Loading...

Follow National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook
or

Valid

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Reana Kovalcik
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
202-547-5754, rkovalcik@sustainableagriculture.net 

House Pushes Through Flawed Farm Bill on Second Try
NSAC calls for a bipartisan farm bill that respects farmers and American families

Washington, DC, June 21, 2018 – Today, the House passed its deeply flawed farm bill, H.R. 2, which was widely criticized by farm and food advocates nationwide.

Farm, rural, conservation, and anti-hunger organizations, including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), have been clamoring for the House to commit to a bipartisan, farmer-forward farm bill even before the first vote on H.R. 2 took place last May. The bill passed today by the House is full of provisions that would severely undermine local and regional food economies, weaken or eliminate popular conservation programs, and take food from the mouths of hungry Americans.

NSAC is dismayed that House leadership has refused to engage in the thoughtful, bipartisan debate that has been the hallmark of all previous farm bills. Our nation’s farmers, families, and food-producing communities deserve better. They deserve a strong farm bill that can gain enough support in both the House and Senate to ensure passage of a final package before the expiration of the current farm bill.

Thankfully, the Senate Agriculture Committee has been able to work in a bipartisan manner to produce a bill that invests in, rather than undermines, a more sustainable future for American agriculture. We thank Senate Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) for their commitment to bipartisanship and their efforts to support family farmers. NSAC remains committed to securing a bipartisan farm bill before the September 30 deadline, and will urge all members of the farm bill conference committee to come together to produce a bill that supports small and mid-scale family farms, closes loopholes that facilitate farm consolidation and concentration, advances stewardship, and invests in farm-to-fork economies.

For a full analysis of the provisions of H.R. 2, see NSAC’s summary and title-by-title analyses.

###

About the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Learn more and get involved at: http://sustainableagriculture.net

The post RELEASE: House Pushes Through Flawed Farm Bill on Second Try appeared first on National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Reana Kovalcik
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
202-547-5754, rkovalcik@sustainableagriculture.net 

President’s Rescissions Package is Direct Attack on Farm Bill
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition urges Senate to reject nearly $1 billion in farm bill cuts

Washington, DC, June 18, 2018 – The rescissions package being considered by the Senate this week would pull the rug out from under struggling farmers and ranchers, handicapping their ability to tap new markets, grow rural jobs, and conserve soil, water, and other resources on their land. The package would cut $657 million from farm bill conservation programs and $15 million from the Value Added Producer Grants program, which catalyzes entrepreneurship and job growth in food producing communities. Furthermore, the bill undermines the authority of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which is actively working to reauthorize the farm bill.

The decision to approve or reject the rescissions package comes before the Senate just one week before it will likely to vote on the draft farm bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) urges the Senate to defend the farm bill process and America’s farmers and ranchers by voting no on H.R.3, the Spending Cuts to Expired and Unnecessary Programs Act.

The rescissions package being considered this week would:

  • Cut $157 million from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) on top of $1.5 billion in cuts already made by the Senate Agriculture Committee’s farm bill. EQIP is a cornerstone working lands conservation program, which provides financial and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to implement conservation activities on their land in production. If the EQIP rescission is passed, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will be prevented from signing more than 600 EQIP producer contracts.
  • Claw back $335 million from the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), for which the Senate Agriculture Committee decided last week to increase funding by $1.5 billion. Rescinded funds that would otherwise be used to service existing easement contracts would have to be replaced by current easement funds; as a result, approximately 490 ACEP easements would not be made. ACEP provides support to private landowners, land trusts, and other entities to preserve agricultural lands, grasslands, and wetlands.
  • Eliminate $15 million from the Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG) program, which bolsters rural entrepreneurship and economic activity by helping family farmers grow and diversify their businesses. For past last five months, USDA Rural Development has been reviewing, ranking, and scoring hundreds of VAPG applications, but the rescissions package would strop that award process in its tracks.

American farmers and food-producing communities rely on farm bill funding to keep our food system vibrant and strong; the rescissions package would undermine the authority, spirit, and vital support of this important bill. A vote for the rescissions package is a vote against the farm bill, and against our nation’s farmers and ranchers, we therefore urge the Senate to oppose the Spending Cuts to Expired and Unnecessary Programs Act.

###

About the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Learn more and get involved at: http://sustainableagriculture.net

The post COMMENT: President’s Rescission Package is Direct Attack on Farm Bill appeared first on National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Research led by Joy Casnovsky of the Sustainable Food Center will explore how efforts in Austin, TX to improve access to fruits and vegetables are impacting residents’ purchasing decisions and health outcomes. Here, farm stand facilitators make fresh vegetables available to community members. Photo credit: FFAR.

Research is transforming food systems in urban communities, one award at a time. On May 21, 2018, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) celebrated its members and partners who received Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) awards. FFAR is a nonprofit established by the 2014 Farm Bill and administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

FFAR announced five grants this May, totaling $4.4 million, for research in community food system interventions; these awards also came with an $8.9 million match by companies, universities, and organizations. Currently, many nutritional security programs and food system interventions operate in isolation; research projects like those recognized by FFAR seek to change that. FFAR provides opportunities to expand health and economic programs already in place, while focusing on community interaction and collaborative approaches.

NSAC congratulates all FFAR award recipients on their projects, in particular the enterprising NSAC members (spotlighted below) who received awards or will be part of awarded projects. The following projects are funded through FFAR’s pilot Tipping Points Program, which seeks to synthesize new research with existing community-based food and nutritional programs and food system interventions. 

Award Highlights

Sustainable Food Center’s Joy Casnovsky is spearheading a project that examines the “Farm for Less” farm stands, mobile markets, and healthy corner stores in the Eastern Crescent of Austin, Texas. The goal of the Farm for Less program, which is located in majority minority and low-income neighborhoods, is to increase the availability of healthy food options through community driven efforts. Their project is driven by a need to confront the incredible growth of Austin and the accompanying affordability crisis that is driving people out of their homes and neighborhoods.

