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2007 Policy Update Archives: Farm Bill

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CFSC's archives from October-December 2007 can be found on the main Archives page.

Senate Moving Forward, October 26, 2007

Headed to the Senate Floor: Agriculture Committee Completes Debate

As many of you know, the Senate Agriculture Committee met this past Wednesday and Thursday to debate the draft of the Farm Bill. In the Farm Bill Update last Monday we talked about the provisions that were already included, and in this issue we will report on what changed and what was discussed during the Agriculture Committee meeting.

Important to note as well is that this is only the first step in the Senate process, and this draft will be considered by the full Senate as early as the week of Nov. 5. Many of the provisions in the current Senate bill are not in the House bill, so it is still possible that good provisions are taken out when the House and Senate bills come together. Continuing to reminding legislators of your Farm Bill priorities will help keep your values off the chopping block and in the Farm Bill!

Steps Forward

Senator Grassley (R-IA) voiced his strong support to set aside additional funds for the farmers who were denied entry into the Pigford settlement case, a lawsuit brought by black farmers who experienced discrimination from USDA. Grassley said that more funds are needed to make sure that all farmers who were harmed by unfair practices receive due compensation.

An "en bloc", or package of amendments, passed that included some great provisions. Among them is a ban on meatpackers from owning livestock, which will encourage more fair competition; the establishment of a Congressional bipartisan food safety commission to review the food safety system in the US; and redirection of risk management education to target beginning, immigrant, socially disadvantaged, and transitioning farmers.

Senator Nelson (D-NE) argued that the Rural Entrepreneurs and Microenterprise Program continued success will rely on funding it at $8 million annually. Acknowledging that the Committee is working on a tight budget, Nelson said he intends to seek new funding for this program before the bill goes to the floor.

Senators Klobuchar (D-MN) and Brown (D-OH) discussed an amendment to limit commodity payments by closing loopholes and other provisions, but they did not request a vote for the amendment.

Senator Brown (D-OH), with the support of Senator Stabenow (D-MI), brought up food safety issues, making the case that stricter labeling standards are needed for imported processed foods. The committee expressed support for future hearings about the labeling of imported foods.

Noting recent reports on a decrease in donations of commodities to the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), Senator Coleman (R-MN) proposed to increase the amount of funding to this program. However, the amendment was not voted on because the proposal did not include a way to fund the proposal.

Senators Salazar (D-CO) and Nelson (D-NE) introduced an amendment that would put an end to payments made on land that has been developed or divided for non-agricultural uses. Harkin, Chambliss, and Conrad spoke in support of the plan and agreed to work on it further, though the amendment was not brought to a vote.

Disappointments

Senator Lugar (R-IN) introduced an amendment that would expand eligibility and increase the minimum benefits for the Food Stamp Program and the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). These increases would be paid for with an 8% cut in direct payments (which are commodity payments landowners receive whether or not they grow a crop). Debate ensued, with many Senators expressing support for Lugar's underlying goal but maintaining the stance that direct payments not be cut regardless of the circumstances. The amendment failed 4 to 17, and Lugar indicated he would offer the amendment on the Senate floor.

Senators Leahy (D-VT), Roberts (R-KS) and Crapo (R-ID) introduced an amendment that was adopted, which strikes a provision to place a $240,000 limit on Environmental Quality Incentive Program payments. Lowering the $450,000 cap would have allowed more farmers to benefit from the grants and shifted the program's benefits towards small and medium-sized projects.

Senator Thune (R-SD) won approval for an amendment concerning the loan deficiency payments (LDPs) in the commodity title. Harkin's draft had contained a provision saying that crops should be put on the market when a producer receives their loan payment for that crop, which insures that farmers only use LDPs when grain prices are actually low. Thune's amendment reverts back to the previous way, so producers who receive government payments can refrain from selling their crops until prices are high.

Duly Noted

Senator Stabenow (D-MI) urged the committee to clarify a previous agreement to limit the Specialty Crop definition to fruits, vegetables, and other plant products. A recent amendment included aquaculture within this definition. The Committee adopted the amendment.

Senator Roberts (R-KS) introduced an amendment to Harkin's provision for an optional Average Crop Revenue (ACR) program, expressing concern that ACR would hurt both providers and buyers of crop insurance. The amendment, which was adopted, lowers the proportion of base acres that may receive government payments from 100% to 85%, and requires farmers who opt into the program in 2010, 2011, or 2012 to remain enrolled for the duration of the 2007 Farm Bill.

Senator Roberts discussed an amendment to strike the proposal for a pilot project that would supplement US Food Aid commodity donations with cash donations, enabling local organizations in recipient countries to purchase local food. Roberts decided to remove his amendment from consideration.

Farm Bill Heroes

In today's update, the CFSC staff would like to highlight the actions of several Senators on the Agriculture Committee who we think ought to be commended for their good work.

  • Sen. Lugar, for courageously introducing an amendment that would increase funding for the Food Stamp Program and TEFAP. Sens. Brown, Casey, and McConnell voted for the amendment.
  • Sens. Klobuchar and Brown, for their numerous statements of support for stronger commodity payment limits. Sen. Nelson also make statements supporting payment limits.
  • Sen. Grassley, for his passionate support for livestock competition, family farmers, and money for the Pigford case.
  • Sen. Nelson, for proposing more money for the Rural Entrepreneurs and Microenterprise Program.

Support Our Allies

There is still a long way to go for the Senate Farm Bill to be the will we all envisioned. Show our allies the support that you have shown CFSC, click on these action alerts below.

The Center for Rural Affairs: Act Today for Farm Bill Reform

Sustainable Agriculture Coalition: Support Sustainable Agriculture Priorities

Food Research and Action Center: Food Stamp and Emergency Food Aid at Stake

Media Report

The Accidentally Funny Award

Today, this award goes to Sen. Roberts, who mentioned during Wednesday's Agriculture Committee meeting that he spoke yesterday to President Dwight Eisenhower about his support for Food Aid.

Keep fighting the good fight,

Steph, Sarah, and Kacie

Final Senate Countdown News, October 18, 2007

Senators Need to Hear from You!

Agriculture Committee Farm Bill Debate Scheduled for October 24

Yesterday was a big day for the Senate Agriculture Committee with the announcement that members of the Agriculture Committee had come to a compromise agreement regarding the Farm Bill. The big picture has been settled, but the details are still fluid.

The Farm Bill Update this week will be sent later on Friday, and will include as much detail as we have on the deal that has been struck. Right now, however, is a critical time for you to act. Community Food Projects is in a vulnerable position because the program is quite small, and your Senators need to hear from you that CFP is a priority.

Please call your Senator RIGHT NOW and tell him or her that Community Food Projects needs MANDATORY funding as close to $30 million as possible. For maximum impact when you call, ask for the person who covers agriculture and nutrition issues.

Many of you have already called, and we appreciate your support so much! We would not be where we are today without you. Please forward this action alert to friends and family, and consider calling your Senate offices again to reiterate your support.

Senate Contact Information

Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121

Senate Agriculture Committee Members
All Senators

Email us to let us know you called: [email protected]

Thank you once again for your perseverance and willingness to act. We will let you know as we have more information.

Keep up the good fight,

Thomas, Steph, Kacie, and Sarah
CFSC Policy Staff

CFSC Farm Bill Update, October 15, 2007
Countdown to the Senate

Farm Bill Review

Congress has been on recess for the Columbus Day holiday, so it has been a bit quiet here in Washington DC. The Senate Agriculture Committee is expected to meet to go over Chairman Harkin's proposed Farm Bill the week of October 22, but no specific date has been set. We here at CFSC hope that you've had the opportunity to call or email our Senate Champions and thank them for their support! If you need a reminder, please see our update from last week.

