Sustainable Agriculture News – 3rd Week in June, 2015


Conservation Options Communicated to CRP Contract Holders

On June 17, USDA’s Farm Service Agency wrote to all Conservation Reserve Program participants with contracts that expire this year to tell them about their options going forward. For the second year in a row, the FSA letter highlighted some excellent conservation choices for farmers and landowners with 10 and 15 year CRP contracts that are coming to an end…


$16 Million Available for Rural Micro-Enterprise Development in 2015

On June 19, USDA announced the availability of RMAP funding to support nearly $14.2 million in loans as well as $2.1 million in training and technical assistance grants for small business development in rural areas. NSAC and its member groups helped create RMAP in the 2008 Farm Bill and then renew its authority in the 2014 Farm Bill…


Status of Farm Bill Organic Price Election Mandate

Recently, the RMA posted a new report outlining progress on developing organic price elections, was transmitted to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees in March 2015. In a provision NSAC helped champion, the 2014 Farm Bill required USDA to establish organic price elections for all organic crops by the 2015 crop insurance year. Though clearly not making that deadline, the new report demonstrates a good faith effort to speed up progress toward that overdue goal…


 USDA Invests $6.7 Million in Rural Energy Projects

On June 10, the USDA announced an investment of $6.7 million in 544 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects through the farm bill’s Rural Energy for America Program. REAP grants and loans help farmers, ranchers, and small business owners reduce energy use and develop and install renewable energy sources. Wind, solar, biomass, digesters, and geothermal are among the energy systems that can be funded by REAP…



2016 Funding Bill Opens Payment Loophole, Cuts Conservation and Renewable Energy
On June 18, the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee passed its funding bill for FY 2016. Overall, the bill provides $20.65 billion in discretionary funding, $175 million less than last year’s enacted level and a whopping $1.1 billion less than the USDA request. This post breaks down the House bill as it pertains to key sustainable farm and food priorities…


GMO Labeling Hearing Misses the Mark
With GMO labeling a heated issue at the state and federal level, the House Committee of Energy and Commerce hearing on “A National Framework for the Review and Labeling of Biotechnology in Food” drew quite a crowd. The House hearing on June 18 focused on Rep. Mike Pompeo’s (R-KS) Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, known as the “Deny Americans’ Right to Know” or DARK Act by opponents. This bill would block federal and state efforts to require the labeling of foods containing GMOs…


Farm to School Benefits Make Another Appearance at House Hearing
On June 16th, the House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing in preparation for the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization. Tom Vilsack was the sole witness for this hearing entitled “Child Nutrition Assistance: Are Federal Rules and Regulations Serving the Best Interests of Schools and Families?” Among many other important topics, farm to school, including school gardens, was mentioned several times during the hearing…



Clean Water Rule – NSAC Analysis and Legislative Update
On May 27, the EPA announced it had finalized a rule to clarify the scope of the agency’s jurisdiction over “waters of the U.S.” under the Clean Water Act. Through this rule, EPA has sought to clear up the confusion that surrounds the issues of which waters are considered jurisdictional, and therefore which activities are subject to EPA or the Corps’ permitting requirements…


Digging into the Nation’s Leading Conservation Program:Parts 1-5

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is the nation’s largest conservation program by acreage and the only federal farm bill conservation program that requires a commitment to advanced conservation systems to participate.

Part 1: The Basics of the Conservation Stewardship Program;  Part 2: More detailed CSP statistics from the 2014 sign-up period;  Part 3: Data on the distribution of land use type, crops produced, and livestock raised on CSP acreage;  Part 4: CSP participation by beginning, socially disadvantaged and limited resource farmers and ranchers, as well as organic and transitioning to organic producers;  Part 5: What’s at stake for CSP funding as the FY 2016 appropriations process continues?


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