff, and prime acres for wildlife habitat. This post provides some background and statistical analysis of some special initiatives within the Conservation Reserve Program.

  • 18Feb

    Federal Funding Available for Minority and Veteran Farmer Outreach and Assistance: On February 11, USDA released the Request for Applications for the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, more commonly known as the 2501 program. Simultaneously it also released an RFA for the Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center.

    House and Senate Bills Would Eliminate Harvest Price Option Subsidy: On Thursday February 12, Senators Jeff Flake and Jeanne Shaheen teamed with Representative Jeff Duncan to introduce legislation in both the Senate and House to eliminate the subsidy for the Harvest Price Option within the federal crop insurance program. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this legislation, if passed into law, will save the federal government $19 billion over 10 years.

    Farm and Conservation Organizations Speak Out on Conservation Program Rules: Sixty farm and conservation organizations including many NSAC member and partner organizations joined in a letter to the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service recommending several changes to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to increase EQIP’s ability to improve sustainability, optimize the program’s cost-effectiveness, better serve organic farmers, and support a shift toward more environmentally sound agricultural practices.

    A Closer Look at the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program in 2014In early September of 2014, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service announced that it had awarded $328 million for 380 wetland, grassland, and farmland conservation easements covering 129,000 acres in the first year of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. The information on the types of easements that were funded in each state has now been made available and this post examines the fiscal year 2014 ACEP enrollment on a state-by-state basis.

  • 05Jan

    Land Stewardship Project Outlines Major Reforms for Making the Nation’s Largest Ag Program an Accountable & Reliable Safety Net for All Producers

    LE SUEUR, Minn. — The nation’s largest federal agriculture program is a significant barrier to beginning farmers who are trying to get access to land and capital, according to a new white paper released by the Land Stewardship Project (LSP) today. Crop insurance has in recent years become a major publicly-funded mechanism for inflating land prices, concludes the “How Crop Insurance Hurts the Next Generation of Farmers” white paper, which is based on an analysis of government data and farmer interviews.

    “Crop insurance should be an effective safety net for all farmers, not just a select few raising a small number of favored crops,” said Tom Nuessmeier, who raises crops and livestock near Le Sueur and serves on LSP’s Federal Farm Policy Committee. “Unfortunately, it’s become a program that is biased against some of our most innovative farmers.”

    As two previous LSP white papers show, crop insurance cost the taxpayers over $58 billion between 2003 and 2012, and is projected to produce a $90 billion tax bill over the next decade. Launched in 1938 to provide a basic safety net for farmers facing severe weather catastrophes, public funding for crop insurance now mostly benefits 19 major insurance corporations and some of the largest crop producers in Minnesota and the U.S.

    Because the program subsidizes as much as 60 to 70 percent of the cost of premium subsidies and has no limits on how much an individual producer can qualify for, it provides a publicly-funded source of cash for bidding up rental and purchase prices, according to Mark Schultz, one of the authors of the LSP white papers.

    “Our interviews with farmers confirm that it has served to artificially inflate land prices by allowing the largest crop operators to lock in profits and aggressively purchase and rent farmland to expand their operations, driving up land costs beyond the reach of most farmers,” said Schultz, who is also LSP’s Policy Program director.

    Crop insurance also makes it difficult for beginning farmers to access capital since it limits coverage for producers who have little or no yield history or who choose to raise a diversity of crops. Emily Hanson, who along with Klaus Zimmermann has been searching the past few years for a farm to raise crops and livestock on, said even marginal acres are out of their price range because of the inflationary market. Read more »

  • 28Nov

    Crop Insurance News from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

    LSP Releases White Paper on Government Subsidies to Large Corporate Crop Insurance Companies: On November 24, the Land Stewardship Project released a new white paper, Crop Insurance – The Corporate Connection, part of a three-part series entitled How a Safety Net Became a Farm Policy Disaster. The first white paper outlines the profits being obtained by a few corporations from the multiple subsidies provided them by the federal government through the federal crop insurance program. Two other reports in the series will be released onDecember 2 and December 8….

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    GAO – Updated Report on the Cost of Climate Change to the Federal Crop Insurance Program: On November 20, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report on climate change and the federal flood insurance and crop insurance programs. The new report focuses on what has happened since the previous report released in 2007, including a 68 percent increase in the federal exposure to losses from the crop insurance program between 2007 and 2013…

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  • 16Jan

    Here’s an Easy One (New York Times Editorial)

    EXCERPT: Vows by Congressional Republicans to slash billions from the federal budget at a time when joblessness is high and the economy needs stimulus are reckless. But here is one big-ticket saving that all members of Congress should get behind: cutting the billions of dollars in farm subsidies that distort food prices, encourage overfarming and inflate the price of land.

    To read the full editorial click HERE

  • 27Nov

    Nation Waist-Deep In Soybeans After $30 Trillion Farm Subsidy Bill Accidentally Passed

    EXCERPT: WASHINGTON—Days after the accidental passage of a bill allocating $30 trillion in federal subsidies to soybean producers, a massive tide of the protein-rich legumes has flooded the nation, crippling transportation networks, commerce, and public utilities, and profoundly disrupting American life.

    “Soybeans are everywhere,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday, noting that all 406 million acres of arable land in the United States have been converted to soybean cultivation as farmers sought a share of funds worth more than twice the gross domestic product. “Many citizens have shoveled out their driveways only to find that schools and businesses have been shut down. Millions more remain trapped indoors as windblown soybean drifts cover entire houses.”

    “For most, simply getting to the grocery store has become impossible,” Vilsack continued. “Not that grocery stores have much in them besides soybeans at this point.”