“The thought behind our food access strategies is to enlist community-based and neighborhood specific tactics that do not have unintended consequences of driving up property values or drastically altering the physical landscape,” said Casnovsky.

Partnering with UTHealth School of Public Health, Casnovsky and Dr. Alexandra van den Berg Ph.D, along with van den Berg’s research team, will use the $996,560 FFAR grant to develop a quasi-experimental longitudinal study designed to capture the impact of new food access points on consumption, food security, and obesity. For example, the project will compare the health outcomes of participants who use the farm stands, mobile markets, healthy corner stores, The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre® cooking and nutrition program, or a combination. The project will also study the effectiveness of additional strategies under Fresh for Less, such as piloting Double Dollars in brick and mortar retail, which doubles Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables. These and other collected data will be integrated into a model for optimal implementation and recommendations for scaling up.

Dr. Becca Jablonski is working with Colorado State University on a Denver-based evaluation of food system policies and initiatives seeks to optimize existing food system efforts. Jablonski hopes to address how urban food policies can be re-envisioned to support efforts across the state:

“The timing is excellent because Denver and several surrounding counties just received funding to re-evaluate their policies,” Jablonski said. “This project gives us an awesome opportunity to bring more people to the table who can work on determining how urban food policies can support not just urban communities and economies, but entire regions.”

Jablonski and her team will utilize data about Colorado producers, retailers, and consumer behavior to generate a computational model on the current food system. The model will develop hypothetical intervention solutions that analyze the tradeoffs between different food policies. With their $1 million FFAR grant, the project can connect food security and access efforts with agri-business, natural resources, and economic development communities.

“We really value our partnerships,” said Jablonski. “Sometimes these projects are missing a piece, so having partners who understand agricultural issues and other partners who get food security and food access is really important.”

Wendy Moschetti from LiveWell Colorado, a partner for the project, agrees, “We’re always looking for initiatives that are trying to make access where it’s missing, especially in communities of color, while strengthening food systems. We’ve been working closely in partnership before, so this just makes sense. It’s a golden opportunity to do some real research and test what interventions have real impact.”

The Food Trust is a partner for Dr. Darcy Freedman and the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine’s project on developing strategies to maximize equitable impact in communities. This $433,152 FFAR grant project will focus on community nutrition, food security, and economic opportunity interventions that will serve neighborhoods both within and outside of Cleveland.

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future is a partner for Dr. Beth Feingold and the University of Albany’s $936,418 FFAR awarded project on fresh produce recovery and redistribution in Albany. The project will look at policy interventions at a local, state, and national level that identify how tax incentives, date-labeling education, and other variables effect the nutrition and health outcomes for food insecure populations. They hope to expand their research beyond the region to have a national impact.

More information on these and other FFAR awarded projects is available on the FFAR website.

The post $4.4 Million for 2018 Nutrition and Food Access Research Award Winners appeared first on National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Senate Agriculture Committee marking up their draft farm bill on June 13, 2018.

Every five years or so, Congress reauthorizes the federal farm bill, a large and complex package of legislation that affects all facets of food and agriculture policy in the U.S. The current farm bill, which Congress passed in 2014, expires on September 30, 2018. The 2018 Farm Bill must be passed before September 30 in order to make much-needed improvements to farm and food programs; if the bill is not finalized on time, not only will these improvements not be made, but dozens of important programs would also be at risk of expiring without direct congressional action.

Yesterday, the Senate Agriculture Committee voted 20–1 to pass its version of the next farm bill – the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (S. 3042). Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was the lone dissenter, voting against the bill after he was denied a vote, on a technicality, on his priority amendment to lower and tighten the cap on annual per farm commodity subsidies. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) strongly backs his amendment and we expressed our displeasure with the vote denial yesterday.

The Senate Committee leadership first released their draft bill last Friday, and yesterday modifications to that bill were made by the full Committee through a series of adopted amendments.

For full details on the initial Senate bill (aka the “Chairman’s Mark”), see our six-part deep dive blog series.

In this post, we will detail the major changes to the Chairman’s mark that were debated during the Committee markup. In addition to the half dozen or so standalone amendments that were introduced and debated during the Senate Committee markup, we will also provide an overview of the “manager’s amendment,” a package of 66 amendments that were introduced in an “en bloc” and passed by a voice vote.

Commodity Programs

One of NSAC’s top priorities for Senate Committee markup was to limit the size of commodity subsidy payments and reform the eligibility rules for such payments. Senator Grassley had been championing this effort and working with Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to negotiate language that would restore accountability and fairness to Title I (Commodities). In a strange turn of events, however, Senator Grassley was unable to bring his reform amendment to a vote due to a legislative drafting technicality that under normal Senate functioning would not have stood in the way of debating and voting on the amendment.

The amendment would place a hard cap on the total amount of commodity program payments and benefits any one farm can receive annually, and would strengthen “actively engaged” rules to ensure that large operations cannot endlessly multiply payments by adding non-farm investors and absentee “managers” to their farming business. It is unfortunate the Committee missed an important opportunity to close the egregious loopholes of the commodity subsidy programs. Attention now, however, turns to Senate floor action where there is still opportunity for this amendment to be debated and adopted. NSAC will be urging Senate leadership to allow Senator Grassley’s amendment to come to a vote when the bill moves to the floor, and we urge all members of the Senate to support this important provision.

