On May 22nd, Congress enacted the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008.
|The new 2008 Farm Bill increases funding for working lands conservation programs and supports fresh and local foods. |
After a Presidential veto, the House of Representatives voted 316-108 and the Senate voted 82-13 to overwhelmingly pass the 2008 Farm Bill. A glitch in the process left the trade title temporarily out of the bill, but both chambers have re-voted on it and we expect the title will be fully incorporated into the farm bill by the end of this month.
This latest glitch seems endemic of the rollercoaster ride that the 2008 Farm Bill debate has taken. When American Farmland Trust started this farm bill journey in 2005, we set out to create a better, more cost-effective safety net for producers, while expanding programs to strengthen conservation and land protection, advance rural prosperity and create greater access to local and healthy food for consumers.
In short, we set out to create a new direction for farm and food policy in the United States: one that better meets the needs of all Americans.
Changing course among entrenched farm policy interests is never an easy task. Comparing where we are now to where we were when we started, we have achieved a lot. The breadth of public discourse and increasing awareness about farm and food policy issues cannot be underestimated and is one of the primary successes from this farm bill process.
The progress and success of the 2008 Farm Bill can be measured in two ways:
- Additional funding, improved effectiveness and the creation of new programs to address important priorities; and,
- The unprecedented involvement and cooperation among previously disengaged stakeholder groups. The political landscape and the public debate have been changed forever.
Your participation and involvement has helped to elevate the importance of farm and food policy. Thank you for your tireless efforts and continued support of American Farmland Trust through this long farm bill process.
While we may not have fully achieved all our goals, and frustration over subsidies remains, we will continue to work for change in the next farm bill and through other legislation.
Overall we remain optimistic that we can build on the achievements of this bill in the future to create even more effective and lasting reforms. Our gains in working lands conservation funding and a better government safety net with the
ACRE program are just two examples of steps in the right direction.
But our work on the farm bill is not finished. While the legislation lays out what ought to happen, turning the promises into reality still lies ahead.
The focus now shifts to developing rules and securing the funds promised in the bill. As we saw with the conservation programs through the life of 2002 Farm Bill, often Congress cuts critical programs during the appropriation process. Without strong advocacy, we risk losing the gains we’ve made. We’ll continue to keep you updated on how to weigh in on the process and stay involved with the farm bill.
We also begin to shift our focus to new areas to advance our goals for better farm and food policies. Opportunities to build on the momentum from the farm bill will arise in upcoming climate change, water quality, crop insurance, transportation and child nutrition legislation. Our regular U.S. Farm Policy Update newsletter will also evolve, and you can expect to continue to receive periodic updates and action alerts on our efforts to protect farmland, advance local food systems and help farmers curb climate change and improve water quality.
Thank you once again for your continued engagement and support. As we step into this next phase of farm and food policy, American Farmland Trust is committed to keeping the United States on course for an equitable, strong, and vibrant farm and food future.
Farm and Food Policy Campaign Director
American Farmland Trust