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March 2006

U.S. Farm Policy Update
Media Summary

Wildflowers on Steve Sinton's Ranch

Farmers and Ranchers Talking About Change; WTO Talks and the U.S. Farm Bill; A Glimpse at Other Issues Facing Agriculture; New Players in the Farm Bill

Media are covering the growing numbers of mainstream farmers and ranchers calling for change in U.S. farm policy, while at the same time WTO negotiations to resolve agricultural issues push toward an April 30 deadline. New players in the farm bill debate are changing the political calculus.

Ranchers and Farmers Talking About Change
Kenny Watkins, cattle, grain and walnut producer in Linden, California, also serves as officer of the California Farm Bureau Federation. Like countless farmers and ranchers involved in American Farmland Trust's (AFT) Farm Policy Project, he’s talking about the changes needed in U.S. farm policy in this Stockton Record article on proposed 2007 federal budget cuts to agriculture. “We’re moving away from a farm-subsidy program to transforming it more to the conservation side to help farmers with the environmental issues we face.” Across the country, Craig Lang, president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, is an echo in this Iowa Farmer Today article that states, “Some farm groups are happy with the status quo on farm programs and policy. There even has been a move to extend the 2002 Farm Bill for four or five years. Lang doesn’t see that happening. Too many issues need to be resolved now," he said.

WTO Talks and the U.S. Farm Bill
Top officials from G6 nations including the European Union (EU) and the United States met last week in London to try and move forward on WTO trade talks. Reuters quotes Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) as very hopeful that, by April 30, “We can come up with something that…will allow our farmers to have access to other markets while giving them the same safety net that was provided in the 2002 Farm Bill.” Chambliss added, “‘Our hope is that we can craft the 2007 Farm Bill with a WTO agreement in place…that will allow us to put more programs in the green box and the blue box,’ referring to WTO classifications for less trade-distorting farm subsidy programs.”

A Glimpse at Other Issues Facing Agriculture
The New York Times has chronicled the bipartisan attention being given to the issue of eminent domain: “Lawmakers in virtually every statehouse across the country are advancing bills and constitutional amendments to limit use of the government’s power of eminent domain to seize private property for economic development purposes.”

New Players in the Farm Bill
One refrain heard from farmers and ranchers at AFT farm policy forums—“There’s a lack of equality in current farm support programs,” with 90 percent of the payments going to just five program crops. The Capital Press Agriculture Weekly writes that House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s (R-VA) aide told National Cotton Council meeting attendees about well-versed new entrants into the farm bill debate. “The Agriculture Committee won’t be your challenge. The rest of the Congress will be.”


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