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March 2006

U.S. Farm Policy Update

Wildflowers on Steve Sinton's Ranch


25 X 25 Initiative Multiplies Interest in Renewable Energy

A grassroots campaign called the 25 X 25 Initiative, which held its 2nd National Agriculture and Forestry Renewable Energy Summit in March, aims to have America’s working lands provide 25 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States by the year 2025. Recent national public opinion surveys indicate overwhelming public support for investments and policies that advance renewable energy sources like wind, solar and ethanol. The Daschle/Dole Commission also met in March to discuss strategies to reshape the way American agriculture produces energy-crops. Former Senators Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Bob Dole (R-KS) are pursuing a similar goal as the 25 X 25 Initiative through policy changes in the 2007 Farm Bill.

Regional Methane Digester to Power County Office Buildings
Cayuga County, New York is being praised for its alternative energy initiatives. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and U.S. Department of Agriculture provided $1.5 million to fund a regional methane digester, which will use manure from area farms and food processing waste to power several county office buildings. Energy costs are expected to be reduced by about 20 percent for the locations powered by the methane digester. Projects like these help to address the needs of the county’s strong agricultural base by reducing manure odor and allowing those farmers with no cows to use the manure on their fields. Methane digesters, while helping to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, can also enhance farm profitability by developing new uses for farm byproducts.

Conservation Programs Give Missouri Farmer Hope for Future Generations
Glen RiekhofConcordia, Missouri farmer Glen Riekhof is optimistic about the future, or he wouldn’t be encouraging his grandson to get into the business. “There are so many things we depend on agriculture to supply, and there’s no more land being made,” Riekhof says. While conservation programs are one part of the farm bill that is working, and he thinks his own efforts put him on track to qualify for Tier III in the Conservation Security Program (CSP), Riekhof is concerned that CSP is too complex and subjective at present. Read more about the Riekhof family’s commitment to conservation in this “Voices for Change” profile.

Landowners Satisfied with Federal Conservation Program
The federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) is protecting active farmland and helping farmers reinvest in their agricultural operations, according to a recent survey of participants conducted by AFT. For a preview of the survey results, click here [PDF].

FRPP Landowner Satisfaction Graphic

Farm Policy in the News
Risk-free Savings for Farmers: AFT’s “Nutrient BMP [Best Management Practices] Challenge” made the news in Iowa Farmer Today. The project’s goal is to provide producers with a financial “insurance” incentive in exchange for using the university-recommended rates when applying nitrogen, avoiding the detrimental effects to the environment of overapplication. First showcased in Ohio, the BMP Challenge is now available to farmers in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

When It Comes to Fighting Subsidies, the Gang’s All Here: The Wall Street Journal outlined the growing public discontent with farm subsidies and the unusual new coalitions of people—from economic think-tanks to Christian groups to rock stars—calling for a change in farm subsidies.

2007 Farm Bill and Doha WTO Round: It’s a Critical Time for Agriculture: Former Secretary of Agriculture and U.S. Trade Representative Clayton Yeutter recently gave the inaugural Cochrane Lecture in Public Policy [PDF] at the University of Minnesota. He outlined the convergence of factors contributing to this critical time in U.S. agriculture and why we should “update our thinking, our policy positions, and our justifications” [for U.S. farm policy].

 


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