    Read the full satire HERE

  • 19Jun

    By Tom Philpott; Published on Grist

    Agricultural and food products are not like other commodities. Their price is that of life, and below a certain threshold, that of death.

    – Marcel Mazoyer and Laurence Roudart, A History of World Agriculture from the Neolithic Age to the Current Crisis

    Last month, after Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini dared question the virtue of certain U.S. farmers, many sustainable-agriculture proponents lashed out in fury.

    More recently, another high-profile observer, Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook, also made remarks about farmers that could be read as unkind. But while Petrini had to face down angry questioners and issue an apology, Cook’s jibes generated not a peep in the sustainable-ag blogosphere, where Cook enjoys high esteem.

    In one sense, the divergent reactions can be explained by looking at whom the two men insulted. Petrini took a poke at small-scale organic growers producing for a nearby community, while Cook aimed at Midwestern grain farmers — the kind who practice what I and other observers often denounce as “industrial agriculture.” It may be no surprise, then, that the sustainable-ag community rose to defend the small-scale farmers, and looked the other way when the big guys got roughed up.

    But in another sense, the response is puzzling. The farmers Petrini tweaked are niche growers. Altogether, they supply perhaps 3 percent of the nation’s food. But Cook went after the people who supply the great bulk of the calories that sustain a nation of 300 million.

    If the former group disappeared — a specter I don’t raise lightly, since I work on a small-scale organic farm — the quality of our food supply would decline appreciably. But in the unlikely event that the Midwestern grain farmers shut down operations, we’d likely experience a full-on famine.

    By pointing this out, I don’t mean to demean Ken Cook, whose work on our convoluted farm-support system I admire and have been citing for years. But I do want to challenge some of the discourse coming from the sustainable-ag community as congressional debate around the 2007 farm bill enters its stretch run — especially the idea that merely ending subsidies will sort out our agricultural woes. Just Another Day at the Office?

    To read the full article go to: http://www.grist.org/article/subsidy-mess/

  • 09Dec

    The following information on farm subsidies was compiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Although it is a presentation of factual data, it clearly reflects the organization’s own opinion about farm subsidies. For alternative points of view, see an article on the benefits of subsidies here, and an article criticizing EWG’s publication of personal information here. For an overview of policy related to farm subsidies CLICK HERE.

    Agricultural Subsidy Facts: Compiled by the Environmental Working Group - available on their Farm Subsidy Database

    • $177.6 billion in subsidies 1995-2006.
    • 67 percent of all farmers and ranchers do not collect government subsidy payments in United States, according to USDA.
    • Among subsidy recipients, ten percent collected 74 percent of all subsidies amounting to $130.6 billion over 12 years.
    • Recipients in the top 10% averaged $36,290 in annual payments between 1995 and 2006. The bottom 80 percent of the recipients saw only $731 on average per year.

    The Following is a list of the top 12 crop/program subsidy recipients (1995-2006), each of which received over $1 billion in subsidies over those 10 years. The list names the crop (or program) followed by the number of recipients/ the total $ paid out over the 10 year period.

    1Corn Subsidies1,568,095/$56,170,875,257
    2Wheat Subsidies1,308,268/$22,051,566,200
    3Cotton Subsidies247,879/$21,329,862,262
    4Conservation Reserve Program768,180/$20,337,282,263
    5Disaster Payments1,246,432/$15,114,518,393
    6Soybean Subsidies985,712/$14,239,702,740
    7Rice Subsidies65,533/$11,043,795,298
    8Sorghum Subsidies586,766/$4,569,912,363
    9Dairy Program Subsidies151,737/$3,560,356,847
    10Livestock Subsidies754,842/$2,908,502,988
    11Peanut Subsidies89,463/$2,609,286,072
    12Barley Subsidies337,812/$1,962,025,270

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    Amidst Record 2007 Crop Prices and Farm Income Washington Delivers $5 Billion in Subsidies (Article Highlights)

    Ken Cook and Chris Campbell, Environmental Working Group, Full article HERE

    By any measure, 2007 was a banner year for farmers of grain, soybeans and cotton, as high prices for their crops earned them record net income, even after they paid skyrocketing costs for fuel, fertilizer and seed.

    But under formulas set by Congress in the 2002 farm law, taxpayers topped off the record farm earnings of 2007 with another $5 billion in “direct payment” crop subsidies.

    The names of the direct payment subsidy recipients and the amount they received in 2007 were released online today by Environmental Working Group.

    Topping the list of direct payment subsidies are 5,125 recipients who collected over $60,000 in 2007, an amount roughly equivalent to average U.S. household income in 2006 ($66,000, the latest year available)). The cost to taxpayers was $537 million. Read more »

  • 27Mar

    An Action Alert from the
    National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

    The 2008 Farm Bill handed President Obama and USDA Secretary Vilsack a rare opportunity to close one of the biggest payment limit loopholes in current regulations.  The nation’s largest farms collect unlimited annual production subsidies under rules that permit payments to those who provide only minimal farm management and no active labor.  President Obama and Secretary Vilsack need to hear a loud and clear message from farmers and other citizens who care about the future of farming: The time is now to close the loophole that allows widespread abuse of payment limitation law!

    COMMENTS MUST BE RECEIVED BEFORE APRIL 6, 2009

    Where to Send Your Email or Letter:  There are three easy ways to respond:

    • Send an email to Dan McGlynn at USDA at Dan.McGlynn@wdc.usda.gov, or
    • Send him a letter by fax to 202-690-2130, or
    • Send a letter by mail to Dan McGlynn, Farm Service Agency, USDA, Stop 0517, Room 4754, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20250-0517.

    Be sure to include at the top of the letter the following:  “Comment on Farm Program Payment Limitation Rule, Federal Register, Vol. 74, No. 23, February 5, 2009” Read more »

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