Washington, DC, July 27, 2007— “You have to appreciate how much progress has been made,” says Ralph Grossi, President of American Farmland Trust (AFT), commenting on the House passage of the 2007 Farm Bill. This is a better farm and food bill that strengthens American agriculture and better addresses our environmental, health and hunger challenges.”
“Overall, conservation spending will increase about 35 percent. The House has done much to enhance programs like the Farm and Ranch Land Protection program (increased to $280 million annually), the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (increased to $2 billion annually for water quality, air quality, forestry, and programs to include socially disadvantaged farmers), and expanded the Cooperative Conservation program so farmers will be more effective by working together to address environmental issues.”
During the House floor debate, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, “This farm bill also recognizes that those who work the land—American’s farmers and ranchers—are the best stewards of the land. In the area of conservation, the Farm, Nutrition and Bioenergy Bill improves access to, and funding for, initiatives that take environmentally sensitive lands out of production. It encourages environmentally friendly practices on working lands. And it will invest $4.3 billion in new mandatory spending to preserve farm and ranchland, improve water quality, enhance soil conservation, air quality, and wildlife habitats on working lands.”
Grossi outlined additional policy improvements in the House bill. “This bill significantly increases funding for the USDA Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program to get more children eating fruits and vegetables in our schools; expands a number of programs to support local food systems, including the Farmers Market Promotion Program, the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, Community Food Projects, Valued Added Producer Grants and allowing local preference in federal food programs. It also secures additional funding for nutrition programs to help address many pressing issues that challenge the millions of people who face hunger each day.”
“Changes should have gone further to reform safety net programs, update direct payments to exclude non-farmers from receiving payments, and reward farmers and ranchers for their environmental stewardship,” Grossi explained. “However, the House bill passed represented the best chance for agriculture and consumers to continue to work with leadership in the House and Senate and in the conference committee to further transform subsidy policies and expand funding for conservation, healthy diets, nutrition programs and local food systems.”
Senators Brown (D-OH) and Durbin (D-IL) set the stage for that kind of transformation when they introduced the Farm Safety Net Improvement Act of 2007 this week. “It’s a real commodity reform proposal that AFT has been working on for over two years. The National Corn Growers Association worked closely with AFT, and the bill is similar to recommendations made by the Administration and other farm groups. AFT is committed to working with the many members who have expressed an interest in fundamentally transforming risk management programs to provide better protection, less market distortion and equity across crops—at no additional costs—which equates to better farm policy for producers and the public,” Grossi said.
At the introduction of the bill, Senator Durbin noted “the current program wastes taxpayer dollars, doesn’t enhance farmer profitability and makes commodity programs hard to defend. If market price isn’t the only factor that affects what a farmer makes, it shouldn’t be the only factor on which we base commodity calculations. Our bill recalculates the way we allocate funding to correct program inefficiencies and target farmers in need.”
“Now the challenge is to push even further toward a better agriculture, food and environmental future. There is much to do as the Senate begins their deliberations in September. We still have a once in a generation opportunity to create better policies for all farmers and the public,” concluded Grossi.
Visit American Farmland Trust’s Farm and Food Policy Campaign Web site for more information on how we’re working to strengthen the future of American agriculture and ensure fresh, healthy, local food for generations to come.