Conservation

The manager’s amendment included several important changes in line with NSAC’s conservation priorities that we worked on behind the scenes with the Senate sponsors:

Working Lands Conservation Programs

While we remain extremely disappointed that the Senate bill cuts funding for working lands conservation programs, we are pleased that the manager’s amendment made important policy reforms to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) primary working lands conservation programs, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP):

  • An amendment from Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) would increase coordination between EQIP and CSP by allowing participants in EQIP to seamlessly graduate into CSP when they can meet the two stewardship thresholds required for CSP eligibility. The creation of this on-ramp process for CSP will ultimately encourage farmers to take on higher levels of stewardship by simplifying the process for producers, as well as for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service field staff. NSAC thanks Senators Smith and Ernst for advancing this important provision, which was included in both the GROW Act and the SOIL Stewardship Act, each NSAC-sponsored marker bills.
  • Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Ernst ensured the inclusion of an additional provision from the GROW and SOIL Stewardship Acts: an increase from 5 to 15 percent in the set-asides within EQIP and CSP for both beginning and socially disadvantaged producers.
  • Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Casey secured an amendment in the package to improve the EQIP Organic Initiative by increasing the maximum payment available for organic and transitioning-to-organic producers. While the amendment does not increase the payment cap to the same level as provided in General EQIP nor provide organic-specific funding directed to the states, it is nonetheless an important step forward.

Conservation Reserve Program

The manager’s package included several amendments to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), further modifying the changes that were included in the Senate Committee leadership’s bill. Senator Ernst secured two amendments that focused on further targeting CRP enrollments to ensure that the program prioritizes the most sensitive and highly erodible acres for enrollment. One of the amendments limits eligibility for CRP general sign-ups to land that cannot be farmed in a manner that meets soil erosion standards, thereby targeting the program to only the most critical land to remove from production.

Additionally, we are pleased that Senator Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) amendment to modify the CRP Transition Incentive Program was included. This amendment further improves the transfer of farmland between retiring landowners and beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers and ranchers. It also provides beginning farmers starting new operations on former CRP land a two-year head start on becoming eligible for organic certification.

Within CRP, we are pleased to see underlying bill created a new easements program with several important continuous enrollment options as eligible to be put into long-term easements after the first 10-year contract, and we hope that as discussion moves forward this program will also be expanded to include eligibility for the CRP grasslands initiative. We thank Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) for filing an amendment to include the grasslands initiative within the new easement option. It was not included in the managers’ package, but we hope to see this included as the bill moves to the floor.

Senator John Thune (R-SD) also brought up a CRP amendment, which he ultimately withdrew following opposition from the Chair and Ranking Member. This amendment proposed to increase the CRP acreage cap to 26.25 million acres, and also made several other policy changes. While NSAC was supportive of several of the policy changes included in the Thune amendment, we were unable to support the amendment overall. We are glad that Senator Thune agreed to withdraw his amendment and continue to work to reform CRP as the bill moves to the Senate floor. We hope to see further improvements in a final bill that advance support for continuous enrollments and include greater flexibility for haying and grazing.

Conservation Compliance

Conservation compliance requirements tie commodity and crop insurance subsidies to reductions in soil erosion and protection of wetlands. Without these requirements, we would see a dramatic increase in soil erosion and wetland and grassland conversions. Several amendments were in play, both in the manager’s amendment as well as stand-alones offered during markup, which would affect conservation compliance.

Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) filed several amendments related to wetland compliance. We are pleased that several detrimental Hoeven amendments, which would have compromised wetland compliance implementation, were not included in the mangers package. We are also pleased that the wetlands amendments that did move forward included important improvements and protections compared to those included in the House bill.

We are disappointed, however, that other amendments to strengthen enforcement of soil and wetland conservation compliance were not included in the manager’s package, and we look forward to helping to advance those as the bill moves forward.

Senators Klobuchar and Thune offered an amendment to expand and improve the “sodsaver provision” that limits crop insurance subsidies on native grasslands converted to crop production. Currently, sodsaver applies in only six states in the Prairie Pothole Region. The Klobuchar-Thune amendment would help to expand access to the program by including a national opt-in option for states. While this amendment will not expand sodsaver to apply nationally automatically or be mandatory, as was the case in their original proposal from the American Prairies Conservation Act, it does include an option for states to opt-in. We are pleased there was a commitment from the Chairman during Committee markup to work to expand and improve sodsaver as the process moves forward toward floor debate.

Conservation Outcomes

We are disappointed that a very important amendment from Senator Casey to give USDA authority and funding to measure, evaluate, and report on conservation outcomes of farm bill conservation programs was not included in the manager’s package. We look forward to continuing to advance this important provision as the Senate farm bill moves forward.

Local/Regional Food Systems

As we previously reported, the Senate Farm Bill includes a new consolidated local food program – LAMP – with permanent baseline funding that is very similar to the one proposed in the NSAC endorsed Local FARMS Act (S. 1947). One of the differences between LAMP and what was proposed in the Local FARMS Act is that LAMP includes food safety cost-share assistance – in addition to assistance for value-added agriculture development – to producers as an eligible use of funds within the “development grants for producers” section. Food safety cost-share assistance for producers was proposed as a separate new program within the Local FARMS Act, and NSAC strongly supported the inclusion of food safety assistance for producers in LAMP.

However, in the process of adding food safety assistance into LAMP, the Committee inadvertently did not include a specific allocation for how much of the funding for “development grants for producers” went to food safety vs. value-added agriculture development. To fix this problem, Senator Grassley, together with Senator Brown, proposed an amendment that was included in the manager’s amendment to ensure that at least 75 percent ($15.75 million/year) of the “development grants for producers” funding will support value-added agriculture projects, and up to 25% ($5.25 million/year) will support farmer food safety assistance.

Credit

On the credit front, the big debate during markup focused on whether or not to raise individual loan limits on Farm Service Agency (FSA) direct and guaranteed operating and ownership loans. Senator Hoeven introduced an amendment that would have doubled all loan limits, which if adopted, would have ultimately decreased access to credit for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers who struggle to secure financing from commercial lenders.

