American Farmland Trust

Farm Policy Update March 27, 2008

Farm Bill Continues to Stall 

President Bush signed another temporary farm bill extension—to April 18th—but warns if the new deadline can’t be met, the farm bill should wait another year. With only three weeks left to pass a bill and no signs of agreement over funding, policymakers have limited options:
  1. A $10 billion over baseline, 10-year bill agreed to among House and Senate leadership. Policy disagreements, funding issues and disputes between committees continue to stall progress, but new reports indicate (registration required) a breakthrough on this option is possible.
  2. A baseline bill, or a baseline plus $5 billion in additional funding from White House approved sources, could emerge as a fallback.
  3. Extension of current law until next year, leaving the farm bill to a new Congress and new Administration.

Adding complexity to the debate, a brand new farm policy discussion could happen as early as two to three years from now as a result of rising budget pressures, increasing international trade disputes and World Trade Organization discussions.

Farmers in cow pasture, Keith Weller
Help us mount a final push to get critical improvements passed in the farm bill.

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Emergency Push to Get the Farm Bill Signed

President Bush has thrown down the gauntlet: deliver an acceptable bill by April 18th or no new bill this year. Waiting until next year is irresponsible—to farmers and consumers alike—and we must not let that happen.

American Farmland Trust is mounting an emergency campaign to get the bill passed with critical improvements. Congress returns next week and we’ll have just three weeks to finish our work. We need you to make an emergency contribution to help us push until the final hour and be ready to react as new proposals come into play.


An Increasing Focus on Climate Change Policy

Seed sprouting from soilThere is significant, and growing, momentum in Congress to address the threat of climate change. Last December, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a bill sponsored by Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA) that would cap emissions of greenhouse gases, allow regulated companies to  trade emission credits, and impose penalties on emitters who do not comply. This approach, called cap-and-trade, could open vast new opportunities for agriculture to participate in the reduction or sequestration of greenhouse gases and in the production of renewable energy that can replace the current suite of carbon-intensive sources on which we rely.

EPA Planting Seeds to Reap Environmental and Economic Benefits with New Agriculture Committee

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency logo"Agriculture has a big role to play as part of the solution to environmental challenges. We think by sitting down at the same table, as this committee will do, together we can do what's good for agriculture and good for our environment, " said the EPA's Jon Scholl about the newly formed Farm, Ranch and Rural Communities Federal Advisory CommitteeMembers of the EPA's first-ever agricultural advisory committee (PDF)—which includes AFT's president Ralph Grossi—represent large and small farmers, ranchers, and rural communities; rural suppliers, marketers, and processors; academics and researchers who study environmental issues impacting agriculture; and, environmental and conservation groups.

Media Update

You Say To-mah-toes, Where are the Tomatoes?
One of the biggest and most successful tomato growers in the Northeast has decided not to plant tomatoes this year since he can't count on enough labor to help plant and harvest his crop. Brownfield Network interviews Pennsylvania farmer Keith Eckel on the implications of not addressing current immigration and guest worker legislation.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables from the Farmer in the Dell
In Orange, Massachusetts, children are enjoying local apples in their school cafeteria thanks to the National Farm to School Program, which links growers with local institutions so kids can get produce, dairy and meats from area farms. "They are sweeter than the ones you get at the grocery store—and no bruises," says Kayla Lafrennie in this USA Today article. AFT supports Farm to School Programs, and other initiatives in the 2008 Farm Bill that will increase the availability of healthy, local foods. 

Global Squeeze on Food Prices
If you’ve noticed your grocery bills going up, you’re not alone. Food prices rose four percent in the U.S. last year, and are expected to climb as much again this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Rising petroleum costs have increased the cost of everything from fertilizers to transport to food processing. And increased worldwide demand for meat and dairy have caused the cost of grain used for cattle feed to go up.  

Stand By Your Ham
Great Britain's farmers have taken to song to encourage supermarket chains there to pay struggling producers more for their meat. The farmers are bringing attention to the rising cost of grain inputs with a 500-pound mascot sow; a ticker depicting their losses; and a re-make of the Tammy Wynette classic "Stand By Your Man" that extols the virtues of bacon and ham, reports the Wall St. Journal.  

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