This gives us a great opportunity to share with you some aspects of the Farm Bill that we don't usually have the time or space to talk about in our regular updates. For one thing, we thought that it might be useful to point out that we have a document on our website that goes over the ten separate sections of the Farm Bill and what all is included in these ten different components of the legislation. Read a summary of the 10 Titles. (pdf) Along with these ten sections of the Farm Bill, there are some additional titles that have been proposed in the past and are coming up again in this round.

One of these proposals is a set of bills known collectively as the Competition Title. These proposals seek to combat increased concentration and lack of competition in the agricultural sector that occurs as a result of a few companies owning most or all of the components of the food production chain. Small farmers are hurt by concentration and consolidation because it lessens their bargaining power, enables prices to be manipulated, and restricts their options in negotiating contracts. The National Farmers Union found that the top four companies in the beef, pork, poultry, flour milling, and soybean crushing sectors controlled more than 40% of the market, which is the limit at which economists say that competition starts to decline. Read the report. (pdf)

An agricultural market that lacks legitimate competition not only affects small farmers, but also consumers. When competition decreases, consumers can be faced with fewer choices, higher prices, and lower quality products. With the recent upsurge of food recalls, it is important to consider how the consolidation of food production can negatively affect food safety. In February of 2007, the Center for Food Safety, along with the National Black Farmers Association, criticized a Monsanto merger in a report found here.

The version of the Farm Bill that was passed in the House in July did not address competition in a meaningful way. A competition title was proposed for inclusion in the 2002 Farm Bill, but was blocked in part by the lobbying efforts of large livestock companies. More information about what is specifically contained in the bills known as the Competitive Title can be found on the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's "Understanding the Farm Bill" report.

Aimee Witteman from the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition also wrote a piece about the competition title on the Grist blog.

While CFSC does not have an official position on the Competition Title, we do believe that promoting fair and active competition in the food system helps keep our food safe, the marketplace healthy, and family farmers on the land. We encourage you to follow the links above and become more educated on these proposals.

Farm Bill Chatter

Senate Dynamics

The "Washington Insider" section of DTN stated that Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) are working with other members of the Agriculture Committee to come up with enough votes to approve the alternative plan they have generated. The article states that Sen. Conrad has already wooed Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), by offering more funding for the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program, and he will continue to work on other members. The alternative plan is considered by some to be a direct challenge to proposals made by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA). (FarmPolicy.com, Oct. 10)

Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) made some comments regarding the Farm Bill process in the Senate so far. Sen. Grassley mentioned Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who has a different approach from former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) who worked aggressively on the 2002 Farm Bill. Sen. Grassley said Sen. Reid is pretty consistent in keeping out of committee work and relying upon the chairmen to get their work done. Sen. Grassley also defended Sen. Harkin's handling of the Farm Bill, stating "Harkin can't be condemned for not coming forth with a bill if he doesn't know how much money he's dealing with." Grassley urged Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss to use those dollars for conservation programs and value-added agriculture. He would also like to see some of the money go to the African-American farmers who were denied entry in the Pigford settlement case. (FarmPolicy.com, Oct. 11)

"Make the Farm Bill Fair"

A coalition of nine groups including Oxfam America, the Environmental Working Group, and Taxpayers for Common Sense are putting pressure on the Senate to institute meaningful reforms to commodity payment programs. The campaign includes a tagline "Make the Farm Bill Fair". Although united for reform, the groups making up the coalition have some different goals. Some, like Environmental Working Group and the Land Stewardship Project, based in Minnesota, want more money for land stewardship and rural development. Taxpayers for Common Sense would phase out crop supports altogether. (FarmPolicy.com, Oct 11)

Conservation Advocates Push Senators

Twenty-three conservation and environmental groups have co-signed a letter to U.S. senators telling them the Senate farm bill has to at least match the House farm bill on conservation spending or the proposal "falls short." The groups called on the Agriculture Committee to add at least $2 billion more in funding to the pot created by the Finance Committee package. The letter sent to Senate leadership as well as the leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee. A spokeswoman for Harkin said Thursday that he is still looking to spend more on conservation than the House bill, though he noted in a news conference last week that conservation was "under attack" by forces wanting to spend more money elsewhere in the bill. (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Oct. 11th).

Specialty Crop Growers

An article in the Financial Times talked about the demands of specialty crop growers, which include increased money in research on issues specific to specialty crops, and also market development. They have not requested subsidy payments similar to what is received by crops like corn, wheat, and rice.

Specialty crop growers do support the current restriction on planting fruits and vegetables on acres that are considered "base acres" for commodity crops. They feel that landowners who receive commodity payments would have an unfair advantage over farmers who have traditionally only planted specialty crops, and therefore can't fall back on subsidy payments. This restriction has been a point of contention in the World Trade Organization, and there is some movement to do away with that planting restriction.

The Price of Food

Food prices are up, and many people have ideas as to why this is. Some factors may include the rising cost of oil, federal subsidies, a weak US dollar that raises the price of imports, higher commodity prices, and a larger global growing middle class increasing demand on foods, especially meat. Demand for wheat is also at a record high due to a shortage of supply, making the price skyrocket. Many of these issues were discussed on The Diane Rehm Radio Show last Tuesday, and the guests included Bruce Babcock (professor of economics and the director of the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University), Dan Morgan (special correspondent, Washington Post and fellow, German Marshal Fund of the United States) and Lauren Etter (reporter, Wall Street Journal). Listen to the show. (FarmPolicy.com, Oct. 9)

Concerns Over Ethanol

Cornelia Dean reported in the New York Times on Oct. 11 that increasing the acres of crops grown for ethanol could harm water quality and leave some parts of the country more prone to water shortages. Corn is the most widely grown crop to produce fuel in the US, and it may cause more damage per unit of energy than other fuel crops. This makes conservation provisions in this coming Farm Bill more important than ever.

Alerts from Our Allies: Support the Efforts of other Organizations

Conservation Call-In Day, October 17

The Sustainable Agriculture Coalition along with national conservation and environment organizations will be participating in a nationwide call to action for the Senate to commit to conservation in the Farm Bill. They are asking that constituents call their Senators next Wednesday and ask them to:

"Provide at least $5 billion more for conservation in the farm bill, including $2 billion for the Comprehensive Stewardship Incentives Program."

In the Media

Thanks for your support, and please call our Senate champions to say thanks!

Steph, Kacie, and Sarah

CFSC Farm Bill Update, October 5, 2007

It's Not Over Yet! Thank the Senate Champions of Healthy Food

The Senate Agriculture Committee has postponed their Farm Bill meeting until after Columbus Day recess, giving us a great opportunity to highlight some of the Senators who have become the champions for the healthy food package, including Community Food Projects, geographic preference language, and the Health Food Enterprise Development Program. We encourage everyone to contact these champions by phone or email to thank them for taking a national leadership role on these important issues.

  • Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI): Sen. Stabenow has agreed to be the champion for the Community Food Projects (CFP) and will work to increase the mandatory funding for this program that has already proven itself and has so much potential for empowering communities to solve their own food security problems.  This is great news, and we would like to continue encouraging her to do everything she can to ensure that this program stays strong and continues to grow. Please call Sen. Stabenow at 202.224.4822 or email her and thank her for taking a national leadership role in the fight to increase mandatory funding for Community Food Projects.
  • Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA): Sen. Harkin has been a strong supporter of clarifying geographic preference language for schools so that it is clear to USDA that schools can specify from where food is coming. This important, no-cost language change will help schools support their local farmers and remove a barrier to starting Farm to School programs. Please call Sen. Harkin at 2202.224.3254 or email him and thank him for taking a national leadership role on geographic preference in the Farm Bill.
  • Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH): Sen. Brown has been a strong champion for the Healthy Food Enterprise Development Program (HFED), which will encourage the development of small-scale processing and distribution infrastructure that is vital to local food systems. Please call Sen. Brown at 202.224.2315 or email him and thank him for taking a national leadership role on HFED in the Farm Bill.
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT): Sen. Leahy has been a strong historic supporter of Community Food Projects, and without him there probably would never have been such a program. Sen. Leahy continues to support CFP, and we would like to encourage him to be even more vocal about how important CFP is to food security across the country. Please call Sen. Leahy at 202.224.4242 or email him and thank him for his continued support of Community Food Projects in the Farm Bill.