Today, the average FSA guaranteed loan size is $380,000. The Hoeven amendment would have doubled loan limits, putting taxpayers on the hook to finance up to $2.5 million per farmer, funds which would largely support the expansion of contract production in poultry and pork CAFOs and further consolidation in agriculture. At the same time, Hoeven proposed to also double direct operating loans from the government to $600,000, without a shred of evidence that an increase is needed.

Fortunately, Senator Klobuchar introduced and the Committee adopted a “2nd degree amendment” (essentially an amendment to an amendment), which proposed a more modest increase (up to $1.75 million for guaranteed loans, $600,000 for direct farm ownership, and $400,000 for direct operating loans). Senator Klobuchar’s amendment also introduced new reporting requirements on FSA loan target participation rates for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers.

While NSAC continues to oppose major increases to loan caps with the exception of direct farm ownership loans, we appreciate that Senator Klobuchar’s amendment reduces the negative impact of the Hoeven amendment with the aforementioned important changes. NSAC is committed to continuing to work with members in both the House and Senate to ensure that any increases to FSA loan caps are measured against current program usage and demand, historical funding levels, and performance targets with respect to lending to underserved borrowers.

Energy

While there were no energy amendments included as part of the manager’s package, there were two amendments in the Energy Title that were offered and ultimately included in the draft bill during today’s markup.

Senator Bennet offered an amendment to increase technical assistance and outreach for producers trying to use biogas in their operations.

Senator Klobuchar offered an amendment to restore mandatory funding for the following Energy Title programs (none of which received mandatory funding in the base bill): Biomass Research and Development Initiative; Bio-based Markets Program; Biorefinery Assistance Program; Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels; and Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). The amendment also included a provision to return nearly $80 million in Margin Protection Program premium payments made by dairy farmers during this current farm bill cycle. The total cost of the over $450 million amendment was offset by the elimination of the Upland Cotton Economic Adjustment Assistance Program, a priority for House Agriculture Committee Chair Mike Conaway (R-TX).

Next Steps for the Senate Farm Bill 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has stated that he hopes to bring the bill before the full Senate by June 29, which is the last day that Congress is in session before the July 4 recess. It is not yet clear how many amendments will be allowed if and when the bill goes to the floor. As the Senate prepares to take their bill to the floor, the House has yet to set a date for revisiting its version of the farm bill, which failed on the House floor last month. It is very possible that the House will try again sometime this month to pass its bill, though whether leadership will have votes to pass the bill on their second attempt remains a big question.

If both the House and Senate pass their bills, they can then establish a conference committee and begin negotiations. Under a scenario where the House bill fails again and the Senate bill passes, the House could choose to abandon their bill and instead take up the Senate bill, though that seems highly unlikely before the November elections.  Whatever the ultimate path is, we hope that the Senate bill will serve as the standard-bearer for crafting the final 2018 Farm Bill. As the process progresses, NSAC will continue to provide detailed analysis and updates.

The post Senate Agriculture Committee Advances Farm Bill appeared first on National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Reana Kovalcik
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
202-547-5754, rkovalcik@sustainableagriculture.net 

Senate Agriculture Committee Passes Farmer-Forward Draft Bill
NSAC optimistic as Senate Agriculture Committee farm bill moves to floor

Washington, DC, June 13, 2018– In response to the Senate Agriculture Committee passage of Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) issued the following comment:

The draft farm bill passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee today is laudable for its strong support for America’s family farmers and ranchers. This bill includes much-needed funding increases and critical policy improvements on key sustainable agriculture priorities, including: local and regional food systems, rural business development, conservation, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, crop insurance, and research.

NSAC applauds the Committee for putting forward a strong manager’s amendment, which included numerous policy improvements programs that will increase underserved producers’ access to land and programs, improve coordination between working lands conservation programs, advance value-added agriculture, and support conservation opportunities for organic producers.

We thank Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) for working to modify a highly problematic amendment – Hoeven 1, offered by Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) – to double loan limits for Farm Service Agency Direct and Guaranteed Farm Ownership and Operating Loans. This amendment, as offered, would have severely disadvantaged beginning and historically underserved farmers and limited their access to vital credit and loan opportunities. While NSAC continues to oppose major increases to loan caps, we appreciate that Senator Klobuchar’s second-degree amendment makes important changes to Hoeven 1, including new reporting requirements on target participation rates and a reduction in the increases to loan caps. NSAC is committed to continuing to work with Congress members in both the House and Senate to ensure that any increases to FSA loan caps are measured against current program usage and demand, historical funding levels, and performance targets with respect to lending to underserved borrowers.

We thank Senators Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD) for successfully championing an amendment to authorize the expansion of an existing grassland protection provision, known as “Sodsaver,” to the entire country. Sodaver limits grassland loss by reducing crop insurance premium subsidies on land that is broken out from native prairie. As the Senate bill moves from the Committee to the floor and beyond, NSAC will continue to work with Congress to secure a mandatory Sodsaver provision that applies across all states.

We are deeply disappointed that an amendment by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to restore accountability and fairness to Title I was not able to come to a vote due to a procedural requirement issued just this morning. The amendment would have placed a hard cap on the total amount of commodity program payments and benefits any one farm can receive annually, and would have strengthened “actively engaged” rules to ensure that large operations cannot endlessly multiply payments by adding non-farm investors. This was an outrageous turn of events and a missed opportunity to close egregious loopholes once and for all. We regret that this bill could not be introduced and we look forward to continuing to work with Senator Grassley and others to secure these reforms as the bill moves to the floor.

The voices of America’s family farmers and ranchers have been heard and represented in the bill passed today by the Senate Agriculture Committee. While there are certainly important improvements yet to be made, particularly with regard to payment limits and actively engaged rules, we believe this bipartisan bill gives champions of sustainable agriculture and family farms an excellent position from which to continue negotiating a final farm bill. We look forward to continuing to work with members of both the House and the Senate to deliver an on-time 2018 Farm Bill that protects family farmers and ranchers, our natural resources, and American families.

