Tag Archives: farm bill

Farm and Food News 11/18/11

Farm bill progress under wraps

Leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have signaled that they are near complete on a proposed five-year plan for farm and food policy to be added to deficit-reduction recommendations due November 23. If this date is not met then the farm bill moves onto sequestration, meaning automatic reductions will be made. Have more farm bill questions? Visit www.farmbillfacts.org.

Young farmers in search of land and funds

A report from the National Young Farmers’ Coalition details the biggest challenges faced by young and beginning farmers based on a survey of 1,300 individuals.

An increasing number of programs exist for educating beginning farmers and ranchers, but access to loans and land is often difficult, and obstacles remain in continuing to attract a younger generation to farming.

Local food purchasing turns out to be a huge marketplace

According to a new study from USDA, consumer preference for “local” produce  is paying off for some farmers, at the tune of $4.8 billion per year in total revenue. These sales are expected to continue to increase.

A push for wider access to fresh food

Baltimore is pushing for SNAP benefits to be accepted widely at farmers markets so that users have access to healthy food. The goal is to benefit Maryland farmers with an increase in revenue and to provide more Baltimoreans with healthy food alternatives.

Discussion on the table

While the farm-to-table movement is in full swing, many chefs are still finding it extremely difficult to source food completely locally.

Want to preserve your farmland?

If you are interested in learning about how to preserve your farmland, Canterbury Community Center in Connecticut is holding a free workshop to enhance your knowledge. It will be held on November 29 from 6:30 to 9 pm.

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Farm and Food News 11/11/11

A place where veterans and nature connect

A restored ranch in Washington state is providing a retreat for nature-loving veterans with disabilities. Thanks to many grants and funding opportunities, including the Wetlands Reserve Program, the protected land is safeguarding wildlife habitat while also providing a place for veterans to enjoy the outdoors.

Addressing farmland loss in the Pacific Northwest

Washington’s Puget Sound region, like many other parts of the country, continues to face farmland loss due to development pressures. The work of organizations, like PCC Farmland Trust, made possible through farm bill programs, is helping to protect farms and farmland in the region.

Trajectory of farm bill negotiations remains unknown

Federal farm policy helps shape what is grown; where, when and how the land is farmed; and who benefits from this production. The 2012 Farm Bill process is being greatly impacted by the federal budget deficit reduction negotiations, the results of which have yet to be revealed.

Peanuts and pecans go up in price

When you are reaching for pecans or peanut butter to make your favorite holiday dessert, you may notice a sharp increase in price. Peanut growers in Georgia and Texas, and pecan farmers across the Southeast, have experienced a severe drought this past summer. However, Virginia peanut farmers are experiencing a robust harvest this year.

Georgia schools to test farm-to-school program

Three counties in Georgia have enlisted their school systems to serve a minimum of 75 percent Georgia-grown food to their students for a full week. The program will run in the spring and will include guest chef and farmer presentations, while seeking to increase healthy eating habits for elementary school students.

Finding community in a farm and food hub

In Worcester, Pennsylvania, farm and food advocates are working to create a food hub through the Longview Center for Agriculture. The organization’s model—which is finding ways to connect members of the community to the land—offers farmers the opportunity to produce food on small plots of land.

Central New York meetings to address agriculture plans

Farmland protection plans are the topic of discussion at a series of upcoming meetings in central New York. The towns of Nelson, Cazenovia and Lincoln are working together to prepare Agriculture & Farmland Protection Plans, guided by steering committees of local farmers, officials and other landowners.

Study finds water quality in Chesapeake Bay is improving

A new study released from Johns Hopkins University study “efforts to reduce the flow of fertilizers, animal waste and other pollutants” is benefitting the health of the Bay.

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Farm and Food News 11/4/11

Policy Changes Proposed for Next Farm Bill

Proposals for the next farm bill are rolling out across the country. This week, American Farmland Trust released our recommendations for the 2012 Farm Bill. Additionally, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) premiered his proposal for the next farm bill.

Maine Woman Returns Home to Save Farm

At 48 years old, Penny Jordan returned to her family’s farm in Maine, diversifying farm products and projects. She is not alone among the next generation of farmers seeking to address the projected 400,000 acres slated to change hands in the state over the next decade. Maine Farmland Trust recently released a guide to help individuals and communities address the concerns over land transition.

