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December 2005

U.S. Farm Policy Update

State Farm Bureaus Focus on Federal Farm Policy
State Farm Bureau federations approved bold, reform-minded policy recommendations at their annual meetings. Illinois, Nebraska and New York called for shifting risk management assistance to revenue protection, which would provide a better safety net. Illinois, Iowa and New York passed recommendations that support conservation programs and shift producer support from non-WTO compliant programs into "green box" risk management and conservation programs. Iowa, citing the inequitable distribution of farm payments, also called for lowering the farm support payment cap from $360,000 to $250,000 and for reforming the contentious three-entity rule, which can allow large agricultural entities to evade payment caps.

Hong Kong Talks Set the Stage for Farm Policy Work
At the WTO ministerial talks in Hong Kong, trade officials made progress by agreeing to end subsidies of agricultural exports by 2013, but failed to settle some of the larger trade issues. "Some of these issues were barely discussed here because the sides are so far apart, including lowering tariffs on agricultural and manufactured goods and limits on domestic farm subsidies," noted the New York Times. American Farmland Trust’s president Ralph Grossi expects that, when complete, the Doha Round of talks will include an agreement for the significant reform of domestic supports for agriculture.

Budget Reconciliation Update
The House and Senate negotiators finalized $2.7 billion in five-year net savings from agriculture programs as part of the $41.6 billion reconciliation agreement. As expected, conservation programs took a disproportionately large cut compared to commodity programs—but didn't fare any worse in conference.

Ag Leaders Discuss New Market Issues at AFT Forum
Leaders representing the local food system, new market and sustainable agriculture communities convened at Ayrshire Farm in Virginia to discuss policy options for the 2007 Farm Bill. Forum participants identified several key areas—including bio-energy, regional agricultural infrastructure, local food systems, young farmers, small and socially disadvantaged farmers and rural entrepreneurship—that should be promoted. They also proposed policy options to address these areas. [PDF]

Farm Policy Should Encourage Soil Stewardship, says Iowa Farmer
Varel Bailey, an Iowa crop and livestock farmer, works hard to farm in environmentally sound ways within his challenging, roller coaster-like terrain. Consequently, Bailey stresses the need for results-based conservation programs that encourage producer creativity in goals like erosion reduction and the integration of crops and livestock to minimize the use of purchased fertilizer. "Pay me to reduce soil erosion, but let me adapt that goal to my farm," he says.

Farm Policy in the News
Nebraska's Attorney General to Appeal Corporate Farming Rule: The Columbus Telegram reported that a federal judge has declared Initiative 300, Nebraska's ban on corporate farming, unconstitutional.

Plan Calls for New Agricultural Markets in Biofuels and Bioenergy: The Center for American Progress hosted a forum, "Resources for Global Growth: Linking Agriculture, Energy and Trade for the Future," with Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), former Sen. Tom Daschle and American Farmland Trust (AFT) President Ralph Grossi, who spoke about AFT's farmer forums, which highlighted the need for cost-effective programs that provide a safety net, yet don't over-stimulate production.


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