Remember that it only takes a few minutes to call or email these Senators, but they need to hear the strong support there is for these programs!  Your Senators are also on recess next week, so call their scheduler to see if you can meet with them in your home state.

Recent Farm Bill Developments

I. Senate Farm Bill Timing:

Due to objections raised by Senators wanting enough time to review Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Harkin's (D-IA) draft proposal for the Farm Bill, the meeting to review and discuss the draft has been postponed until after the Columbus Day recess. Our current thought is that they will meet the week of October 22, and we'll keep you updated as we hear something more concrete.

Discussion drafts of Chairman Harkin's have been circulating, and there are also reports that one of the major reforms he wants to address involves direct payments, which are farm payments that land owners receive regardless of whether they plant or produce an agricultural product on that land.  

II. Senate Finance Committee:

Senate Finance Committee met on October 4th to review a proposal for funding increases for the Farm Bill. The biggest part of the package was providing a funding mechanism for a permanent disaster program, a top priority for both Sens. Baucus (D-MT) and Conrad (D-ND). One noteworthy part of that package was that farmers would be limited to $100,000 per year in disaster assistance. To be eligible for the crop disaster program, a farmer would have to be enrolled in crop insurance and cover at least 50 percent of a crop's expected yield at 55 percent of the price.

Another part of the proposal would allow farmers enrolled in conservation programs to choose a tax credit instead of a payment. Sen. Harkin has expressed skepticism in the past about this proposal, but it would reportedly free up money in the Farm Bill that could be used for other things.  The Committee's proposal also decreased by 5 cents per gallon the tax credit ethanol blenders currently receive.

One notable absence from the proposal was repealing a tax exemption that would require employers of foreign workers (and the workers themselves) to pay FICA (social security) taxes. Instead, the committee closed a different tax loophole for the $10 billion offset. (FarmPolicy.com, Oct 3, 2007)

III. CFSC Reports!

On October 4th, CFSC's interns, Kacie Warner and Sarah Martin, attended the Senate Finance Committee's hearing on the farm bill tax package. Here is what we have to report:

  • The hearing began with a few opening statements, in which Senator Stabenow (D-MI) expressed her support for fruits and vegetables in the Farm Bill, Senator Kyl (R-AZ) spoke out against tax increases, and Senator Lincoln (D-AR) expressed her thanks for the expansion of broadband service in rural areas. Senator Kyl spoke passionately about an estate tax reform. It did not pass, but other senators expressed their willingness to consider such a reform in the future.
  •     
  • Senator Snowe (R-ME) proposed a milk import tariff that would offer more support for small dairy farmers, but the measure did not pass because of the fear that it would invite other countries to retaliate by raising their tariffs on American products. The committee voted to accept Senator Salazar's (D-CO) amendment to increase the tax credits for cellulosic ethanol, Senator Lincoln's plan to encourage the production of smaller energy efficient motors, and Senator Stabenow's proposal to extend of tax credits for small producers of ethanol.  These amendments all passed.
  •     
  • As a means to offset spending, the committee also voted to include an economic substance amendment that will raise money by prohibiting tax breaks on transactions that have no business or economic purpose. Because this was included as an amendment, and not as part of Baucus' original proposal, several Republican senators were able to go on the record as having voted against this tax amendment while voting for the overall bill.
  •     
  • There was a bit of a glitch in the proceedings when Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) delayed the hearing for over two hours as he fought for an agreement to include a 50cent/gallon tax credit for coal-to-liquid fuels, along with petroleum and natural gas.  We and the other hearing attendees  spent much of the afternoon sitting in the hallway wondering what was going on, but Bunning's proposal was eventually approved After the amendments were settled, the committee quickly moved on to vote for approval of Baucus' proposal tax package.  This package includes a $5.1 billion permanent disaster relief and an overall $3 billion boost for farm bill funding. It passed with a strong majority of 17-4.

IV. Food safety system reform:

Long-time food safety advocate Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT.), who is chairwoman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, announced her plans to introduce legislation in 2008 that would overhaul the food regulation and inspection system. Right now, these duties are divided among twelve agencies within the FDA and USDA.  DeLauro has proposed splitting the FDA into two agencies, one that deals directly with food and one that deals directly with drug and medicine issues.  The agencies would have separate commissioners and budgets, whereas right now food safety competes for money and attention with a large amount of other responsibilities that fall under FDA control.  As we reported last week, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) is trying to move forward with the streamlining of the food regulation system by offering an amendment to the farm bill that would have the duties of the twelve agencies who deal with food expire in two years. An aide to Harkin has said that he supports Durbin's amendment. (Congress Daily, Oct 4, 2007)

V. Controversy over state-inspected meat:

The House-passed version of the Farm Bill allows state-inspected meat to cross state lines.  This measure is support by House Chairman of the Agriculture Committee Collin Peterson (D-MN), who says that he is determined that the provision be included in the senate version of the bill.  Peterson says that this measure will give small farmers a better chance to compete but will not affect food safety as some fear because the state inspectors still have to meet federal standards. However, the American Federation of Government Employees and the Consumer Federation of America have launched a campaign to fight the state-inspected meat provision, saying it would open up inspection loopholes and allow the meat industry less stringent standards. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has said that she will block the Farm Bill in the Senate if it includes the state-inspection provision. (Congress Daily, October 2, 2007)

VI. Farm Labor issues in the House:

The House Agriculture Committee recently discussed farm labor issues and possible changes to the current system, which is dependent upon illegal workers.  Labor economists, farmers, and workers' advocates presented testimony on the current status and future needs of labor in the agriculture sector. Introduced in January 2007 by Senator Feinstein (D-CA), the Agriculture Jobs Opportunity and Benefits Act would provide farm workers with the opportunity to apply for legal citizenship after meeting certain requirements, including the payment of fees and proof of long-term employment.  Acknowledging that this issue strikes a strong response in a lot of people and has larger ramifications not only agriculture, Chairman Peterson (D-MN) said that there is no easy solution. (Congress Daily, 10-5-07)

VII. Action Items from Other Organizations

We know that our readers are interested in lots of issues related to the Farm Bill, so we decided this week to also include action alerts from other organizations. We hope you show them the support you've shown CFSC!

VIII. Media Report

Thanks for your support, and please call our Senate champions to say thanks!

Steph, Kacie, and Sarah

CFSC Farm Bill Update, September 30, 2007

Dear CFSC members and friends,

We hope that you find these Farm Bill updates helpful, and that you've been able to use the information to contact your Senators about the Farm Bill. As you'll read below, it is quite possible that the Senate Agriculture Committee meets this coming week to make decisions on the future of our food and farm programs. So RAISE YOUR VOICE NOW and help support Community Food Projects (CFP) in the 2007 Farm Bill! It's up to us to ensure that this successful program continues, so ask your Senators to make sure that Community Food Projects gets as close to $30 million in MANDATORY funding as possible (mandatory is the most important word there). We appreciate all the support of everyone who has already called, and thank you to all those who are reaching for their phone right now!

To find your Senators' contact information, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, or look it up at http://www.senate.gov. If you've already called, consider asking a friend or colleague to contact their senators as well.

Download talking points on how you can help keep Community Food Projects going. (pdf format)

Recent Farm Bill Developments

I. Timing for the Senate Finance and Agriculture Committees:

Once again, lots of rumors have been circulating about when the Senate Finance and Agriculture Committees might meet to discuss funding and content (respectively) for the Farm Bill. The latest we've heard is that Finance will meet on Wednesday, Oct. 3, and Agriculture may start Thursaday, Oct. 4 or wait until after the Columbus Day recess. We will keep you up to date as things move forward. Please check the CFSC policy website for additional information on timing, as we'll post changes to these dates if we find out something new.

