Senate Agriculture Committee Sets Up Floor Vote
Floor Amendment Needed to Fill Conservation Holes
The Senate Agriculture Committee finished their work on the farm bill last week, making improvements over the House bill in some areas but neglecting others. A highlight was $1.3 billion in additional funds for the renamed Comprehensive Stewardship Program (CSP), but several important working lands programs were left without much needed additional funds. Among them the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP)—that helps protect farmland from development—and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), that helps farmers improve our nation’s water quality. AFT is working aggressively on an amendment to secure more funding to protect our water and farmland for the Senate floor vote, scheduled to begin next week.
One Small Step for Agriculture, One Giant Leap for Reform
Senate offices didn’t know what hit them when a nationwide call-in for conservation took place on October 17. With one voice, over 30 national conservation and environmental organizations and countless local groups sent messages to millions of Americans encouraging action on the farm bill. Senate offices were overwhelmed with calls, and by 9:30 a.m. several had already switched to automated responses and couldn’t keep up with the volume. Conservation supporters made their voices heard, building momentum for the floor vote next week. Help us keep the pressure on and send a message to your Senators today.
One of the most hotly contested items in the Senate Agriculture Committee’s farm bill is an optional revenue based program inspired by the Durbin-Brown Farm Safety Net Improvement Act. The new Average Crop Revenue (ACR) program is an innovative and forward looking proposal that fundamentally changes the way commodity subsidies operate. However, it faces strong opposition from groups like the crop insurance industry who stand to lose billions in government subsidies. The ACR program may be small, but it could be mighty—paving the way for subsidy reform now and in the future. Because it frees up at least $3 billion, it is the cornerstone to funding priorities like conservation, healthy diets, renewable energy and farmers’ market programs. As the Senate prepares for a floor vote, it is imperative to defend and strengthen ACR, as it represents our only real chance to achieve our farmland protection and reform goals.
Special Video: AFT Responds to Senate Farm Bill
American Farmland Trust’s work during the last few years has focused on commodity subsidy reform, conservation programs, and healthy, local food priorities in the 2007 Farm Bill. Hear what AFT President Ralph Grossi thinks about the Senate Ag Committee’s farm bill and what he sees in the future for the 2007 Farm Bill.
Calling from the CombineMany farmers across the country are in the middle of harvest—spending hours each day in their combines harvesting their fields. Hats off to the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) for organizing a "Call from the Combine," which encouraged producers to call their Senators in support of an optional revenue-based safety net program for inclusion in the upcoming farm bill. Senate offices reported the message came through "loud and clear!" The Average Crop Revenue (ACR) program included in Title I of the farm bill (see above) is a scaled back version of the Durbin-Brown Farm Safety Net Improvement Act (S. 1872) that NCGA and AFT have worked hard to promote.
Down on the Farm BillClose the Loophole
As the Senate begins its mark-up of the farm bill, major newspapers continue to draw attention to the need for farm policy reform. The San Francisco Chronicle says Senators Feinstein and Boxer should "do the state and nation a favor—by breaking with convention and voting to overhaul farm policy to reduce these wasteful subsidies." In the heartland, The Des Moines Register says the proposed Senate bill now going into mark-up "would allow more working lands to be enrolled in conservation programs… But the expansion is not nearly as much as he [Sen. Harkin] wanted—or
The Kansas City Star tells readers that Congress should close a loophole in the loan-deficiency program allowing farmers to collect cash payments when commodity prices fall but retain their crop to sell when prices go back up. Instead, American Farmland Trust advocates a revenue-based safety net such as the Durbin-Brown (S.1872) or Sen. Harkin’s Average Crop Revenue proposal.