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Farm Policy Update June 28 , 2006

USDA Confirms “Green Payments” Are a Viable Policy Option for 2007 Farm Bill

On June 8, USDA released a report analyzing farm bill conservation programs [PDF] in preparation for the 2007 Farm Bill. Contained within the 41-page report were four broad alternatives to the existing USDA conservation programs, addressing many of the concerns raised in USDA farm bill listening sessions. Highlighted as one feasible alternative was “green payments to enhance environmental benefits and provide income support.” Similar to AFT’s report Agenda 2007 [PDF], USDA economists stated that a green payments program could increase environmental benefits and provide an additional stream of revenue for producers while still complying with WTO “green box” criteria.

AFT Calls for a Competitive Grants Program for Conservation Assistance

The Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) [PDF] proposes to improve the effectiveness of current conservation programs by engaging the cooperative efforts of local producers in getting the right practices into the right places at the right time. Producer groups and organizations would compete for conservation dollars based on innovative cooperative conservation projects. This initiative could revolutionize the delivery of conservation funding and yield substantial environmental benefits by focusing assistance on critical resource problems and producers who can make a real difference.

Conservation and Commodity Funding 2000-2004

A Safety Net Program That Protects Drinking Water and Farmer Income

AFT's BMP (Best Management Practices) Challenge exemplifies a revenue-based safety net program that works for both the environment and farmer profitability. This innovative pilot program, recognized as effective in stemming fertilizer runoff into watersheds, makes it easier for farmers to reduce fertilizer use and employ reduced-tillage practices while being protected from any potential loss of yield or income. AFT's BMP Challenge addresses a key environmental issue—protection of the nation's drinking water—while giving producers the freedom to be innovative and flexible without losing income.

Ohio Farmer’s Motto: “If you’ll buy it, I’ll grow it.”

Larry Klco with berries

In response to requests from his customers, Larry Kclo grows an amazingly wide variety of vegetables and fruits at Rainbow Farms in eastern Ohio. He lets customers look through seed catalogs to help pick out new varieties for his pick-your-own and farmers’ market operations. He even made sure that his customers would support his acceptance of federal tax dollars to permanently protect his farm. They did—overwhelmingly. Creating and expanding federal farm bill programs that better serve both farmers and consumers is at the heart of AFT’s policy recommendations for the 2007 Farm Bill.

WTO: What’s Beyond the Next Deadline?

While the World Trade Organization set a June 30 deadline for negotiating the ranges for tariffs and subsidies for agriculture, the United States’ ag negotiator notes that the end of 2006 is the deadline for conclusion of the Doha Round of talks. Trade negotiators are in Geneva to move the talks forward. Brazil’s President Lula spoke with President Bush; together they noted the importance of the trade round and said they had instructed their negotiators to “seek a comprehensive deal.” Last week, Bush asked the Europeans to solve their differences and lower their farm tariffs. He also said G20 countries had to do the same in manufacturing and that the United States was “prepared to make a tough decision along with them.”

Media Summary

A Delta Farm Press piece, “2002 Farm Bill ‘Victory’ Coming Back to Haunt,” lays the case that criticism of the president for signing the 2002 Farm Bill, at a cost of $179 billion, may have led to White House threats to veto a recent bill containing agricultural disaster assistance. “The ink wasn’t dry [on the 2002 Farm Bill] before… ‘administration officials decided they had made a serious mistake.’”

Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN), named one of the “10 best senators” in a recent issue of Time Magazine, “considers homegrown biofuels the best weapon in the battle against dependency on foreign oil,” according to Grist Magazine. One of the few farmers to serve in Congress, Lugar recently enrolled his farm in the Chicago Climate Exchange, where he will receive credits on the commodity exchange in return for removing air pollutants and helping the environment.

Before this week’s major international conference on Africa being held in Madagascar, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Anan had some wise words: “In Africa and elsewhere, let us all put an end to the exploitation of natural resources for one-time payoffs, and instead develop strategies for using them sustainably, in ways that will benefit all people.” Reuters reports on African countries’ efforts to develop eco-labels as a way to protect their natural resources and diversity.

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