II. The Heat is On:

House Agriculture Chairman Peterson said that he would not support an extension to the 2002 Farm Bill instead of passing a new bill. Senate Agriculture Chairman Harkin responded by saying that he does not intend for there to be a long-term extension, only a short-term extension because parts of the current farm bill are set to expire with the end of the 2007 fiscal year on September 30, 2007. (Congress Daily, 9/21/07)

A coalition of farm, conservation, and nutrition groups has prepared a letter urging senators to hurry it up already. Some groups who signed the letter have also been meeting with Majority Leader Harry Reid's staff. So far, Reid has stayed out of the tensions between the agriculture and finance committees, but has voiced that he is committed to getting a new farm bill passed as soon as possible. CFSC is a co-signer on this letter (Congress Daily, 9/27/07)

III. Proposals being released:

On Wednesday, in an effort to get the Farm Bill moving in the Senate, Budget Chairman Conrad (D-ND) presented a proposal with three options that would increase spending while making cuts to the direct payment program. The increases for spending would run between $10.4 and $11.9 billion while the cuts in direct payments would fall between $1 and $1.5 billion. Conservation and energy programs and Baucus' proposed permanent disaster aid program were not included in Conrad's proposal because their funding would be provided by the Finance Committee.

With pressure mounting from the release of Conrad's proposal and the increasing attentions of Democratic leaders in the Senate, Harkin released his farm bill plans on Thursday. His proposal would increase spending on all programs included in the bill by $18.2 billion. This would include spending on commodities, specialty crops, nutrition, conservation, energy, rural development, trade programs, research, and credit programs but does not include the disaster relief program, whose $5 billion would come from the finance committee. (Congress Daily, 9/27/07)

Harkin's proposals include a new U.S. Senate blueprint on food aid, which would boost funding for long-term assistance and experiment with buying crops from foreign farmers. It received mixed reviews this week from U.S. farm and aid groups. One of the ideas included would allow more U.S. crops purchased for the program to be stored overseas, near countries at risk of food shortages.

IV. Nutrition Title:

Anti-hunger advocates are disappointed that Harkin has not yet released a draft of the nutrition title, which includes the Food Stamp Program and other anti-hunger programs. Harkin has said that he wants to increase funding for food stamps by about the same $4 billion over five years that was approved in the version of the bill that was passed by the House in July. The House version of the farm bill changed the name of the food stamp program to "Secure Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program," but acting Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner, who recently replaced Mike Johanns, has said that he too wants a different name for the program, but does not like this one that the House picked out. (Congress Daily 9/27/07)

V. House Agriculture Committee Member to Retire:

On September 26th, Rep. Terry Everett, (R-AL) announced that he will retire at the end of his term. Everett would have been in line to become the top Republican on the House Agriculture Committee.

VI. Country of Origin Labeling (COOL):

Agriculture Committee Chairman Harkin said that the Senate's version of the farm bill will include a country-of-origin labeling requirement for meat products. (Congress Daily 9/26/07)

VII. A Plea to Keep Direct Payments:

A letter, signed by Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS), Charles Grassley (R-IA), John Thune (R-SD), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Thad Cochran (R-MS), and American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman, was sent to Harkin and Grassley urging them to not cut crop farmer's direct payments, claiming that the program is the most WTO compliant part of the farm bill. Senator Conrad commented that all the members of the Agriculture Committee are in agreement that they do not want to cut direct payments, but that they are dealing with a tight financial situation.

VIII. Media Report:

Here are links to some interesting articles and editorials about food and nutrition policy, local food issues, and food security that we found this week:

IX. CFSC Reports!

CFSC staff attended the Consumer Federation of America conference this week, and on Friday, September 28, they had quite the line-up. Speakers included Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Agriculture Chairmen Harkin (D-IA) and Peterson (D-MN) from the Senate and House, respectively. Below are summary paragraphs, brought to you our own CFSC staff.

Food Safety from Sen. Durbin
By Kacie Warner

With the American public becoming increasingly concerned about the safety of imported products, particularly food, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) insisted that we need a reform of the current system soon. Therefore, Durbin said that he will be putting forth an amendment to the Farm Bill that will streamline the food inspection system of the USDA. Currently, there are twelve agencies that play a role in the regulation of food. With this amendment, Durbin seeks to consolidate the regulation system into one agency over two years. Durbin also spoke about the upcoming Imported Food Security Act that will seek to increase the scope and scale of USDA standards and inspections, with a new import tax to fund these measures.

The House Farm Bill Recap from Chairman Peterson
By Sarah Martin

In his statement, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) addressed several of the many highly debated components of July's House-passed farm bill. With a lower budget and a greater number of interests pushing for funds, Peterson admitted, he was not able to pass a perfect bill. However, he spoke in defense of the bill's commodity title, which includes maintained funding for "direct payments," a system that has faced criticism because it pays farmers for acres that they may no longer cultivate. The Chairman insisted that many family farmers rely on the "safety net" that the commodity title provides. On the topic of regulations, Peterson expressed satisfaction with the House bill's requirement of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for meat. Further, though, Peterson expressed hopes to see a Farm Bill that will authorize state inspection of meat. He argued that current requirements for federal inspection impede the growth of smaller-scale grass-fed and organic meat operations, and prevent domestic meat from crossing state borders while imported meat faces fewer restrictions. A number of audience members took issue with the Chairman's remarks, but he insisted that as the 2007 Farm Bill is a work in progress, he will remain open to conversation and negotiation.

Sen. Harkin Prioritizes Nutrition, Conservation, Reform
By Steph Larsen

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) spoke as passionately as ever about his priorities for the 2007 Farm Bill, which include a strong nutrition title, more funding for conservation, and commodity reforms that protect farmers from a volatile market while honoring our trade agreements. He reminded the audience that legislation of this magnitude is rarely on time, especially when there is no new money to work with. He spoke specifically about reforming direct payments, tightening payment limits, and investing in rural infrastructure. He feels he has an obligation to broaden eligibility for the Food Stamp Program and increase the minimum benefit, and to address the childhood obesity epidemic with greater access to fruits and vegetables for kids. He ended with the statement that the Farm Bill will be on the Senate floor in October, and he doesn't expect any drastic changes but that Senators need to hear from their constituents about their food and farm priorities.

Don't forget to call your Senators about Community Food Projects!

Thanks for your support,

Steph, Kacie, and Sarah

CFSC Farm Bill Update, September 21, 2007

Don't Wait! Call your Senator Today!

Thank you for your continuing support of Community Food Projects (CFP) in the 2007 Farm Bill!
Community Food Project funding has made great progress toward healthy, sustainable food systems in communities around the country, and it's up to us to ensure that this successful program continues. If you have not yet contacted your Senators to ask for their support of mandatory funding for Community Food Projects, now is the time. To find your Senators' contact information, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, or look it up here. If you've already called, please ask your friends and colleagues.

For more information on how you can help keep Community Food Projects going, see last week's Farm Bill Update.

Recent Farm Bill Developments

I. Senate Timing

According to Congress Daily on September 18, Senate Agriculture Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) announced that he intends for the Agriculture Committee to debate the draft of the Farm Bill before Congress goes on recess for Columbus Day on Oct. 8, even if Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) has not yet held his own debate session for the proposed agricultural tax package plan.

Congress is expected to pass a resolution to extend the present 2002 Farm Bill for one month because the current bill expires with the end of the fiscal year on Sept 30. There is a chance that instead of voting on a new farm bill, Congress could decide to extend the present bill that was passed in 2002. Harkin said he is not "unalterably opposed to extending the 2002 Farm Bill," but expressed that he would rather get a new bill passed.

