From Smart Growth to Climate Change: Congress Busy on Key Issues, Agencies Come Together, Farmland Benefits and More

American Farmland Trust
American Farmland Trust

Farm Policy Update July 17, 2009

House Passes Historic Climate Change Bill

American Farmland Trust is leading an effort to secure the best legislative package possible to help agriculture combat climate change as Congress considers the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. “We’re tremendously excited that the bill recently passed the House,” says Jimmy Daukas, Managing Director of AFT’s Agriculture & Environment program. “It’s certainly historic in that hundreds of millions of acres of farm and ranch land will come under greater conservation and stewardship practices, bring new income to farmers, and help our country address one of the most critical environmental challenges of our time."

Cap and Trade Tutorial

Watch our Farmers Combat Climate Change Video!

What’s on the Horizon?

This week the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee takes up the climate change bill, with the Agriculture Committee and four other committees with jurisdiction close behind. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) hopes to hold a floor vote by late fall, and pending the outcome the bill would then go to a conference committee, much like during the farm bill process. Another key upcoming event is a U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen this December. American Farmland Trust will continue to promote the agricultural and environmental benefits of the bill through an upcoming webinar on climate legislation  

Come Together, Right Now

Hearing Webcast
In an important development for advocates of sustainable land use, the heads of HUD, DOT and the EPA came together to announce an Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities. “If we are truly serious about… conserving natural resources through more efficient land use, then we must take this cross-cutting approach,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Aligning their different but interconnected programs will enhance the ability of all three agencies to promote communities that are livable and sustainable. American Farmland Trust couldn’t agree more with a statement by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), who noted, “One of my pet peeves as a farmer is that we tend to build houses on the best farmland we have….”

Living the Local Food and Farm Victories of the Farm Bill

The local food community recently met to discuss goals and look ahead toward evaluating success at “Local Food Systems: Emerging Research and Policy Issues.” At the standing-room-only workshop co-sponsored by the USDA’s Economic Research Service and the Farm Foundation, presenters and panelists from the USDA, academia, and the private sector shared perspectives on hot topics like local food demand, policy implications and future research. “The energy was truly electric,” said Julia Freedgood, managing director of American Farmland Trust’s Growing Local initiative.

Restoring Clean Water

The Clean Water Restoration Act, S.787 will update and amend the Clean Water Act of 1972, and The Denver Post says the full Senate should now vote to do so. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted yes to a significant change defining the jurisdiction of the legislation as “waters of the United States” rather than “navigable waters.” American Farmland Trust supported this and other changes that will also respect the property rights of landowners, while working with farmers to improve water quality and reduce pollution through the BMP Challenge program and other efforts.

2010 Federal Agriculture Funding Still Pending

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the 2010 agriculture spending bill, with a summary of the mark available here. At publication, the bill has passed in the House (H.R. 2997), but is still pending a full floor vote in the Senate.

Media Update

Does climate change exist? If you don’t think so, New York Times Op-Ed contributor Paul Krugman says “deniers” are committing “a form of treason—treason against the environment.” Ag editor Forrest Laws reports on Nobel Prize winning plant pathologist Jerry Hatfield’s work, and writes “climate change [is] not aberration.”

Northern Virginia farmer Jim Dunlap has just three acres of land to make it all happen amidst a suburban housing development, and he’s a model for young farmers. Well-known local foods advocate Chip Planck correctly adds to The Washington Post article, “If urbanites want to continue to have access to local food, it's essential to think about how suburban and exurban land can be put to better use.”

Here’s how purchases by food stamp recipients at a farmers market flow through the local economy! 

On ag’s role in climate change legislation, Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein says that some of agriculture has demanded more [subsidies] before they will ”consider doing something about global warming,” while environmental lawyer Peter Gray notes the importance of “incentivizing agriculture to participate in climate change response.” Thomas Friedman says, “Just Do It,” urging passage of climate change legislation in the Senate.

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