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January 2006

U.S. Farm Policy Update

Keeping DOHA Alive—but Barely
Although there were no breakthroughs at the trade negotiations in Hong Kong last month, enough progress was made to keep the talks alive. “There was a recognition among trade ministers that we cannot afford to miss this once-in-a-generation opportunity to energize the global trading system, create economic growth and lift millions of people out of poverty,” U.S. Trade Representative Portman wrote in this Washington Times op-ed. Dennis Nuxoll, AFT’s Director of Government Relations, expects that the Doha Round negotiations will be completed by 2007 and will be an important force shaping the 2007 Farm Bill. “However, regardless of the success of the Doha Round, the threat of additional WTO Dispute Panel challenges, as occurred in the Brazilian cotton case, makes a shift in U.S. farm policy inevitable.”

Taking a Look at Specialty Crops
Specialty crops, such as vegetables, fruits and nuts, represent 21 percent of the nation’s total farm production market value, while four states—California, Florida, Washington and Oregon—produce over 60 percent of the total. Ed Thompson, AFT’s California Director, heads up AFT’s farm policy project for this sector, which is often overlooked in farm bill debates. Thompson ranked the top 23 states that produce specialty crops, further breaking out the data by crop types. View the chart here:

Conservation Makes Sense for Florida Community Farm
For organic grower Rose Koenig, who markets her products directly to her community in Gainesville, Fla., farm policy changes should focus more on incorporating farming system shifts rather than working on individual practices. If the ultimate goal of federal farm policy were to allow producers to evolve to more sustainable and environmentally beneficial farming systems, Koenig’s entire organic farming system could possibly qualify for green payments.

AFBF Has a new Vision for American Agriculture
The American Farm Bureau Federation released a new report on the future of agriculture in 2019. The report outlines several fundamental changes for U.S. agriculture, while recognizing that the current structure of farm programs will no longer prevail. AFBF envisioned farmers shifting from selling what they produce to producing what they can sell, as well as environmental issues becoming more market-driven to achieve environmental benefits. This is an exciting vision for American agriculture. Unfortunately, the federation has not yet moved to incorporate these recommendations into their policy proposals for the 2007 Farm Bill, instead calling for the existing programs to be renewed.

Source: Environmental Working Group

AFT Comments on USDA Listening Session Questions
Over the past several months, the USDA has been holding listening sessions across the country in order to gather ideas from the agricultural community about the 2007 Farm Bill. The listening sessions focused on six questions that were published in a June 17, 2005 Federal Register notice. In addition to providing oral comments at several of the listening sessions, American Farmland Trust (AFT) submitted written comments [PDF] in response to each of the questions. AFT’s comments focused on the need for programs that link federal spending to stewardship rather than to production, while also providing effective risk management tools and promoting new market opportunities.

Farm Policy in the News
A Farm Bill that Passes Muster with WTO: Jon Stoner was recently elected president of the Montana Grain Growers Association. The MGGA wants a farm bill that passes muster with the World Trade Organization by discouraging overproduction, keeping the wheat industry viable and assuring a “homegrown food source that’s safe,” says this Billings Gazette story.

Congressmen Say Farm Subsidies Are at Risk: Arkansas farmers told Representatives Mike Ross (D-AR), Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Marion Berry (D-AR) of the House Agriculture Committee that commodity payments are essential. According to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette (link requires subscription), the congressmen told farmers that a tight federal budget—as well as an administration that prefers a free market to price supports—places farm subsidies at risk.


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