II. Possible New Funding for Fruit and Vegetable Programs

Michigan Democrat Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a member of both the Finance Committee and the Agriculture Committee, is leading an effort to win $3 billion in new money for fruit and vegetable growers. Her letter to committee leaders and Senate leadership has 36 Senators' signatures. There is $1.7 billion for fruit and vegetable growers in the House version of the Farm Bill. (Farm Policy, Sept. 14th).

III. Controversy in Farm Bill Funding

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus has said he plans to provide between $8 and $10 billion in farm bill funding. As of yet, the source from which he aims to offset this money is unclear. At this point we do not have any indication that this package includes increases for nutrition programs similar to increases in the House version. We are continuing to push our legislators to support the allocation of significant farm bill funds for nutrition.

Revising his stance, Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) is warming to the idea of a permanent fund to provide disaster relief to farmers. A permanent disaster fund is a high priority of both Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and for Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), both of whom are members of the Agriculture Committee. Harkin is considering including in his draft both a revenue-protection program of the kind sought by corn growers and a 'modest' permanent disaster fund, which is a major priority for another influential member of both the finance committee and Harkin's. (Des Moines Register Sept 19th).

IV. CommodityGroups Putting Pressure on the Senate

On Sept 18, the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition asked Senator Baucus to make changes in the conservation tax credit portion of his proposal.  The group noted that there are equity concerns at play here because wealthy landowners are the most likely to be supportive of tax credits while small farmers would be more interested in cash payments.  The coalition also urged Baucus to provide more funding for conservation and wildlife habitat protection programs.

Last week, twenty-two commodity groups that included organizations such as the American Soybean Association and the National Association of Wheat Growers wrote to Agriculture Committee and Senate leadership to urge them to pass the farm bill as soon as possible. Senator Baucus is also under pressure from conservation groups and specialty crop growers to provide more assistance for them in the bill. (Congress Daily, Sept. 17th)

V. The White House Weighs In

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns met with the National Farmers Union and outlined the reasons why President Bush has threatened to veto the House Farm Bill - mainly because of the proposed tax increase to pay for food stamps and proposed payment limitations that are not strict enough. Secretary Johanns also predicted that the Senate would not uphold the tax increase to pay for food stamp increases. However, Secretary Johanns was also quoted last week as saying that while "there were parts [of the House bill] we didn't like, there were parts we did like. We can get a bill done this year. We've done so much. We've come so far." (Congress Daily, Sept 18th)

VI. Agriculture Secretary Johanns to Run for Senate

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns has resigned from his current position in order to run for the Nebraska senate seat being vacated by the retiring Senator Chuck Hagel. (Omaha World Herald, Sept. 19)

VII. Connection with the Energy Bill

Sen. Baucus is reportedly planning on shifting some renewable energy and fuels production tax incentives from the Energy Bill to the Farm Bill. Sen. Baucus said that the agriculture tax package would include provisions to help farmers and ranchers by including tax incentives for the production of wind and other means of alternative energy. Also, Sen. Baucus announced that there would be tax incentives to encourage farmers to grow crops that are used to make ethanol, biodiesel, and other biofuels. Both the oil and renewable energy industries said that they are in the dark about whether the tax incentives affecting them would be in the Energy or Farm Bill and what exactly the incentives will look like. (Congress Daily, Sept. 18)

VIII. Media Report

Here are links to some interesting articles and editorials about food and nutrition policy, local food issues, and food security that we found this week:

Don't forget to call your Senators about Community Food Projects!

Thanks for your support,

Steph, Kacie, and Sarah

CFSC Farm Bill Update, September 14, 2007

When people feel empowered, they can be inspired to create a difference in their communities. When people have a voice in the changes that directly help their families, they become invested in the process and positive results continue to grow and succeed. This is why Community Food Projects has been so successful.

Thank you for your continued efforts to fund Community Food Projects (CFP) in the 2007 Farm Bill. As we've reported in previous Farm Bill updates (archived here), CFP did not receive mandatory money in the House version of the Farm Bill. As the Farm Bill moves to the Senate, your Senators need to hear from you that Community Food Projects is vital to food security in your state.

Contact your Senators TODAY and ask them to fund Community Food Projects as close to $30 million in MANDATORY money as they can.

Your efforts right now can make a big difference to get mandatory funding for Community Food Projects in the Senate Farm Bill. If you have already called, please forward this action alert to a friend or colleague. Your Senators' contact information can be found by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, or look it up here.

ALL Senators are important to contact, but if one of your Senators is on the Agriculture Committee, they ESPECIALLY need to hear from you. To see if your Senator is on the Agriculture Committee, go to the Senate Agriculture Committee page.

These quick phone calls will take only a few minutes of your time, but could make a huge impact on whether this program continues. Thank you for making your voice heard!

Recent Farm Bill Developments

I. Senate Champion for the Community Food Projects

Senator Debbie A. Stabenow (D-MI), an Agriculture and Finance Committee member, has agreed to champion increased funds for Community Food Projects in the upcoming Senate version of the Farm Bill. Many thanks to Senator Stabenow for her support and leadership!

II. Senate Timing

According to Congress Daily on September 11, Senate Agriculture Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) announced that he intends for the Senate Agriculture Committee to debate the draft of the Farm Bill the week of September 24. However, there have been published reports from various new sources that have speculated later dates as well. These dates seem to be in flux, and we at CFSC will let you know as soon as we have a solid date for the Senate meeting. Because the Senate could move at any time in the next few weeks, it's important to make calls to your Senators now.

III. Senate Farm Bill Finance Situation

On Tuesday, September 11, Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT.) announced he would put forward a package between $8 billion and $10 billion in the coming weeks. Sen. Baucus's plan includes the conversion of several conservation payment programs into tax credit offset programs, which he says would free some farm bill funding for other programs. He also proposes a trust fund to finance continued weather-related disaster insurance, tailored to constituents in the Northern Plains states. Sen. Baucus is one of the 8 members of the Finance Committee that are also on the Agriculture Committee.

IV. Commodity Policies

Harkin proposes limiting subsidies to $250,000 per farm household while banning any subsidies for farm households whose income exceeds $500,000. Also proposed as a reform and a change to the House version of the bill, spouses would no longer be eligible to receive farm benefits.

Senators Richard Durbin (IL) and Sherrod Brown (OH) have proposed a program that bases payments on a farmer's loss of revenue instead of the current system that ties payments to the price of crops. An alternative to continuing the permanent crop insurance that Baucus promotes, this system could save funding for other programs. Both Harkin and the National Corn Growers Association support this plan, but some say that more state specific concerns need to be taken into account because the loss of revenue would be based on national figures, not local markets.

V. Conservation in the Farm Bill

Harkin seeks to expand the Conservation Reserve Program, which rewards farmers who use responsible practices to limit soil erosion and keep fragile land out of production use. However, it is unclear whether Baucus' funding proposal will include money for this and other conservation programs.

VI. Senator Craig's resignation

With the news of Sen. Larry Craig's (R-ID) resignation, groups advocating for specialty crop issues will be losing a major ally. Sen. Craig was an original co-sponsor on the specialty crop marker bill (S. 1160), introduced by Sen. Stabenow earlier this year.

VII. Media Report

There have been lots of interesting editorials and articles about the Farm Bill in the last week, here are links to some that caught our attention.

After being on hiatus for the August congressional recess, the Farm Bill update will again be issued on a regular basis as information becomes available. We at the CFSC office would like to welcome our new interns, Kacie Warner and Sarah Martin, whose efforts to get you this information will be invaluable this fall. Welcome Kacie and Sarah!

Thanks again to all of you for your efforts!

Steph, Sarah, and Kacie

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Action Update on Community Food Projects in the Farm Bill
August 15, 2007

Thank you for all your efforts to date on behalf of Community Food Projects and other progressive farm bill legislation. Unfortunately, despite all your efforts, funding for Community Food Project (CFP) remains discretionary at $30 million and not mandatory as it has been for 10 years. This means that right now, CFP HAS NO MANDATORY FUNDING FOR FY 2008. We need your help to change this in the Senate Farm Bill.

