Wednesday, June 20, 2007

New Farm Bill Blog To Track Congressional Debate

Jun 19: A leading Farm Bill reform expert, Environmental Defense Farm Policy Campaign Director Scott Faber, launched a blog called, “The Ruminant” to respond to rapidly changing developments in the debate over congressional renewal of the Farm Bill this summer. Faber has testified before Congress on the issue and been quoted in many news outlets.

Faber’s blog launch coincides with a vote by the House Committee on Agriculture’s Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management about whether to increase depression-era farm subsidies that help few farmers and violate international trade agreements. Specifically, the Subcommittee is expected to approve a hike in target prices for wheat, soybeans, oats and barley. Faber says, “As a result, most farm spending would continue to flow to a handful of farmers in a handful of districts -- farmers in just 19 congressional districts would continue to collect more than half of all farm spending. In fact, eight of the top ten congressional districts collecting about one-third of all farm spending between 2003 and 2005 are represented by legislators who serve on the Committee."

Environmental Defense is a member of left-right alliance of groups that support Farm Bill reform proposals to provide more funding for voluntary conservation programs that reward farmers who offer to meet our environmental challenges, such as providing clean air, clean water, clean energy, and wildlife habitat. The group says, "Unlike subsidies, conservation payments flow to all farmers, ranchers and landowners regardless of what they grow, how much they grow or where they grow it. As a result of inadequate conservation funding of the current Farm Bill that took effect in 2002, the U.S. Department of Agriculture now turns away two out of three farmers who are eligible for conservation payments."

A majority of the U.S. House of Representatives (219 members) have cosponsored legislation endorsed by Environmental Defense that would dramatically increase funding for voluntary conservation programs in the Farm Bill. These bills include The Healthy Farms, Foods and Fuels Act (H.R. 1551/S.919), EAT Healthy America Act (H.R. 1600), Chesapeake's Healthy and Environmentally Sound Stewardship of Energy and Agriculture Act (H.R. 1766/S.1346), Farm, Nutrition, and Community Investment Act (H.R. 2144), NOURISH Act (H.R. 2401) and FARM 21 Act (H.R. 2720/S. 1422).

In a related matter Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns issued a release regarding Farm Bill legislation advanced by House Subcommittees and said, "I am disappointed in the Title I legislation put forth today by the House Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management. The bill fails to recognize the need for greater equity and predictability in farm policy, and does nothing to provide a more responsive safety net... The House draft also fails to bring greater equity to farm policy. Some farmers would continue to receive guaranteed money while others, including 60% of farmers, are left out. Fruit and vegetable growers in California, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and elsewhere make a compelling case that they deserve to be supported... The House draft offers no overall funding increase for conservation, while the Administration put forth a proposal to increase funding by $7.8 billion. The House draft offers no mandatory funding in an area Congress itself has identified as a top priority - renewable energy, while the Administration proposes more than $1.6 billion in new renewable energy funding, targeted to cellulosic ethanol projects..."

Access a release on the new Blog (click here). Access The Ruminant Blog (click here). Access ED's Farm Bill reform website for additional information (click here). Access a release from Secretary Johanns (click here). Access the latest information on the House Farm bill development from the Agricultural Committee website (click here). [*Land, *Water, *Agriculture]