New Resource for Fresh New England Produce

Students at Colby College in Maine have created a new resource for getting local fresh produce from within the New England area. Their program is based entirely online.

Drought Conditions Continue to Hit the Southwest

Farmers and ranchers in the American Southwest are finding new ways to nourish their animals and keep their crops alive under worsening drought conditions. Where in some cases, a hay shortage is the biggest challenge, others are working tirelessly to bring in water.

National Conservation Survey Begins

The 2011 National Resources Inventory conservation Effects Assessment Project survey is underway through the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. The program will be visiting farmers throughout the country from November 2011 to February 2012, seeking to capture the effectiveness of on-farm projects and programs working to protect water, air, and soil quality, including work in the Chesapeake Bay. . In fact, a recent study released by The Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science showed that efforts to reduce runoff from agriculture into the Chesapeake Bay appear to be boosting the Bay’s health.

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Farm and Food News 10/28/11

Farm And Food NewsCrafting a smarter farm policy

Three agricultural leaders—Jon Scholl, President of American Farmland Trust; Garry Neimeyer, President of the National Corn Growers Association; and Chandler Goule, Vice President of Government Relations for the National Farmers Union—propose that the current crop insurance program and general farm policy initiatives should be revamped “to craft a smarter farm policy for America that will be responsible to taxpayers and effective in helping farms and ranches remain viable and productive.”

Global food sovereignty

National Food Day was celebrated this past Monday, October 24th for the first time. It brought together people across the nation to recognize healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. Farmers around the world are making efforts to provide for their communities, and this special day marks another way to underscore the importance of farm and ranch land to our food systems.

Vermont seeks aid for storm damage

An estimated more than 20,000 acres were damaged in Vermont due to Tropical Storm Irene. Representative Welch (D-VT) has suggested three different bills to aid in the restoration and repair of the land damaged and money lost by farmers.

New York acquires additional funding for farmland damage

In New York, there has been another successful awarding of federal funds to farms impacted by the intense weather patterns earlier this year. The funding will go toward emergency conservation and watershed programs. In addition, farmers impacted by the floods have found unique ways to raise money for their relief efforts.

Farmland protection in West Virginia

West Virginians interested in preserving agricultural land can now apply for a farmland protection grant. The funding goes toward the purchasing of conservation easements that limit non-agricultural use of the land. The deadline to apply is November 15th.

Iowa hosts Agriculture for Life conference

Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, is hosting a day-long conference on November 3rd called “Agriculture for Life: Cultivating Diversity in Iowa Fields and Food Systems.” A panel of speakers will include a nutrition director, a previous Kraft Food brand manager and various other Iowans.

New geocodes provide easy farmers market access

The USDA just announced its Excel spreadsheet publication of street addresses and geocodes for over 6,200 farmers markets in the United States. Now you can access your favorite markets with the touch of a cell phone key.

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Farm and Food News 10/21/11

Direct subsidies in the farm bill

On Thursday night, the Senate passed an amendment proposed by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) to prohibit subsidy payments to farmers with an average annual income exceeding $1 million. Though only proposed for the short-term, this decision highlights the continued discussion on what form subsidies may take in the next farm bill. To help people understand the different proposals, we recently engaged noted Ohio State University agricultural economist Dr. Carl Zulauf to analyze the features of the leading safety net proposals.

Farmland transformed into thriving natural sanctuary

A Minnesota farm couple converted their old plowed land into a grass-fed cow “oasis” while preserving native trees, shrubs and species. Their revised landscape also helps reduce soil erosion and water pollution, which in turn brings additional species to their property

Inmate-farmer relationships form

The Idaho potato harvest got a little extra help this year from the state’s Department of Correction. Inmates helped farmers out across the country, providing the farmers with greatly needed support and the inmates with a task in hand.

Kentucky increases local food access

In conjunction with the University of Kentucky and the Governors Office of Agriculture, a new online resource was created for Kentuckians to have easier access to locally produced food. The page also includes nutritional, economical and environmental resources.

Vacation on the Farm

Farms opening their doors to overnight guests are a rising trend across the United States right now, and one that has been popular in Europe for decades. They offer a very realistic look at farm life and one that you can often participate in, while also enjoying the countryside.