The key next step is to get CFP mandatory funding into the Senate's initial draft of the Farm Bill. Your efforts right now can make a big difference as to this outcome! THE NEXT FEW WEEKS ARE CRITICAL FOR INPUT TO THE SENATE'S VERSION.

NEXT STEPS FOR CFP ADVOCATES: Contact your Senators about Community Food Projects and ask them to fund CFP as close to $30 million in MANDATORY money as they can.

  1. Calls and letters: As with the House, this is a great strategy for your Senators:
    1. Call both your Senators and ask them to demand MANDATORY funding for Community Food Projects in the Senate mark up of the Farm Bill. If you don't know your Senators' contact information, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Or look it up at one of these two links: http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/index.html or http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

      ALL Senators are important to contact, but if your Senator is on the Agriculture Committee, they ESPECIALLY need to hear from you because they are on the Senate Agriculture Committee and will be marking up the Farm Bill in September. To see if your Senator is on the Agriculture Committee, go to http://agriculture.senate.gov/sen.htm

      These quick phone calls will take only a few minutes of your time, but could make a huge impact on whether this program continues. Download a pdf with talking points and background on Community Food Project for you to use in your calls.
    2. Faxed letters: If you can, request your Senators' FAX numbers and compose a brief letter. See talking points enclosed and add something about your own CFP projects or others in the district. (Note: emails are not preferred because they tend to get lost or ignored. Calls are recorded and faxed letters go right to the appropriate aide. Regular mail is not advisable).

  2. Meeting with your legislators - especially in the Senate - is vital during this recess! Decisions are still being discussed and deals are being brokered, and WE NEED YOU to stress the importance of small but powerful programs like Community Food Projects and the need to adequately fund them with mandatory money. Contact their local offices for appointments. Meeting with aides who handle the farm bill can be very effective.
  3. Project site visits: While Congress is officially on recess, your legislators are likely to be in their home states and districts, attending summer fairs and events. Many of them will even accept invitations to tour community food projects such as farms, community gardens, farmers' markets, and other activities that highlight local food systems, especially if you invite the press along too! It's easy to find your legislators; just call their local office and ask to speak to their scheduler. They may also post events on their websites.
  4. Letters to the Editor and editorials in local papers have also been extremely successful, and we encourage you to continue submitting them. Sample op-eds and letters to the editor can be found at CFSC's Policy Page under "Farm Bill Materials".

You can find Updates, background, alerts and links on the Farm Bill at this site as well as the Farm and Food Policy Project

Thank you for all your hard work and support, and we look forward to working together to make a big impact as the Farm Bill moves to the Senate.

Download this action alert in pdf format.


CFSC Farm Bill Update, August 6, 2007
Find your Legislator at Home in August!

I. Happy August!

Congress is officially on recess and many of the rest of us are planning a week or two of vacation before summer ends. Your legislators, however, are likely to be in their home states and districts, attending summer fairs and events. Many of them will even accept invitations to tour community gardens, community food projects, farmers' markets, and other activities that highlight local food systems, especially if you invite the press along too! It's easy to find your legislators - just call their local office and ask to speak to their scheduler. They may also post events on their websites.

Meeting with your legislators - especially in the Senate - is vital during this recess! Decisions are still being discussed and deals are being brokered, and WE NEED YOU to stress the importance of small but powerful programs like Community Food Projects and the need to adequately fund them with mandatory money. Letters to the Editor and editorials in local papers have also been extremely successful, and we encourage you to continue submitting them. Thank you for all your hard work and support, and we look forward to working together to make a big impact as the Farm Bill moves to the Senate.

II. Agriculture Appropriations

Last week, the Agriculture Appropriations bill was introduced on the House floor. There were significant partisan differences of opinion which resulted in various actions to disrupt the process, including a walk-out by Republicans after a disputed vote.

One exciting event during the debate on the floor for Agriculture Appropriations was a colloquy, or discussion on the House floor, between Chairwoman DeLauro (D-CT) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) on the Community Food Projects (CFP). Rep. Rush lamented the fact that CFP was changed from mandatory money to discretionary, and the Chairwoman went on record as supporting the program. This is good news for the program, which may have to rely on the Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee every year if the program doesn't receive mandatory money in the Farm Bill.

III. Omissions from Last Week:

Due to the sheer volume of information in last week's update, we forgot to mention several important programs in which people may have interest.

  • Fruit and Vegetable Snack program: In the Manager's amendment, the mandatory funding for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable (Snack) Program was increased to $70 million per year and to include 35 schools in each of 50 states.
  • Organic Research: In the Manager's Amendment, organic research was extended at $25 million in mandatory funding per year.
  • Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for meat and fresh produce was included in the Farm Bill with a compromise 3-tier system to account for products of mixed origin.
  • Rural Coalition has an outline of the outcomes for socially disadvantaged and minority farmers which should be posted on their website (http://www.ruralco.org) soon.
  • Read the rest of the programs that were included in the House version of the Farm Bill. (pdf)

IV. SENATE

Now that the House is finished and August recess has begun, we are looking to the Senate next. Timing is completely up in the air - some rumors suggest that we may have a draft of the Senate Farm Bill before the end of August, others say we may not see it until the 3rd week in September. It is likely that the 2002 Bill will have to be temporarily extended as the Senate may not take up the Farm Bill on the floor until October.

Sen. Baucus, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, is working on finding money for desired increases in the Farm Bill, but it's not likely that he'll use the same tactics the House used in closing a tax loophole. Information is being held very closely right now and is difficult to come by, but we'll keep our eyes and ears open and keep you informed as we have new information.

V. Media Report:

There have been lots of interesting editorials and articles about the Farm Bill in the last week, here are links to some that caught our attention (though some are more positive than others):

Lastly, this week we say goodbye to CFSC's rock-star policy intern, Aliza Wasserman. She's done amazing work this summer, and we wish her the best of luck as she returns to her graduate program at Tufts. Thanks Aliza!

Happy summer, and don't forget to contact your legislators!

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Farm Bill Update, July 31, 2007
House Passes Farm Bill 231-191

THANK YOU to everyone who has supported healthy food and communities during the House Farm Bill process! After less than 24 hours of debate and amendments, the "Farm, Nutrition and Energy Act of 2007" (H.R. 2419), also known as the Farm Bill, passed the House on Friday July 27, with a vote of 231 to 191 more or less on party lines. Although we did not achieve all we had hoped for out of the House bill, there were a number of important wins in the form of new provisions included. The House Agriculture Appropriations bill will be hitting the floor this morning, July 31. Our next update will include information for advocacy needed in states and districts during the August Recess as the Farm Bill continues to move forward into the fall.

I. CFSC Top Priorities in the House Farm Bill:

  • Community Food Projects: An amendment for mandatory funding for Community Food Projects submitted by Blumenauer (D-OR) was not accepted by the Rules Committee and was not allowed to be offered on the floor, and mandatory funding did not make it into the version of the Farm Bill that passed the House. This is unfortunate, but means that we will need to work harder to push for funding in the Senate and in the House and Senate Appropriations Bills, coming up tomorrow and next month, respectively.
  • Healthy Food (Urban) Enterprise Development Program (HFUED): The loan portion of what was formerly called the Healthy Food Enterprise Development was adopted as an amendment (by Rep. Gillibrand (D-NY) to the Rural Development Title in the Agriculture Committee's Farm Bill and was included in the bill that passed in the House. The grant portion of the program was included in the Horticulture & Organic Title of the "Manager's Amendment," an amendment by the Chairperson of the Committee (which almost always passes), as the "Healthy Food Urban Enterprise Development" Program (HFUED).
  • Geographic Preference/Local Procurement: An amendment offered by Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI) to clarify previous language allowing schools to use a geographic preference to request local food in all federally-funded child nutrition programs was adopted by the House Agriculture Committee in its bill and included in the bill passed in the House.

