Monday, October 15, 2007

Farm Bill Senate Debate

We Need Your Help Urging Senate to Reverse Direction on Farm Bill!

The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee is expected to consider the farm bill the week of October 22 and the full Senate as early as the week of October 29. It's important to note that the farm bill doesn't just affect farmers and rural communities; among other things, it has an enormous impact on the air and water quality of suburban and urban areas.

Immediate pressure is necessary so our senators and the Senate leadership craft a Farm Bill that helps our farmers, consumers and our environment.

The next few weeks offer the last opportunity for us all to send a strong message to our senators and the Senate leadership that the farm bill passed by the Senate must represent an improvement - not a step backward - from the farm bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in late July.

It is critical that the Senate farm bill include genuine reform of farm subsidies and new investments to address funding shortfalls for conservation, renewable energy and programs that will provide consumers with greater access to healthy food. Please consider the following points:

There is concern that funding will be taken away from conservation to pay for more commodity crop support. Farmers are eager to share the cost of providing cleaner air, cleaner water, and wildlife habitat, but currently two out of three farmers who apply for assistance through USDA's voluntary conservation programs are rejected.

Senators should support a new bill being introduced by Indiana Senator Dick Lugar, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg and numerous other cosponsors that provides $6 billion in conservation funding, $3 billion in specialty crop and healthy food spending, and a new insurance program that will provide free insurance to all small farmers, covering 80% or more of revenue.

This bill represents a major shift from current Committee debate on the Farm Bill, and strong support for this bill will influence what happens in the full Senate later this month.

Senate leadership must get involved in the development of the farm bill
to ensure that the bill provides for:

1. An effective, cost-saving farm safety net that provides
farmers with help when they need it most, but does not provide payments to
farmers when incomes are high.

2. Redirecting $6 billion in subsidies to fund voluntary farm
conservation programs that are available to all farmers, regardless of
the crops they grow, and produce public benefits of cleaner water,
fresher air, and less sprawl. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Harkin
has pushed for a $6 billion increase in conservation spending, but has
encountered opposition from other members of the Committee who prefer
to increase farm subsidies. Environmental Defense recently analyzed the
effects of shifting $6 billion in direct payments to conservation
programs and found that 37 states would receive more money for their farmers
under this scenario than under our current policies.

3. Additional support for renewable energy and programs that
expand consumers' access to healthier and locally grown foods.

Contact your senators now if you haven't already. Mine are going to hear from me again this week.


Pattie said...

Thanks for giving this update!

Walter Jeffries said...

We need serious reform on the subsidies - like eliminating all of them. But I don't have great hopes because the big monied lobbyists are too good at their jobs.

Great photo of the humming bird on the side bar. I have tried in vain for years to get a picture of them. Keep on clicking!

Christy said...

Walter - Thanks for the comment! I had to stake our the feeder for over an hour to get my pictures of the hummingbirds. I'm not very hopeful about real reform on the farm bill either but at least I can say I tried.