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Outlining the Debate
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Outlining the Debate New Advocates and Influences Voices for Change Timeline of Events

Creating a new direction in farm and food policy

Barn with American flagAmerican Farmland Trust began this farm bill journey in 2005 by listening—really listening—to farmers and ranchers about what was working and which policies were failing. At forums around the country, they told us of the need for a better safety net and more effective programs to strengthen conservation and land protection.

In many ways, the 2008 Farm Bill debate began as soon as the ink dried on the 2002 bill. A growing consensus on the need for change emerged among farmers, ranchers, conservationists, public interest groups and taxpayers as the diverse groups rallied around the idea of farm and food policies designed to benefit the greater public.

Outside factors drove and broadened the 2008 Farm Bill discussion beyond traditional agricultural interests:

  • Unmet needs of agriculture for conservation program assistance, market development, fruit and vegetable growers and local food system infrastructure among others.
  • Intensifying public concern about the environment and an interest in conservation.
  • Growing awareness of—and discontent with—subsidy programs that distort production decisions and benefit only a handful of farmers.
  • Increased public interest in healthy food and nutrition coinciding with increased national concern over obesity, diabetes and other public health issues.
  • Mounting federal budget deficits that limited the resources available.
  • Conflicts with international trading partners over World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations due to agriculture subsidies and market distortions.
American Farmland Trust