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Senate Farm Bill: A Mixed Bag
—ACR Program Is Reform—
But Key Conservation Programs Left Without Additional Funding

 
CONTACT:
Jennifer Morrill 202-378-1255, or jmorrill@farmland.org
 

Washington, D.C., October 25, 2007—“The 2007 Farm Bill passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee has some very good policies and programs, but clearly could do much more to reform farm programs and help farmers meet contemporary challenges,” says Ralph Grossi, President of American Farmland Trust (AFT). “The new Average Crop Revenue (ACR) program is an innovative and forward looking proposal that fundamentally changes the way commodity subsidies operate. The Committee also expanded important programs to provide healthy and local foods to children and adults.”

While the Committee bill included additional funds for conservation programs, including the renamed Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), several important working lands programs did not receive additional funds. “Although working farms and ranches offer our greatest potential to enhance the nation’s water quality and wildlife habitat, the Senate neglected to provide any additional funds for critical conservation programs,” said Grossi. “This means more farmers and ranchers willing to take action to improve the environment will be turned away due to a lack of funds.”

The bill will now move to the Senate floor for debate. “We call on Senators to find ways to support increased funding for the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) to protect farmland from development and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to improve water quality.”

The ACR program, similar to the Farm Safety Net Improvement Act of 2007 offered by Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Brown (D-OH), is a revenue-based counter cyclical program. “ACR offers producers better risk protection at a lower cost, and is less market distorting since the revenue calculations are based on market-based signals, rather than those set by Congress,” adds Grossi. “A market-based price trigger is a critical selling point for both producers and taxpayers.  It will allow producers to respond to market signals and base their planting decisions on the market, not to ‘farm the programs.’”

For those who choose to participate in the ACR program, it provides better protection, less distortion and frees up funding for other important priorities. The ACR program fundamentally reforms the way subsidy programs operate. Its benefits include:

  • Better protection for farmers by protecting revenue (price x yield) rather than merely price as the current system does;
  • Less market and production distortions by using a revenue target that adjusts with the market rather than politically set target prices and loan rates;
  • Treats crops equitably by linking support to market indicators based on the same formula for all crops;
  • Generates savings that are directed to critical priorities including conservation, renewable energy, nutrition and specialty crops.

“ACR is a policy designed for the future. It will work in good times, and bad times, something our current programs don’t do,” said Grossi. “It makes sense to give American farmers a choice. They are quite capable of deciding for themselves which programs will work best for their operation. Congress should be in the business of giving farmers choices.” 

In addition to positive changes in Title I of the farm bill, Grossi says a number of programs to increase access to healthier diets were included in the Senate bill. “Providing more fresh fruits and vegetables to children in schools, increasing support to farmers' markets and community food projects, and expanding grants to specialty crops all work to strengthen agriculture while improving the health of our consumers.”

“As we come into the closing weeks of discussion and work on the 2007 Farm Bill, we need to remember how critical it is to move our federal farm policy in a direction that keeps farmers economically viable, competitive in local and global markets, and to do all that we can to protect our nation’s most valuable and irreplaceable natural resources,” Grossi concludes.

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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.

 

American Farmland Trust is the nation's leading conservation organization dedicated to protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land. Since its founding in 1980 by a group of farmers and citizens concerned about the rapid loss of farmland to development, AFT has helped save millions of acres of farmland from development and led the way for the adoption of conservation practices on millions more.

AFT's national office is located in Washington, DC. Phone: 202-331-7300. For more information, visit www.farmland.org.

 
American Farmland Trust