###

About the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Learn more and get involved at: http://sustainableagriculture.net

The post COMMENT: Senate Agriculture Committee Passes Farmer-Forward Draft Bill appeared first on National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Kate Edwards owns and operates Wild Woods Farm, a 7-acre vegetable farm in Johnson County, Iowa. Photo credit: USDA, Preston Keres.

Attention farmers and ranchers: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Census of Agriculture is a critical opportunity to have your operation counted and therefore considered when federal policies are made. The deadline for paper (mailed) copies is this Friday, June 15!

Over the last year, we’ve been very pleased to see many producers proactively signing up to receive the Census. The more farmers and ranchers who are counted, the better data we have with which to make better federal policies. Making sure you receive the census is the first step, the next step is making sure you’ve filled it out and sent it in on time. If you’re mailing your responses, that means you need to act this week! Online respondents will have until the end of July to complete the census at www.agcensus.usda.gov.

Not convinced the Census is worth your time? Here are the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s (NSAC) top reasons to engage in this important process:

  • The Census will help shape food and agriculture policy for the next five years.
  • Beginning, socially disadvantaged, organic, direct-market, and urban farmers are historically undercounted in the Census. A more accurate count means a higher likelihood of increasing resources for programs that matter to you.
  • The Census helps USDA to count beginning farmers by calculating the average farmer age. This allows USDA to better evaluate if current policies and programs are increasing the number of folks beginning and sustaining farms who will shape the future of farming!
  • Important data on conservation and energy collected from the Census are used to support programs that champion rotational grazing/cropping and renewable energy.

To get a taste of how groups like NSAC use the Census results, see our blogs on the 2012 Census about socially disadvantaged groups, beginning farmers, and conservation and energy.

The Census is administered by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and is conducted every five years.

Every response matters when it comes to the Census of Agriculture, so make sure your farm is counted!

The post Make Sure Your Farm is Counted: 2017 Census Of Agriculture Paper Copies Due Friday! appeared first on National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Feed corn, ready to harvest. Photo credit: USDA, Lance Cheung.

This is the sixth and final post in a multi-part blog series analyzing the draft farm bill released on June 7, 2018 by the Senate Agriculture Committee. Previous posts focused on: conservationlocal/regional food systems and rural developmentresearch and seed breedingbeginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, and organic agriculture. The bill is expected to be considered and “marked-up” (aka amended) by the full Agriculture Committee next Wednesday, June 13, and on the Senate floor later this month. We expect a major showdown on an amendment to target the distribution of farm subsidies during mark-up and again on the Senate floor and will report on those developments through updated and future posts.

Many politicians and interest groups have been repeating the following mantra for months: Given low commodity prices and a seemingly impending trade war, farmers need some certainty in the form of a new farm bill. Despite this cry for certainty, however, neither the House’s nor the recently introduced draft farm bill by Senate Agriculture Committee leadership does much to reform or improve the farm safety net (aka commodity programs and federal crop insurance programs). In fact, both bills go one step further toward decreasing certainty for farmers by cutting working lands conservation programs, through which farmers also receive payments – the failed House bill would have cut working lands conservation payments to farmers by $5 billion, the Senate draft by roughly $2.5 billion.

Even though neither chamber has thus far taken any decisive actions toward modernizing federal commodity subsidy or crop insurance programs, there will still be considerable debate around the safety net programs as mark-up and floor action proceed. Before getting to our breakdown of how the Senate draft bill performs on farm safety net programs, we will provide key background information that will help to frame our analysis of this bill, as well as upcoming farm bill debates.

Framing the Debate

As part of the budget deal struck by Congress earlier this year, both the cotton and dairy commodity subsidy programs received major upgrades (program changes that cost roughly $1 billion for dairy and $3 billion for cotton). Resolving the major issues in the cotton and dairy subsidy programs were widely considered the two most pressing farm bill problems coming into 2018. Dealing with them in the budget deal meant that there would be no pressure to cut other programs in order to pay for the upgrades, and therefore relieved Congress from having to negotiate these huge costs in the farm bill.

The second key thing to understand is that Committee leadership made only a few relatively minor changes to the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) commodity program and no changes to the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) commodity program. Neither did they include any changes to the sugar program. Several members of the Senate Agriculture Committee would like to make more serious changes to these programs, however, which could set the stage for some interesting action when the bill is debated. Look for Committee members to push for further upgrades to ARC, as well as added assurances that the government-set assistance prices in PLC are equitable across different commodities and not above long term market averages. Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) previously rejected that option when putting the draft bill together, but it could yet come before the Committee in the form of an amendment.

Finally, the draft bill makes only one change to the commodity programs affecting eligibility or targeting. The bill would reduce the so-called Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) threshold for program eligibility from $900,000 to $700,000. AGR is a measure of net non-farm income plus net farm income with all the costs associated with farming subtracted out. For married couples, the effective AGR threshold can be two or more times higher than that nominal level. This is a welcome, but very limited change. It does, nonetheless, produce over $250 million in projected savings over 10 years that the bill drafters used to make welcome premium discounts for small and medium-sized dairy producers as well as ARC improvements.

The bill makes no changes at all to per farm subsidy limits, or to rules that supposedly limit subsidies to working farmers. Recently, the U.S. General Accounting Office issued yet another in a long series of reports demonstrating that current law with respect to payment limits and “actively engaged in farming” rules are so weak and full of loopholes that some mega farms regularly receive over $1 million a year in taxpayer subsidies. Where the Senate draft bill does nothing to resolve these loopholes in eligibility, the House bill (which is slated to go up for a re-vote soon) went a step further by adding even more loopholes – so many that they would have effectively nullified payment limits altogether. We expect that the payment limit and actively engaged issues will be front and center as the Senate proceedings continue, and that Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) will offer an amendment during Committee markup to close the loopholes and reduce the limits. If introduced, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) will strongly support the amendment.