II. Summary of House Farm Bill:

Despite what the House Agriculture Committee and Democratic Leadership have said, meaningful commodity reform was not included in the House Farm Bill, with only token changes to Title I (Commodity Title). As the main story turned from commodity reform to a partisan battle over tax-based funding for increases in the Nutrition title (mainly for food stamp and emergency food provisions), Rep. Kind (D-WI) introduced the Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment, which was defeated 117-309. Reps. Ryan (R-WI) and Blumenauer (D-OR) submitted an amendment for meaningful payment limits similar to the Dorgan-Grassley bill in the Senate, but it was rejected by the Rules Committee and couldn't be offered on the House floor. A more in-depth analysis about the nature of changes that were made to the Commodity Title can be found in the following blog posts:

The partisan nature of the debate and final vote were due to the closing of a tax loophole for foreign-owned companies, which funded the needed $4 billion increase in food stamp provisions by increasing the deductions and the minimum benefits. Needed increases in funding for the Conservation Security Program (CSP) were not included in the House Farm Bill, which is expected to be the source of tension between this House Bill and that crafted by Senate Ag Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), considered by many as the champion of CSP.

Download the the update (in pdf format) to continue reading.

 

Special Farm Bill Update: July 20, 2007
Farm Bill Passes Out of House Ag Committee

Action Needed to Save Community Food Projects

Many of you know about and have benefited from the Community Food Projects (CFP), a program that was started 10 years ago and has been incredibly successful at empowering low-income communities to identify problems related to food security and take action to permanently solve them with an investment from the federal government. In the past, the program has received $5 million annually in mandatory funding, meaning that groups like CFSC didn't have to fight every year in order to receive money.

Community Food Projects is ZEROED OUT! While the House Agriculture Committee increased funds for CFP to $30 million, the money is discretionary, meaning that it's possible this vital program gets nothing at all when it comes time to dole out the money each year. There is no money in the appropriations bill for FY '08, so if the change to discretionary stands, there will be no money for CFP in 2008.

Please help us save this popular and vital program.
Call House Leadership and your Representative RIGHT NOW!

Speaker Pelosi and Charles Rangel (D-NY), Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, are at the helm of brokering any deals for new nutrition money for the Farm Bill. Therefore, it is important that they realize the importance of CFP and the need for it to retain its mandatory funding, and receive increased funding. Please call your Representative and ask his/her office to continue pushing Rangel's and Pelosi's offices for MANDATORY funding for Community Food Projects in the Farm Bill. If you don't know who your Representative is or need to find their number, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

These quick phone calls will take less than 10 minutes of your time, but could make a huge impact on whether this program continues.

Download the full summary (doc) of the Farm Bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee


Farm Bill Update
July 16, 2007

I. Contact Your Members of Congress-Money Needed for Healthy Food in the Farm Bill

As Farm Bill debate heats up, we urge you to contact your Representative and Senators and recommend that they support a Farm Bill with increased funding for healthy food and communities provisions. For many of the issues, the target is funding, and Members of Congress on the Ways & Means (House) and Finance (Senate) Committees as well as Democratic Leadership (Speaker, Majority Leaders) are key to ensuring that funding is found for healthy food and farm provisions in the Farm Bill.

The debate has become increasingly polarized over the past 6 months. The "reformers" want moderate to extreme reductions in payments for specific farm commodities (corn, rice, wheat, cotton, soy and several others) in order to pay for increases in nutrition and conservation. The "extenders" who want to maintain the status quo for these payments. An extension of the 2002 Farm Bill would mean everyone—low-income communities, environment and small farmers—taking a hit. While those pushing for commodity reform may have an important message, the cost in votes to the nutrition, conservation and rural development parts of the Farm Bill may be too great if no consensus on the Farm Bill is reached by the deadline –Sept 30, 2007.

The next three weeks are critical as both houses of Congress work to craft and fund the next 5+ years of U.S. food and farm policy. Congress has heard from many constituent groups but needs more input from citizens the health of our communities and small, sustainable farms. Your legislators need to hear YOUR VOICE! Please call them TODAY - below are some talking points to use. If you don't know your legislator's number, call the Capital Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

II. Requests for CFSC Priorities

  • For Community Food Projects, Members of Congress, on and off the Ag Committee, are urged to support the $30 million funding level in MANDATORY spending.
  • Though the jurisdictional issue with the House Education & Labor Committee has been resolved, members of the House Agriculture Committee should be urged to support an amendment, to be offered by Congressman Kagen (D-WI), inserting brief language, clarifying the local procurement issue, into the House draft bill.
  • Members of Congress, on and off the Ag Committee, should be urged to support the no-cost request for the Healthy Food Enterprise Development Program language to be included in the House & Senate draft bills.

III. Timing Update

  • House Agriculture begins debating and amending Draft Bill: July 17
  • House Floor Farm Bill debate and vote may be as early as July 30
  • House Agriculture Appropriations meets July 18 on draft fiscal year '08 bill
  • Senate likely to postpone Agriculture Committee vote until September

Download the full update to continue reading (pdf).


CFSC Farm Bill Update
July 10, 2007

I. House Releases Not One, but Two Draft Farm Bills

While Congress has been in recess, Agriculture Committee staffers in both the House and Senate have been busy crafting the Farm Bill. Late Friday evening, Chairman Peterson released the full House Agriculture Committee's draft of the Farm Bill, which includes a primary Farm Bill that is similar to the current levels of funding, and an amendment with additional cost priorities that will be included if offsets for the funding are found. On the House Farm Bill homepage, there is an explanation of the "En Bloc Amendment", which contains all of the provisions that would come from the $20 billion Reserve Fund. For the purposes of this update, "Farm Bill 1" refers to all other components of the draft besides the En Bloc Amendment, and "Farm Bill 2" refers to the En Bloc Amendment.

The glass is both half full and half empty for many Farm Bill interests including nutrition, conservation, small farmers, and healthy food and communities. The analysis of specific CFSC priorities in the Farm Bill draft is outlined below. In general, the draft maintains the status quo, which is to say that it doesn't do many of the changes needed to promote community food security or make relationships between farmers and consumers closer—favoring instead large-scale factory farms and corporate agribusiness.

II. GOOD NEWS!

In a late-breaking development, staff at CFSC today found out that the jurisdictional issue related to geographic preference language in the Farm Bill has been cleared up. We'd like to extend our thanks to Chairmen Miller and Peterson in the House for working this issue out. Rep. Kagen (D-WI, 3rd) will be offering an amendment in collaboration with other members on the committee to insert this language into the Farm Bill.

III. Analysis of the Farm Bill Drafts

At this point in the process, it is important to continue to emphasize mandatory funding for Community Food Projects, support for the amendment to insert geographic preference language, and introduction of the Healthy Food Enterprise Development program as utmost importance with members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees as well as the Democratic Leadership. The drafts include the following:

  • Community Food Projects was reauthorized with $30 million in Farm Bill 1. We expect Rep. Boyda to offer an amendment to make the funding mandatory (i.e. not subject to the appropriations process).
  • Geographic Preference language was not included in either Farm Bill, but will be offered as an amendment during the full committee meeting by Rep. Kagen.
  • The Healthy Food Enterprise Development was not included in either Farm Bill. We expect Rep. Gillibrand (D-NY, 20th) to offer it as an amendment.
  • The Farmers Market Promotion Program was authorized at $5 million in mandatory funding for each year of 2008-2010, and $10 million mandatory for 2011 and 2012, with greater than or equal to 10% of these funds to be used for EBT access at farmer's markets.
  • The Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program is maintained at $15 million in annual mandatory funding with an authorization for an additional discretionary $20 million in 2008 increasing annually to $75 million in 2012.
  • Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program is in Farm Bill 2 at $100 million in reserve funding (offset required).

