A Historic Step Forward: The 2008 Farm Bill Passes in the House and Senate


American Farmland Trust May 16, 2008
American Farmland Trust

An Overwhelming Majority Passes the 2008 Farm Bill

Dear Friends of Farmland,

Congratulations!

The 2008 Farm Bill vote was 318-106 in the House, 85-15 in the Senate. See how your Representative or Senator voted!

After a long effort and hard work, the House of Representatives and Senate overwhelmingly passed a historic new farm bill!  The 2008 Farm Bill makes real gains in subsidy reform in the new Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program and provides desperately needed new funds for conservation, nutrition, and healthy and local foods.  AFT's work with Congress, the administration, and partners to make sure both farmers and consumers are better served by a new bill has paid off, thanks to support from people like you. And although the bill does not include all the reforms we would like to see, there is no question it is decisively better than the alternative—an extension of current policies.

Included in the new bill is the ACRE program, an important element that represents a fundamental reform in how U.S. commodity programs operate—reducing market distortions, cutting direct payments, reducing loan deficiency payment rates, and freeing up funding for other priorities. This historic change allows producers to choose a market-oriented, risk management tool that adjusts with market prices and pays farmers only when they need it—when they suffer a real loss in revenue. We know many farmers want this choice and we expect nearly 100 million acres to be enrolled in the program because it provides better protection while freeing up money for other priorities such as nutrition and conservation.

You should be proud of the other improvements in the bill that you supported and called for including: increased funding and policy improvements for the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) that permanently protects our nation's working farms and ranches. With over one million acres of our best farm and ranchland being lost each year, it is critical to protect this strategic American resource.

In addition, Congress responded to the enormous need for more conservation funding, better efficiencies in current working lands programs and several new options including:
  • Increased funding and policy improvements for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to improve our environment;

  • Increased funding and policy improvements for the Conservation Stewardship Program to reward farmers for stewardship;

  • Funding for Wetland Reserve and Grassland Reserve Programs to protect our water and expand wildlife habitat;

  • A new conservation loan program to leverage additional funding for agriculture conservation;

  • A new cooperative conservation program to more effectively address the nation’s natural resource concerns;

  • A new Chesapeake Bay program to help farmers improve water quality in one of the nation’s premier watersheds; and

  • Extension of the tax credit for donated easements resulting in more land being protected for the future.

The bill also includes significant advances in AFT's priorities of supporting and expanding access to healthy and local foods, which will help address growing diet-related health concerns, food security and infrastructure needs. This bill expands the commitment to important farmers’ market programs, Healthy Urban Food Enterprise Development program, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable (SNACK) program, and the Community Food Security Program. Just as important, it allows schools flexibility to give preference to local farmers in supplying food for the school food programs. This should help support urban-edge farmers and ranchers across the nation.

With the 2008 Farm Bill, we’ve come a long way in setting new policies that will benefit producers, consumers and our working farmland. Is there more work to be done? Are more reforms needed? Yes but together, we’ve laid some historic and very important groundwork in federal agriculture and food policy. We anticipate the bill being vetoed by the President next week: please stand by to help support a veto override. We cannot afford to lose all we’ve gained in the bill.

Again, congratulations and thank you.

Sincerely,

Grossi sig transparent

Ralph Grossi
President
American Farmland Trust

Ralph Grossi
 


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