With that framing under our belt, we can now better analyze how draft Senate bill performed on farm safety net programs with respect to NSAC priorities.

Highlights
  • Improves the Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP), an important new crop insurance option for diversified farms that NSAC championed in the 2014 Farm Bill, by:
    • Increasing the compensation for insurance agents writing WFRP policies;
    • Requiring meetings to get feedback from farmers and instituting a review process to decrease paperwork burdens and increase flexibility;
    • Directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) to consider removing caps on livestock and nursery production coverage, reducing paperwork and simplifying record keeping, and finding better options for moderating the impact of disaster years on coverage; and
    • Directing RMA to increase agent training and outreach in underserved regions of the country and to underserved farmers and farming sectors.
  • Adds Local Food and Greenhouse Policies to the list of new policies that RMA should develop. The local food policy would be oriented livestock, poultry, and specialty crops in urban, suburban and rural settings, including marketing through direct-to-consumer, farm-to-institution, community supported agriculture as well as greenhouse, rooftop, and hydroponic production. The greenhouse policy would consider a wide range of controlled environment systems and consider causes of loss that maybe unique to controlled environments.
  • Improves the Noninsured Crop Assistance Program (NAP), which provides insurance coverage through the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to producers and crops not otherwise eligible under federal crop insurance, in several ways:
    • The “buy-up” coverage added by the 2014 Farm Bill is made permanent, with an payout limit increased to $300,000, a $325 service fee (waived for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, who also receive a 50 percent premium discount), and inclusion of local, organic, contract, or other premium prices.
    • A streamlined policy is created for diversified operations as well as for farms with less than $100,000 in liability, as well as an easier process for submitting farm records and acreage reports.
    • FSA and RMA are directed to collect and share data so that RMA can develop policies for NAP users. The bill also requires a coordination effort between the two agencies to provide better coverage options for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers.
    • FSA and RMA are directed to work together to help the transition of crops and counties from NAP to crop insurance, including to assist beginning and veteran farmers.
  • Mandates that RMA produce an Underserved Producer Report every three years, which must include recommendations for improving participation by beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran producers. The report must also include plans for administrative reforms and recommendations for congressional action.
  • Modifies Good Farming Practices rules, the process used in the federal crop insurance program to decide whether or not a farm is eligible for indemnity payments, to include conservation activities and enhancements (including cover cropping but all other conservation practices and enhancements as well). NSAC has been pushing for the inclusion of all conservation activities as Good Farming Practices for many years and we are pleased to see this finally codified.
    • Clarifies the definition of cover crop termination in a way that will reduce farmers’ fears that cover cropping could risk their crop insurance coverage.
    • Requires continuing education for loss adjusters and insurance agents to ensure familiarity with conservation activities and organic and sustainable practices.
  • Directs RMA to consider on an annual basis the demonstrated risk reduction from cover cropping, crop rotation, precision farming, or other conservation practices, and then decide whether or not to offer premium discounts. This could potentially pave the way for Performance-Based Premium Discounts beginning in 2020 and the years following.
  • Establishes a new Conservation Data initiative including a conservation and farm productivity data warehouse at a university with a wide range of USDA data from multiple agencies. This data warehouse would include yield data and conservation data that could be accessed by researchers to explore the risk reducing potential of advanced conservation practices and systems.
Mixed Bag
  • Reduces the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) income threshold to qualify for commodity program benefits from $900,000 to $700,000. The AGI test is useful, but quite limited. Its primary purpose is to make it more difficult for millionaires to receive commodity subsidies. Taking the simple step of applying the AGI test to a married couple rather than only to individuals would at least stop the doubling or tripling of the nominal limit, but such a provision is not included in the draft bill.
Lowlights
  • Fails to include any reforms to payment limitations or actively engaged in farming requirements, despite widespread abuse of the system. The House and Senate both voted to plug the loopholes and reduce the limits in the farm bills they both passed back in 2013, but those efforts were overturned by Committee leadership just prior to final passage of the 2014 Farm Bill. Senator Grassley’s pending amendment would restart the process of reducing the limits and plugging the loopholes, this time we hope with a very different final result than in 2014.
  • Fails to make any structural reform of the federal crop insurance program. The bill includes no income test, no per farm premium subsidy limits, and no reining in of crop insurance company taxpayer-backed profit margins. While we do not expect these issues to come up during mark-up, we do expect them to be front and center during Senate floor debate.

The post Draft Senate Farm Bill: Commodity Programs & Crop Insurance appeared first on National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Rudy Jimenez showing off some California kale. Photo credit: ALBA.

This is the fifth post in a multi-part blog series analyzing the draft farm bill released on June 8, 2018 by the Senate Agriculture Committee. The final post will focus on crop insurance and commodity subsidies. The bill is expected to be considered and “marked-up” (aka amended) by the full Agriculture Committee on June 13 and on the Senate floor later this month. We expect further improvements to the beginning farmer and socially disadvantaged farmer provisions in the bill during mark-up and will report on those through updated and future posts.

The Senate Agriculture Committee’s draft farm bill includes several laudable policy changes and funding increases that will help beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers to start and maintain viable farm and food businesses. At a time when farmers of color and beginners trying to break into the business face significant and disproportionate barriers to success, the Senate Committee’s draft bill takes steps toward leveling the playing field and increasing access to critical tools and resources for underserved producers.

We were heartened to see that many of the policy ideas championed in the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s (NSAC) 2018 Farm Bill Platform – and which were also included in the Next Generation in Agriculture Act, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act, and the Assist Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Act – were included in the Senate’s draft bill.

Below, we include a summary of the key takeaways on how the draft Senate bill approaches beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer and rancher programs.

