Rank the Issues, More on the Farm Bill Budget, and the Mystery of Purple False Brome

American Farmland Trust
American Farmland Trust

Farm Policy Update November 5, 2008

Will the New President Take Up the Farmer’s Plank?



Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) will assume office as the new President of the United States in a few short weeks. President-elect Obama voted in favor of the 2008 Farm Bill, and his campaign platform supported farmland preservation, regional food systems and renewable energy. American Farmland Trust is looking forward to helping our new president implement the crucial policies that provide support for American agriculture and farmland conservation. Join our 2009 Presidential Transition Team and help us work with the new administration to continue our efforts in shaping the future for positive farm and food policy by voting for your farm and food priorites

2009 Agriculture Budget on Hold

Rather than pass the 2009 Appropriations Bill for agriculture and other government agencies, Congress has passed a continuing resolution. While they may pass a budget if a lame-duck session is held after Election Day, they are bound to determine spending levels by March 2009. What’s at stake? All programs with mandatory funding in the 2008 budget will receive level funding until the new budget is passed. Programs with “mandatory funding” in the 2008 Farm Bill continue to receive funds at the same 2008 rates, while items with “discretionary funding” like the Conservation Loan Program, supported by American Farmland Trust, have no funding until the new appropriations bill is passed.

ACRE: Because Agriculture Is not Immune

The inherent risks outside the control of farmers, such as floods, droughts and insects, are well known. Producers are also not immune from economic fluctuations affecting everything from the price of land and the cost of inputs such as seed, varying yields, to changes in the prices received for their products. Today’s volatile economic climate is the perfect illustration of why farmers need the new safety net supported by American Farmland Trust and enacted in the 2008 Farm Bill: Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE). Under ACRE, farmers will receive help after suffering a demonstrated loss and will be covered on the basis of revenue (both price and yield) rather than just price alone. 

No Regulations? Do Not Pass Go 

In order for our hard-fought gains in conservation and the new ACRE safety net program to be realized in the farm bill, the USDA must draft precise rules and regulations that maintain the spirit of the legislation yet are accessible and usable by participants. Many of these regulations were due 90 days after passage of the bill; however, none are currently completed. This leaves the task of establishing regulations to the next administration in order for the farm bill’s important programs to receive the funding and support they deserve. 

Long Awaited Movement on Climate Change Legislation

In early October, Reps. John D. Dingell (D-MI) and Rick Boucher (D-VA) introduced a climate change bill—more than 25 hearings, four papers, and over two years in the making. The bill would amend the Clean Air Act to create a cap on greenhouse gases (GHG), reduce emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050, and give the U.S. EPA authority to tailor emission standards for different industrial sectors such as agriculture. A similar cap-and-trade bill, the Climate Security Act, stalled in the Senate chamber this summer. Through our Agriculture and Environment Campaign, we’re working with leaders to recommend priority issues for Agriculture’s Role in Mitigating Climate Change  

What’s Purple False Brome?

Research is the key to finding the next generation of alternative fuels. Grain, sweet and forage varieties of sorghum are both drought-resistant crops and efficient materials for conventional and cellulosic ethanol production. Meanwhile, researchers are studying “Brachypodium,” or purple false brome, to learn its genetics and those of its closely related cousins—wheat, rye, barley, and switchgrass—and its potential to break down cell walls more quickly to make cellulosic ethanol.

Media Update

Vermont Town Saved by Food
In Hardwick, Vermont, residents have joined forces to save their ailing regional economy by investing in the local food system. Our Growing Local campaign is committed to creating healthy communities at the interface of farmland preservation and sustainable local food economies

Successful Land Conservation, More Public Access
A new study highlights the success of the USDA’s Conservation Reserve and Wetland Reserve Programs, including reduced soil loss, improved wetlands and the augmentation of other ecosystem services naturally provided by the Prairie Pothole Region of the United States. USDA has also launched an initiative to give landowners incentives to open CRP-enrolled land to the public for recreational activities.

$28 Million in Grants—Putting the Farm Bill in Action
The USDA awarded $28 million in grants to research institutions across the United States addressing specialty crop agriculture issues. We helped bring about changes in agricultural policy to link sound nutritional guidelines from the health community to greater availability and consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.

Green Jobs, Green Energy
The U.S. Conference of Mayors reports that “green jobs” could employ 4.2 million Americans by 2038, a number they hope demonstrates the large potential economic returns of a green economy; however, the report maintains that to achieve this goal, there must be an aggressive shift away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy. Harnessing the power of homegrown energy in environmentally responsible ways is one part of a green economy.

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