Highways and Byways, Movement on Climate Change, the First Lady's Agenda and more

American Farmland Trust
American Farmland Trust

Farm Policy Update May 22, 2009

From the highways and byways to what's on the First Lady's agenda, read this issue to learn more about pressing issues AFT is working on to protect the land, plan for agriculture and keep the land healthy.

Climate Change Legislation: Moving Forward

Although debate continues about which proposal would best reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions—a cap and trade system or a carbon tax—climate legislation is moving forward with an expected September finish. Chairman Peterson’s (D- MN) House Agriculture Committee is seeking input from agricultural, environmental and other groups to learn how farmer participation in conservation and carbon sequestration programs “will fit into the overall task of addressing global climate change," including how they may qualify for payments under cap and trade legislation. AFT is providing feedback to the committee and looks forward to helping agriculture continue its role as part of the solution to climate change. 

Conservation Tillage Map from Chicago Climate Exchange

Carbon sequestration rates allocated by the Chicago Climate Exchange
for conservation tillage (September 2008)

Will the First Lady Bring Farming Back to the White House?

Healthy eating has come to the forefront of issues Michelle Obama may champion as First Lady. She not only extols the White House chef’s culinary focus on fresh, local and nutritious food, but she also advocates the fare as a critical component of every family’s diet. At a visit to the USDA, the First Lady commended the Secretary’s community garden initiative, praising both the scenic beauty and the delicious local produce they provide. Perhaps Mrs. Obama will follow the footsteps of another First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, and plant a garden of her own, bringing farming back to the White House. 

Saving the Farm and Food Infrastructure While Fixing Transportation Infrastructure 

Transportation and infrastructure issues, including those that affect farmland protection, are on the Congressional docket as members work on the National Surface Transportation Authorization (similar to a “farm bill” for those issues). AFT is working to include its priorities and ideas on ways to minimize the conversion of farmland and promote infrastructure projects that will strengthen local and regional food systems. 

Show Me the Money: Spending on Track

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the “stimulus package,” became law on February 17; it contained a number of items for agriculture and conservation. The act was followed by the Omnibus spending bill on March 10, which finalized long overdue funding for the USDA and the farm bill for the 2008-2009 year. Now it’s time to look ahead: President Obama has unveiled his 2010 budget to the tune of $3.6 trillion and, in response, the House Agriculture Committee has released their spending recommendations, which include farm bill implementation and overhauls at the Farm Service Agency.

Media Update

Congratulations to Will Shafroth, former AFT Western Regional Director, on his appointment as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks at the U.S. Department of Interior. He has played an active role in the preservation of farms and ranches across the west.

According to Southwest Farm Press, New Mexico landowners are in the midst of a land rush as wind farm developers look to lease their breezy properties. This comes as no surprise, as the United States has already increased wind generation by 4,000 megawatts this year! New Mexico is currently ranked 10th in states with wind power capacity.

Secretary Vilsack spoke about carbon offsets and the potential to pay agriculture for stewardship practices and carbon offsets, along with other agriculture policy ideas in this NPR Morning Edition interview on the future of agriculture.

Dr. Margaret Hamburg and Dr. Joshua Sharfstein have a tall order from President Obama: reform the nation’s food safety system. They were nominated as the Food and Drug Administration Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, respectively, with the President also announcing the formation of a cabinet-level food safety working group.

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