Highlights
  • Permanently reauthorizes and funds two of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) flagship training and technical assistance programs for underserved producers – the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program(BFRDP) and the Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (Section 2501). The bill combines the two programs into a new Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program while still protecting the functions and purposes of each component program.
    • Provides permanent funding of $50 million per year, split evenly between the two program components, which will support long-term investments to ensure both the next generation and farmers of color have access to the resources they need to build successful and viable farms.
    • Strengthens BFRDP (as part of the new consolidated program) by adding new priorities on food safety and succession planning, eliminating the matching funds requirement, and including farmer involvement in project design and implementation as an evaluation criterion for grant proposals.
    • Increases transparency, accountability and responsiveness to stakeholders within the 2501 Program (as part of the new consolidated program) by requiring an external peer review process and strengthening reporting requirements of outcomes.
    • By comparison, the version of the farm bill that recently failed on the floor of the House of Representatives includes $20 million for BFRDP and $10 million for 2501 as separate programs, which is not sufficient to establish a permanent funding baseline. The House bill also includes a number of similar policy changes.
  • Ensures that all beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers enrolling in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) have the option to receive 50 percent of their cost-share payment up front. The failed House bill, by comparison, does not include this change.
  • Creates a National Beginning Farmer Coordinator position, as well as designated coordinators in each state, to better coordinate USDA outreach efforts to new farmers. The House bill similarly added beginning farmer coordinators, though did do by amendment.
  • Adds “socially disadvantaged farmers” to Farm Credit lending reporting requirements on young, beginning, and small farmers.
  • Expands State Mediation Grants to support mediation services related to farm transition.
Mixed Bag
  • Increases funding for the Conservation Reserve Program Transition Incentives Program, however, the bill makes no policy improvements nor assigns dedicated outreach funding to address some of the program’s longstanding challenges. The House bill, by comparison, extends the funding level provided by the 2014 Farm Bill.
  • Boosts funding for the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and includes policy tweaks to better target funding to new farmers. These policy reforms include adding flexibility for land trusts to better access ACEP funding needed to protect farmland and then transfer it to a farmer. The Senate bill also gives USDA the authority to prioritize easements that maintain agriculture viability; however, it doesn’t make this priority a requirement nor does it mandate an option to purchase at the agricultural value. The failed House bill also increases funding for ACEP, though it does not provide similar policy changes, and it weakens existing conservation requirements.
  • Does not increase Farm Service Agency guaranteed loan limits (which is a positive outcome, as doing so would disproportionately help larger, more established farm businesses and disadvantage beginning farmers), but also does not increase the $300,000 cap on Direct Farm Ownership Loans (which does need to be increased to allow more beginning and socially disadvantaged to purchase farmland). The recently failed House bill does increase guaranteed loan limits, which NSAC opposes.
  • Improves risk management options for beginning farmers and requires USDA to conduct an analysis on the barriers for underserved farmers in accessing crop insurance. The bill does not, however, expand current beginning farmer crop insurance discounts to all new farmers who have been farming for less than 10 years. By contrast, the House bill does make the change to 10 years, though only for Whole Farm Revenue Insurance.
Lowlights
  • Like the House bill, the Senate Committee’s version fails to increase the 5 percent set-asides in conservation funding for beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers. This is compounded by significant cuts made to both the Conservation Stewardship Program and EQIP.
  • Also like the failed House bill, does not renew mandatory funding for the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP), which is an important resource that provides new farmers the loan capital and business training they need to launch new farm-related businesses.
  • Fails to include a Farmland Tenure, Transition and Entry Data Initiative, which was included in the House bill, that would increase data collection and reporting on new farmer trends.
  • Does not establish mandatory funding for the Individual Development Accounts program, which was created a decade ago but has to date never received funding.

The post Draft Senate Farm Bill: Beginning & Socially Disadvantaged Farmers appeared first on National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Spring onions at the farmers market. Photo credit: Reana Kovalcik

This is the fourth post in a multi-part blog series analyzing the draft farm bill released on June 8, 2018 by the Senate Agriculture Committee. Subsequent posts will focus on crop insurance and commodity subsidies and beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers. The bill is expected to be considered and “marked-up” (aka amended) by the full Agriculture Committee on June 13 and on the Senate floor later this month. We expect further improvements to the food system provisions in the bill during mark-up and will report on those through updated and future posts.

Consumer demand for local and regional products is on the rise nationwide. The growth of this marketplace has necessitated the development of “farm-to-fork” pipelines through which farmers, food-related businesses, and consumers can easily connect. This is no small task, however, and lagging federal investments in infrastructure and farm-to-fork value chains has meant that many producers still struggle to break into the marketplace.

Thankfully, the draft farm bill introduced by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) helps to connect the dots between farmers and new markets by investing in local and regional food systems. This bill stands in stark contrast to the failed House bill, which would have actively undermined the very programs and systems that have been the shining stars of the local and regional food renaissance.

The Senate Agriculture Committee Farm Bill incorporates many of the provisions of the Local Food and Regional Market Supply (FARMS) Act, which was introduced in both the House and the Senate and endorsed by NSAC as well as many other farm and food advocates. Most notably, the bill includes the centerpiece of the Local FARMS Act: the streamlining of the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP), Value-Added Producers Grant Program (VAPG), Value Chain Coordinators, and a new regional public-private partnership intiative into a single program that builds on the success of existing investments, while also establishing permanent farm bill baseline funding. Permanent baseline funding ensures that a program has a minimum amount of funding in perpetuity; farm bill programs without permanent baseline must negotiate funding from scratch in each new farm bill cycle.

Below, we include a summary of the key takeaways on how the draft Senate bill approaches local and regional food system and rural development programs.

