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Farm Policy Update April 28, 2006

The WTO: Are Trade Talks Dead? Does It Matter?

Former Winrock President and CEO Robert Thompson is now the Gardner Chair of Agricultural Policy at the University of Illinois. He’s spent his career helping agricultural groups, agribusinesses and developing countries find solutions to agricultural policy, and agricultural and rural development questions. He’s compiled a must-read FAQ document on how the World Trade Organization (WTO) relates to U.S. farm policy. As the critical April 30th deadline for negotiating Doha Round agriculture targets nears, U.S. Chief Agricultural Negotiator Richard Crowder and the world’s top trade negotiators are headed to Geneva, Switzerland to try and resolve key issues. Read Crowder’s comments from a Washington, DC policy conference.

Conservation Allows Expansion of Family Farm

Jim Andrew - Photo by Glen Lucht, Iowa Farmer TodayWhen Jim Andrew came home from the Army to farm with his father, a big concern was how to expand their family’s century farm near Jefferson, Iowa. Their innovative choice, made three decades ago, has turned Andrew into a conservation leader and the first farmer in the U.S. to qualify for Tier III, the highest performance level under the Conservation Security Program. Read his "Voices for Change" profile.

Farms Providing Environmental Services

Agricultural lands provide valuable environmental services such as water and air purification, wildlife habitat, carbon storage and mitigation of global climate change, and flood control. However, little research has been done to link the production of these services with the best conditions and techniques needed to produce and market them. Academic and agricultural leaders at AFT's recent Stanford-Yale National Forum on U.S. Agricultural Policy and the 2007 Farm Bill workshop made progress in determining how to enhance the ability of farms to provide environmental services. According to AFT's Ralph Grossi, farmers and ranchers across the country can provide these environmental services and want policies that recognize their stewardship of natural resources.

Preserving African-American Resources Through Land Ownership

African-American land ownership, which peaked at 19 million acres in 1910, had fallen to 2.1 million acres by the 2002 Census of Agriculture. The new book, Black Farmers in America, by John Franscis Ficara and Juan Williams captures a portrait of America’s black farmers as their numbers dwindle. The Black Family Land Trust is combining the tools of traditional conservation land trusts, community economic development organizations and black land retention advocacy groups to slow the dramatic rate of loss of African-American land around the Southeast, while AFT’s "Black Farmer Roundtable: Reforming the Federal Farm Bill" [PDF] explored proposals for farm policy reform that could better meet the needs of black farmers.

What Defines a Farm?

To better classify farms, USDA’s Economic Research Service has defined farm types based on how farms are organized and operated. Since 1993, rural residence farms (small farms with limited resources, or where the operators are retired or have another major occupation) have increased; intermediate farms (small family farms where the operator’s full-time occupation is farming) have declined; and commercial farms (large family farms or farms that are organized as non-family corporations or cooperatives, or operated by hired managers) have increased.

Declining Middle Farm Policy Graphic

Media Summary

It’s Federal Budget Crunch Time: Some are calling it the "Contract on Agriculture" [PDF] rather than by its formal title: "The Republican Study Conference (RSC): FY 2007 Budget Contract with America Renewed." The plan calls for reform of agricultural production programs and would eliminate, or greatly reduce, funding for many agricultural programs and agencies as detailed in this Delta Farm Press article. The RSC is comprised of more than 100 of the 232 Republican members of Congress, and the report is a harbinger of how lawmakers are reacting to current federal budget conditions.

Farmers Weave Global Dialogue: It’s no secret that there are many more groups weighing in on the national farm policy debate. The News-Leader told the story of Seydou Coulibaly, a cotton farmer from Mali who visited farms in the Staunton, Virginia area under the auspices of Oxfam America. Two farmers quoted in the article say that by subsidizing commodity crops like cotton and rice, the U.S. undermines the values of hard work and family farming that are commonly held by the farmers in their countries.

1,190 New Foot Soldiers in the Battle for Better Food to Improve U.S. Diets: The renowned organization of women chefs, food journalists and more, Les Dames d’Escoffier, recently made the New York Times when they teamed up with the National Gardening Association to help Americans better understand the link between rural and urban farmers and their tables through their Green Tables Project. Among the nearly 1,200 members of Les Dames are chefs Alice Waters, Abby Mandel, Nora Pouillon and the late Julia Child.

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