New England gains protected farmland

Warren, Maine gained two additions to their “Forever Farms” preservation program this past week: Hatchet Cove Farm and Oyster River Farm. Across the state line in Concord, New Hampshire, city council approved an easement for a 72-acre farm that will prevent future subdivisions and development from the property.

Preserve North Carolina Farmland

Want a grant to protect farmland in North Carolina? You are in luck! The N.C. Agriculture Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund are currently accepting grant applications up until December 15.

Food Day, October 24

To celebrate Food Day, on Monday, October 24, join NYU for a panel discussion of beginning farmers who live and work in New York state. If you are in the Washington, D.C., area, stop by the National Archives for their Food Day Open House. We will be there along with the USDA and ThinkFood Group.

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Farm and Food News 9/23/11

Merced farmers sell land to preserve agriculture

The Central Valley Farmland Trust recently secured another 211 acres of protected farmland in California. The protection of 12,500 total acres in the valley is due in part to federal funds from the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program and through state support.

Cultivating community

In Denton County, Texas, rising interest in local food has brought consumers and farmers together through community supported agriculture (CSA).  Some of the CSA partners include restaurants and even a music venue.

The Farm Bill course at NYU

Farm and food policies are taking center stage in the Big Apple with a new course on the farm bill offered this fall at New York University. Marion Nestle is leading the course, which will cover nutrition, public health, environmental studies and the law.

Ingredients film awakens students to better eating

A new documentary, Ingredients, highlights local farms and food and the benefits of seasonal eating. The film points to the eating local trend as one that increases interest in farming.

See preserved farms on Scenic Hudson cycling tour

Scenic Hudson is providing a unique way to enjoy a fall weekend by offering its third annual Farmland Cycling Tour in New York’s Hudson Valley. The tour offers four options to see farms protected by conservation easements.

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How I Got Into Conservation: A Lifelong Journey

Note: John Stierna recently received the prestigious Norman A. Berg Conservation Legacy Award, given by the National Capital Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) to individuals who have made outstanding contributions in advocating the conservation of soil, water and related natural resources, and whose service and accomplishments have made widely recognized contributions to the development of leading edge technologies that serve conservation at any geographic area, while working in the Washington, D.C., area.

Minnesota Farmstead 1995

Minnesota Farmstead 1995

As a boy, I always loved my family’s farm: the outdoors, the fields of hay and oats, the woods, and the gentle stream that flowed across the farm and emptied into Grave Lake in Minnesota’s Itasca County. The farm work, while strenuous, was still fun to a lad in his teens. We were fortunate. We never had the dust storms they had out in the west. Nor did we have very much visible sheet or rill erosion since many fields were planted to alfalfa or clover. Even the oats or wheat helped provide ground cover after sprouting—thus reducing the impact of rain. However, the manure from our dairy cattle clearly provided a risk of runoff that could have adverse effects on the stream and the lake. I started to get the feeling that we could do something more to protect the stream and lake, but I also felt that any effect from our one farm would be minimal since few other working farms were in our immediate area.

John with Oliver 1995

John Stierna (left) with Uncle Oilver Juntunen (right) 1995

After college and graduate school, I became engaged in private sector research and then water policy for the National Water Commission – work that me closer to policy aspects of both water quality and water quantity. When I joined the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly the Soil Conservation Service) I quickly realized that the collective impact of millions of farms on the environment would be substantial over the longer term, yet any adoption of conservation practices would be on a much more localized basis—farm by farm. A real need existed to have tools to influence private landusers to adopt measures that could protect the land and waters on site and those beyond the farm boundaries. The economic evaluations often showed the need for some incentives to offset costs to help producers install suitable conservation systems.

Over the years, I was able to become more and more engaged in policy analysis that has helped bring forward some of the conservation policies and programs to make that happen. From early work on the Resources Conservation Act activity when Norm Berg was Chief of the old SCS, to later work on the Conservation Reserve Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and the Conservation Security Program and the conservation title of several Farm Bills— these efforts all added to the suite of programs that can assist farmers and ranchers in addressing resource concerns on their farms and better protect the landscape.