Highlights
  • Creates the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) and provides the program with $60 million per year in mandatory funds in perpetuity.
    • LAMP is almost identical to the Agricultural Market Development Program of the Local FARMS Act, an NSAC-endorsed marker bill that has been introduced in the House and the Senate.
    • The program streamlines the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program and Value-Added Producers Grant Program into a single program, and includes a public private partnership provision that uses federal resources to leverage private investment and encourage “food-shed” level approaches to developing regional food economies.
    • The Senate Committee bill also incorporates into LAMP a new food safety practice and cost-share assistance program, which provides financial assistance to producers to help farmers become food safety certified and make necessary upgrades to on-farm food safety infrastructure.
  • Reauthorizes the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program and provides $50 million per year in mandatory permanent baseline funding.
  • Requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to have an Under Secretary for Rural Development, overturning a decision – denounced by NSAC and many other family farm advocates – made last year by USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to eliminate that position. The Administration attempted to spin the demotion of USDA’s Rural Development Mission Area and removal of its Under Secretary as an “elevation” – arguing that because the office would henceforth report directly to the Secretary, rural development needs would receive greater attention. In reality, this decision – taken together with the Administration’s attempt to wipe out rural business programs, water and sewer loans, and grants for rural communities through the appropriations process – was a clear attack on rural communities.
  • Authorizes and provides $4 million per year in mandatory funding for a new produce prescription pilot program, “Harvesting Health Pilots.”
  • Instructs USDA to allow farmers markets to operate an individual EBT (electronic benefits transfer) device for accepting SNAP benefits at more than one location. This change resolves a long standing barrier to operating efficient and cost-effective SNAP EBT systems at farmers markets, a problem that farmers and food advocates have been trying to address for years.
  • Creates a new “Urban, Indoor, and Other Emerging Agricultural Production Research, Education and Extension Initiative” competitive grants program with $4 million per year in mandatory funding.
  • Instructs USDA to create a new “Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Forms of Production” with a 15 member advisory committee, and directs USDA’s Farm Service Agency to create farm record numbers for rooftop farms, indoor farms, and other urban agriculture sites.
  • Reauthorizes the Healthy Food Financing Initiative and expands it to include healthy food enterprises in general, not just food retailers.
Mixed Bag
  • Reauthorizes the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program with $20.6 million per year in mandatory funding, but it does not expand the program to include veterans or increase funding relative to the 2014 Farm Bill.
Lowlights
  • Fails to include additional mandatory funding for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program.
  • Fails to reform guidelines on geographic preference for school food procurement that would provide regulatory flexibility to school food authorities, thereby making it easier for them to procure local and regional food and farm products.
  • Reduces mandatory funding for the Community Food Projects Grant program by $4 million per year, from $9 million to $5 million annually.
  • Does not provide any mandatory funding for or make important policy changes to improve the Food Safety Outreach Program.
  • Does not provide any mandatory funding for the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program program. The 2014 Farm Bill provided the program with $3 million per year in mandatory funding.

The post Draft Senate Farm Bill: Local & Regional Food and Rural Development appeared first on National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Organic produce at Washington DC’s Dupont Farmers Market. Photo credit: Reana Kovalcik.

This is the third post in a multi-part blog series analyzing the draft farm bill released on June 7, 2018 by the Senate Agriculture Committee. Subsequent posts focus on: crop insurance and commodity subsidies, local/regional food systems and rural development, and beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers. The bill will be considered and “marked-up” (aka amended) by the full Agriculture Committee on June 13 and on the Senate floor later this month. We expect further improvements to the food system provisions in the bill during mark-up and will report on those through updated and future posts.

Programs and policies that affect organic agriculture are found across multiple titles of the farm bill. In the draft farm bill recently introduced by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), organic research, data, and transition assistance programs fare very well overall. Primary areas of concern are that the bill fails to address significant issues concerning organic agriculture within working lands conservation and crop insurance programs.

Below, we include a summary of the key takeaways on how the Chairman’s mark addresses organic policies and programs in the Senate’s draft farm bill.

Highlights
  • Includes a historic increase for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), which supports research projects to address the most critical challenges faced by organic farmers. The 2014 Farm Bill provided $20 million per year for the program, while the draft released by the Senate Committee provides $40 million in each of fiscal years (FY) 2019 and FY 2020, $45 million in FY 2021, and $50 million each year thereafter. The Senate bill establishes permanent baseline funding for the OREI, which meets the recommendation of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have championed the funding increase for OREI as part of their Organic Agriculture Research Act of 2018, introduced earlier this year.
  • Restores funding for the Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives (ODI), for which the 2014 Farm Bill also provided a total of $5 million in mandatory funding. ODI is a multi-agency initiative that facilitates the collection and distribution of organic market information, including data on production, handling, distribution, retail, and consumer purchasing patterns. This restoration meets NSAC’s recommended funding level, which the House farm bill also met. The fact that identical language is included in both bills dramatically increases the chances that the final farm bill will include this level of ODI funding.
  • Renews funding for the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP) at the 2014 Farm Bill level of $11.5 million per year. In contrast, the House Agriculture Committee’s failed version of the farm bill would have eliminated all funding for the program. NOCCSP supports the growth of domestic production so that U.S. producers can take advantage of growing market opportunities.
Mixed Bag
  • Includes NSAC’s recommendation that continuing education on organic and sustainable production practices be required for loss adjusters and crop insurance agents. However, the bill fails to direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture to complete price elections for all covered crops (including organic crops) within five years. This requirement would have ensured that organic operations receive the same risk management opportunities as conventional operations within a reasonable time frame. The failed House bill included no language related to increasing crop insurance access for organic farmers.
  • Authorizes an “Organic Initiative” within the Conservation Stewardship Program, which includes an allocation of funds for certified organic participants and those transitioning to organic production. The bill fails, however, to make any changes to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program’s (EQIP) Organic Initiative (OI), which would have improved access to conservation support for organic producers. For example, the bill does not eliminate the significantly lower payment cap within EQIP OI, nor does it allocate dedicated funds to the states to ensure utilization. This was similarly true with the House version of the farm bill.

The post Draft Senate Farm Bill: Organic Agriculture appeared first on National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Read Full Article
Visit website

Read for later

Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
close
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free month
Free Preview