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Farm Policy Update July 26, 2006

Farm Programs Fail Michigan Fruit GrowerMichigan Farmer, Dorrance Amos

Michigan fruit grower Dorrance Amos faces a variety of challenges, from growing development pressure to profitability issues such as high overhead costs and low prices for his products. AFT’s farm policy campaign supports expanded economic opportunities that would help specialty crop growers like Amos survive. “The federal farm programs currently do nothing for me,” Amos says. “Specialty crops like fruit get zero, unless there’s a disaster and the insurance kicks in. It’s at a point now where I sell apples today for less than my father got in 1965.”

WTO:  DOA?

Trade negotiators are scurrying about frantically looking for any sign of a pulse in a valiant attempt to prevent the Doha trade negotiations from being dead on arrival.  However, with Pascal Lamy formally suspending the talks, the collapse already has brought a round of recriminations and excuses. The impact is far from certain. Efforts to revive the Doha round will continue but are not expected to be completed before the end of the Bush administration term of office. Pressures for change in the 2007 Farm Bill still exist including expected court cases being brought against U.S. farm policy before the WTO.

Green Payment Opportunities: Farmers Trade Water Quality Credits for Conservation Practices

AFT is working to facilitate green payments through a program that offers water quality credits to farmers who use conservation best management practices. A new pilot project in Pennsylvania and Minnesota, funded by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant, will establish a framework for farmers to trade nutrient use reductions (that improve water quality) for cash. A green payments program that pays farmers and ranchers for environmental benefits [PDF], such as improved water quality, is a cornerstone of AFT's policy recommendations for the 2007 Farm Bill.

Percent of Corn (for Grain) Acreage Using Conservation Practices 

What’s a Locavore?

The term may sound unfamiliar, but “locavores”—people who strive to consume only food grown or harvested within 100miles of their homes—represent a growing trend. AFT supports the trend through its Agenda 2007 [PDF] policy recommendations that promote healthier diets and increased demand for specialty crops and fresh, locally grown food. Justifications for the locavore diet range from ecological concerns and the desire to consume less fossil fuels in transporting food to tasting the better flavors of fresh products.

Media Summary

“A Bumper Crop of Waste and Abuse”
As the House Agriculture Committee held a farm bill hearing in nearby Staunton, Virginia, the Roanoke Times pointed out that committee chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) has pledged deep cuts to the federal food stamp program in the past to clean up fraud and abuse. While planning to cut programs that “keep the poorest Americans from starving,” the paper said, Goodlatte has also vowed to “protect all agriculture programs from cuts that would change the fundamental structure or operations of these programs.” The editorial said that the agriculture committee should focus instead on ridding farm subsidy programs of unjustified spending.

We Need to Talk…About Farm Policy
Although the phrase “we need to talk” can make Thomas Rowley, a Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI) fellow, cringe, he says the public needs to talk about farm policy. “Boy, do we need to talk. And not just the farmers, lobbyists and bureaucrats, but all of us. Why? Because farm policy affects all of us (and millions of others around the world). Because so few of us understand it. And because it’s broken.”

Who Will Clean Up Farm Programs?
In the heart of corn- and soybean-growing country, the Lincoln Journal Star opined that “members of Congress who represent farm states better start cleaning up the farm subsidy programs, or someone else is going to do it for them,” in response to the investigative series on current farm programs in the Washington Post that ran on July 18 and 19.

A New Farm Bill Is Coming; Think Innovatively
Former National Cotton Council Chairman Kenneth Hood shared some observations from a recent trip to Washington, D.C., in a Delta Farm Press article. He learned that  an extension of the current farm bill next year is not likely. And when he spoke with Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), the Senator challenged him to “go home and do some serious, innovative thinking,” referring to the need to be inventive when it comes to farm policy.

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