Wow. This was a far cry different than the ideas I had as a lad on the farm. But sometimes it takes many years to evolve thought and concerns into workable policies and programs. Persistence over time is something that both Norm Berg and I have shared during our careers. Norm, who played a critical role in the beginning of agricultural conservation in the United States, was a committed conservationist throughout his life. I feel honored to have worked with such a distinguished professional as Norm.


John StiernaAbout the Author: Stierna has more than 45 years of experience in natural resources and agriculture as an economist and policy analyst in both the public and private sectors. He has provided significant leadership for economic analysis, policy formation and legislative analysis during his career with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Washington, D.C., and he now serves as a natural resource policy consultant for American Farmland Trust

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How Should Federal Budget Cuts Impact Farms, Food and Farmland?

As legislators and the president face our fiscal realities, federal budget decisions are being made right now that will affect agriculture programs this year and through 2012.

United States CapitalThe required cut to 2011 appropriations—$32 billion in total—sets the boundaries on government spending for the remainder of the fiscal year. It will be up to the House Appropriations Committees, including the Agriculture, Rural Development and Food & Drug Administration Subcommittee, to decide how and where to cut spending. These committees can take an across the board percentage cut to the agencies, or, they can recommend cuts to individual programs.

The overall challenge issued to the Agriculture Appropriations Committee is to cut $3.2 billion of discretionary spending from their budget of $23.3 billion. Finding where to make the cuts is complicated because many programs are interconnected. For instance if the discretionary program for conservation guidance to farmers loses funding, the support needed for everything from farmland preservation and conservation to food and nutrition programs (food assistance), food safety, and renewable energy is threatened—putting programs at risk of being unable to provide the solutions they are intended to provide.

As the fate of the 2011 budget is ironed out, a look to 2012 is even more daunting. Cuts projected to surface in the 2012 budget proposal are estimated at $75 billion in discretionary funds alone. Further cuts to meet deficit reduction goals could possibly dip into programs like the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program or the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, threatening initiatives that provide the very basis for conservation and land protection, help advance rural prosperity, and create greater access to local and healthy food for consumers.

The federal farm bill programs are a key source of support for farmers’ and ranchers’ environmental stewardship, but conservation program funding has already been targeted for budget cuts. Farmers and ranchers are under increasing pressure from both consumers and regulators to address environmental concerns while at the same time, facing record demand from world food markets. In order to grow and prosper, agriculture must meet this demand while also protecting the environment—a tall order. The 2012 Farm Bill must reaffirm the importance of environmental stewardship, while also doing more with fewer dollars—improving the cost-effectiveness of the conservation programs, promoting new income streams like ecosystem service markets, and making it easier for farmers to adopt environmentally sound practices.

Balancing the value of federal programs while also balancing the budget is a difficult proposition and begs the question: What is the best thing we can do with the money available? It requires a look at what goals we have for our nation’s farm and foods, and it’s a challenge we’d like you to consider!

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Farm Programs That Fit the Times

The 2008 Farm Bill featured the creation of the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program. American Farmland Trust guided its development in conjunction with agricultural economist Dr. Carl Zulauf, who was the chief economic designer and modeler of this innovative risk management tool for farmers. In this guest blog post, Dr. Zulauf reflects on the current ACRE program and sets the tone for the discussion of the government’s role in farm policy and safety net programs in the 2012 Farm Bill.

In the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, the American public is once again debating what role government should play managing economic risk, but this time during severe budget deficits.  Throughout our history, Americans have preferred a free market economy and limited government involvement in individual business failures.

At the same time, there are some economic risks, which affect so many people at once, and are so far beyond the control of individuals, the government enacts policies to help manage them.

Farming, one of the basic sectors underpinning our economy is a highly risky business. Despite all the advances in production practices and the best planning in the world, farmers continue to face risk from factors largely beyond their control.

Moreover, some risks can affect large numbers of farmers all at once, something we economists call “systemic risk.” This includes things like widespread weather problems from drought, to significant market problems like the Asian fiscal crisis in the late 1990s.

Even individual insurance companies can get overwhelmed with these types of risks, for instance, when multiple hurricanes hit in one season.

Unfortunately, American agriculture could be better served by our current government farm programs that do not provide our farmers with adequate assistance against revenue risks.

