American farmers and ranchers represent a varied group of individual businesses, with a great diversity in farm size, revenue, ownership structure and marketing approaches. Yet all of the nation's producers face a changing marketplace, where the percentage of the food dollar they receive continues to decline.
U.S. farm policy can support farm profitability, agricultural innovation, rural prosperity and healthy diets for our citizens. But most farmers and ranchers get little or no support from federal farm programs, and some of our most innovative programs are desperate for funding.
AFT’s new markets policies support:
- An increase in renewable energy and bio-based products that offer valuable economic opportunities for farmers and ranchers
- Greater access to international markets for American farmers
- Innovation and entrepreneurship in value-added products, direct and niche markets and product promotion
- Programs that promote healthier diets and increased demand for specialty crops and locally grown food
Globally, exports—especially of value-added agricultural goods and products—will be a key driver of agricultural profitability in the future. Reducing global tariffs and non-tariff barriers will open up opportunities for U.S. products overseas, providing a level global playing field for American farmers and ranchers.
harnessing the benefits of homegrown Energy
Renewable energy production offers another tremendous new market opportunity for farmers and ranchers. Increased funding for the development of technologies to convert cellulose-based raw materials into “bio-fuels” and renewable energy standards can expand profitable and environmentally sustainable domestic market opportunities for farmers.
The House of Representatives farm bill includes $2.5 billion in additional funding for expanding renewable energy.
» AFT's Growing Renewable Energy Recommendation
Farm and Ranch Profitability Grants
|Farm and ranch profitability grants
would help farmers like Mary James
of Pender County, North Carolina, who wants to build a small on-farm processing operation for her pasture-raised hogs. James says that small farmers like her need more assistance in "marketing goods and starting up new businesses."
To support entrepreneurship among farmers and ranchers and to enhance rural prosperity, AFT recommends a new $1 billion farm and ranch profitability grants program. The new program will benefit both agriculture and consumers—rural and urban. The farm and ranch profitability grants program could be used for important programs that support farmers' markets, agriculture innovation centers, community food projects, farm-to-cafeteria programs, rural business enterprise grants, seniors and WIC farmers' market nutrition programs, value-added producer grants, specialty crop block grants and other programs that address local and regional producer needs—but currently receive less than $100 million per year.
» AFT's Farm and Ranch Profitability Grants Program Recommendation
» AFT's Recommendations to Revitalize Agricultural Communities
Healthy Food and Better Diets
The food that Americans eat directly affects their health. U.S. agricultural policy, in turn, influences what Americans eat. The 2007 Farm Bill provides a unique opportunity to link the sound nutritional guidelines established by the health community—which call for greater consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains—to changes in agricultural policy.
Currently, the federal government spends billions of dollars to subsidize grains and other crops while providing almost no support for fruits and vegetables. In light of skyrocketing national healthcare costs related to diet-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes, we need to promote healthier diets by supporting farmers' markets, expanding access to specialty crops and locally grown food, and facilitating institutional purchases of local and regional agricultural products.
The House of Representatives farm bill includes $5.6 billion in additional funding for nutrition, healthy diets and fruit and vegetable programs. These programs are critical to a balanced farm bill.
» AFT's Recommendations to Improve Access to Healthy Food