In one of its annual highlights, American Farmland Trust honored New York farmer R. Thomas Hutson with the Steward of the Land Award for his outstanding conservation and land protection efforts. Recognizing and rewarding all farmers for the production of environmental benefits is a key concept in AFT's Agenda 2007: A New Framework and Direction for U.S. Farm Policy. AFT's plausible alternatives to current federal policy have led to a leadership role in the discussion and debate about the future of American agricultural policy.
Bright Side: Farmer Recognized for Stewardship
AFT awarded its 10th annual Steward of the Land Award to farmer Tom Hutson of DeLancey, New York, for his land protection and stewardship efforts. Hutson's leadership in promoting whole farm planning and conservation practices has helped to keep the water supply for the nine million residents of New York City clean, providing important environmental benefits. In addition to his $10,000 award from AFT, Hutson and AFT received letters of commendation from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Pataki, state Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Brennan and Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY). Read coverage of the 2006 Steward of the Land events in The Daily Star and in this AFT press release.
The Strength of the Farm Lobby?
Despite the farm lobby's power, the Chicago Tribune notes that farm policy reformers believe they have a "shot at change this time" since there are at least "two wild cards that could upend the debate"; while USA Today ran an article titled "Fat days may be over for farm subsidies" that quotes a senior senator as saying "The farm bloc isn't what it used to be," in reference to the recent defeat of a Senate plan to add nearly $4 billion in farm disaster aid to a war spending bill.
Say No to Extension, Yes to a Better Approach
Chuck Hassebrook, Director of the Center for Rural Affairs, has written the essay "Say No to Extending 2002 Farm Bill, Say Yes to a Better Approach" in which he argues for a strict cap on payments to large farms, as the current farm bill "is steadily and deliberately dismantling family farming." Instead, the cost savings from a new approach should be reinvested in programs that support proven local entrepreneurial initiatives. Hassebrook's perspective sounds similar to the ideas expressed in AFT's Agenda 2007 paper [PDF].
WTO: Still a Force Shaping the U.S. Farm Policy Debate
U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab was confirmed to her new position as the United States' chief trade negotiator this week, and despite the difficultly of the Doha round of World Trade Organization (WTO) talks she's inherited, "The fact that the president chose to announce my nomination the same day as Ambassador Portman's was announced was evidence that the president wanted to send a message—that he wanted a seamless transition and continued high priority on trade," she said in The Washington Post. While the final outcome of this round of trade talks will not be known until next year, AFT believes that trade agreements already in place will lead to U.S. farm policy change.