The current farm programs also don’t serve taxpayers. The current half-dozen farm programs have a variety of overlapping objectives that can lead to duplication in payments. Both taxpayers and many farmers increasingly object to programs that send government checks even when farmers don’t experience a loss, yet don’t help in situations when farmers are in genuine need.

So how can we design a 21st century farm safety net program that provides an appropriate and equitable safety net for farmers, but costs taxpayers less?  By using the following principles:

  • The farm safety net addresses risk management, instead of providing income support.
  • Government programs address systemic risk, the type of risk beyond the control of the individual farmer and problematic for private insurance companies.
  • Payments are only made when a farmer experiences a loss, and only for the amount of the loss;
  • All government farm risk programs, including insurance, are integrated to avoid duplication and save money;

Recent progress was made in the 2008 Farm Bill with an experiment for a new type of risk management program. The Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program was designed as an option for producers to address systemic risk for both price and yields. A specific proposal to improve on this concept and to meet the above objectives is to modify ACRE so that it is fully integrated with crop insurance, which addresses risk unique to an individual farm.

What would farmers gain? Assistance, when it is needed, against the kind of systemic risk that can cause widespread bankruptcies and dislocation, even among well-managed operations and through no fault on the farmer’s part.

What would the public gain? A more transparent, streamlined and focused farm safety net that can be less expensive to taxpayers because it eliminates duplicate coverage and because payments would only be made when there is genuine need.

In short, we can reduce our budget deficit and still provide the risk management this critical sector of our economy needs.

This commentary piece was originally featured in Iowa Farmer Today.


About the Author: Dr. Carl Zulauf is an agricultural economist at The Ohio State University.

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The New Political Landscape – Farm Policy Implications

The 2010 midterm elections brought significant changes to the makeup of Congress.

In the House, the Republican Party gained 63 seats to take a 242 to 193 majority, while in the Senate, the GOP gained five seats, narrowing the Democrat majority from 53 to 47.

The November results also brought a change of leadership at the House Agriculture Committee, where Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma) has taken over from outgoing Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota).

United States CapitalShortly after the election, in a webinar presented by the Washington, D.C. based law firm McLeod, Watkinson & Miller (“Election Results and the Agriculture Committees”) former Staff Director of the House Agriculture Committee Bill O’Conner pointed out that, “Chairman Peterson had wanted the farm bill in 2011, and incoming Chairman Lucas had never been very excited about that, and has now publicly stated that he thinks it’s better to do the farm bill in 2012. That will give the committee some chance to adapt to the new situation and to do the background hearings necessary to begin to familiarize themselves with the very large and complex jurisdictions in a farm bill.”

A CQ- Roll Call Summary of new House Members indicated that a few freshmen bring an agricultural perspective to Capitol Hill.  Among them is Rick Crawford (R-Arkansas), a self described “deficit hawk” who “spent most of his working life in agriculture-related news services.”

Vicky Hartzler, a new GOP Member from Missouri “owns an agricultural equipment business with her husband,” and has made balancing the budget one of her key priorities; and, a former Ohio Farm Bureau President, Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) has indicated that “cutting the federal deficit and lowering the national debt” is one of his top concerns.

Representatives Crawford, Hartlzer and Gibbs, will all serve on the House Agriculture Committee.

Balancing fiscal restraint while maintaining a sound national agricultural and food policy will be a key issue as Congress gets to work.

The Hill newspaper reported last week, “Farm subsidies and the Commodity Futures Trade Commission (CFTC) will come under scrutiny from Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), the new chairman of the [Appropriations] Agriculture subcommittee.”

Rep. Kingston stated that, “If there is an agricultural conservation program that is popular in red states, we have to look at it. If there is an inner-city school lunch program popular in blue states, we have to look at that, too.”

With respect to the Senate makeup and agriculture, the most significant change is the appointment of a new Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.  After Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas) was defeated on November 2, and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota) opted to retain his chairmanship of the Budget Committee, Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan became the new leader of the Agriculture Committee.

In her first speech as the new Chairman, Sen. Stabenow indicated last week that, “We are going to have a series of hearings on how the farm bill is working and what should change…[W]e will need to find creative solutions to help our growers manage risk. The safety net might look a little different than it does now.”


Keith GoodAbout the author: Keith Good, an attorney from central Illinois, compiles a daily summary of news relating to U.S. farm policy each weekday at www.FarmPolicy.com.

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