Download the update (doc) to continue reading.


CFSC Farm Bill Update
July 2, 2007

Larger Farm Bill Issues Affect CFSC Priorities

I. Action Needed During July 4 Congressional Recess (July 2-5)

With Members of Congress in their home districts this week, it is an important time to contact your Member at a local event or at the district office, and request his or her support for maintaining the $30 million mandatory authorization of Community Food Projects, and the inclusion of geographic preference language in the final version of the Farm Bill.

This is an important moment to emphasize the value of our healthy and local food priorities for a cross-section of groups now interested in the Farm Bill- farmers, urban districts, rural communities, etc.; all this at fairly low cost legislative requests. As the Farm Bill process becomes increasingly complex, we must emphasize the value of policies to support healthy food systems to our legislators.

Talking points on CFSC main issues —for Community Food Projects, Geographic Preferences, and Healthy Food Enterprise Development program— is available here. Language in the recent Resolution from the U.S. Conference of Mayors and a letter from four governors to the Congressional Agriculture Leadership (see below) is supportive of these priorities, and can be used as a guide for conversations with Congressional offices as well as media outlets.

II. New Timeline; Two Farm Bills

Chairman Peterson announced last Friday, June 29, that there will be two Farm Bills drafted by the House Agriculture Committee to account for the lack of new funding included in the Budget. One bill will include all of the items that fit in to the existing Farm Bill budget, and the other will include other items that are contingent upon offsets being found. The Chairman has indicated that he hopes this will make the process of moving a bill out of Committee easier. For more information about the 2 Farm Bill proposals, download this week's Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Weekly Update. (pdf)

Both bills will be released by Chairman Peterson on Friday July 6th, and the committee will meet on July 17th to debate the proposals, with space reserved for the Farm Bill on the House floor the week of July 26th.

The Senate schedule has not been released, but it is expected that the Senate Agriculture Committee will likely meet in mid-late July to review their own draft of the Farm Bill.

III. Groups Weigh In on Farm Bill

Last week, the U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a resolution sponsored by 12 Mayors from around the U.S. which resolved their support for reforming U.S. agricultural policy in support of health and nutrition for citizens and communities. The text of the Resolution is available here. Several groups are working to capitalize on the momentum of the resolution via a press release and coordinated op-eds with quotes from Mayors around the country.

Additionally, a letter to the Congressional Agriculture leadership from the Governors of Texas, New York, Florida and California outlined similar goals for a reformed Farm Bill to support the health of communities and farming. Read the Press Release and the text of the letter.

A group of interested organizations and individuals has been working on bringing a health-based perspective to support healthy food & communities provisions in the Farm Bill. A series of calls during the past several weeks has helped to steer the IATP sign-on letter from health professionals that was released several weeks ago, and will be organizing a series of meetings with target Congressional staff next week. Please contact thomas [at] foodsecurity.org for more information or to get involved with this coordinating group.

Download the full update to continue reading. (pdf)

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CFSC Farm Bill Update, June 25, 2007
House Timeline Delayed: Action Needed Through July 4 Recess

I. CONTACT YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS to SUPPORT Community Food Projects

As of last week, the full Agriculture Committee in the House postponed addressing the Farm Bill until after Congress' week-long July 4th recess. During the recess, members of Congress will be in their home districts, and there may be opportunities for you to meet with them or their staff personally at events around the community.

**Please CONTACT your Members of Congress (House AND Senate: For contact info, call the Capitol Switchboard: 202.224.2131) to encourage their support for CONTINUED MANDATORY FUNDING for Community Food Projects and an increase of current funding levels to $30 million. Continue reading for further information on what to request of your Congressperson regarding CFP and Geographic Preferences. Your Congressperson NEEDS to hear from YOU**

II. Update on CFSC Priority Issues:

  • Community Food Projects (CFP): On June 14th, CFP was reauthorized at $30 million per year by the House Nutrition Subcommittee. CFSC expresses its thanks to the leadership of the Nutrition Subcommittee (Mr. Baca) and the Agriculture Committee (Mr. Peterson, Mr. Goodlatte) for including this in the version of the Nutrition Title being sent to the full Agriculture Committee. If you live in the district of Reps. Baca (CA-43rd), Peterson (MN-7th), or Goodlatte (VA-6th), please call their offices to thank them for funding CFP at $30 million and ask them to keep the funding mandatory (which means that we don't need to re-apply for funds each year of the 5 year Farm Bill). For all other Congressional Districts, please CALL your member of Congress and urge them to support continued mandatory funding for CFP at $30 million or more. Please see the attached CFP talking points for background information.
  • Geographic Preferences/Local Procurement: In order to ensure clarification of language in the 2002 Farm Bill to allow school food service directors to specify a geographic preference, CFSC continues to seek inclusion of this brief but important language in the House Agriculture Committee draft of the Farm Bill. This language is currently stuck in a jurisdictional disagreement between the Agriculture Committee and the Education & Labor Committee (Chair: George Miller, CA-7th). If your Congressperson is on the House Education & Labor Committee, (List of Committee members) please contact his/her office and urge him or her to encourage Chairman Miller to allow jurisdiction of the geographic preference issue for school nutrition purchases to fall under the Farm Bill. This issue needs to be resolved immediately and this language must be included in both the House and Senate Agriculture Committee bills.

III. Timeline Changes for Legislative Action on the Farm Bill

Although schedules frequently change in Congress, here is our latest information on the timeline for the Farm Bill:

  • Week of July 9: House: Full Agriculture Committee meets to continue negotiations
  • Week of July 9: Senate Full Agriculture Committee meets (very tentatively)
  • Week of July 23 or 30: Scheduled Farm Bill debate on the House floor

Download the full update to continue reading.

Davis-Rush Dear Colleague Letter in Support of Community Food Projects Reauthorization

Last week, Congressmen Artur Davis (AL) and Bobby Rush (IL) released their Dear Colleague letter to the leadership of the House Agriculture Committee specifically in support of reauthorization of Community Food Projects (CFP), signed by:

Artur Davis, Bobby Rush, John Conyers, Bennie Thompson, Carolyn Kilpatrick, Barbara Lee, Corrine Brown, William Lacy Clay, Alcee Hastings, Gwen Moore, Raul Grijalva, Peter DeFazio, Jim McDermott, Henry Waxman, Lynn Woolsey, Darlene Hooley, Robert Brady, Al Green, Jim Langevin, Howard L. Berman, Jan Schakowsky, John Lewis, Earl Blumenauer, Xavier Becerra, James Moran, Elijah Cummings, Yvette Clark, Donald Payne, Nancy Boyda, Ruben Hinojosa, & Steve Kagen.

Download the text of the letter to Chairman Peterson (pdf). Whether or not your Member of Congress signed on, it is important to bring her/his attention to the letter and encourage their continued support of the program (and to show appreciation of those who signed on.)


CFSC Farm Bill Update, June 18, 2007
House Nutrition Sub-Committee Draft Completed

Thank you for your interest in the Farm Bill and the efforts of the Community Food Security Coalition. This is our second in a weekly series of updates that contain a summary of relevant happenings around the country related to food security, local food, and the Farm Bill.

I. Sub-Committee Has Completed its Work on the Nutrition Title
Last Thursday the Nutrition Sub-Committee marked-up the Nutrition Title of the Farm Bill, including the following on CFSC priority issues:

  • Community Food Projects (CFP) were in the mark at $30 million. We will continue working on this to ensure that the money is mandatory as it moves through the full committee.
  • Geographic Preference/Local Procurement: The language that would clarify policy to allow schools to include a "geographic preference" in their bids for school foods, which would give schools flexibility to work with local farmers and pursue Farm to Cafeteria programs. This language was not in the mark because of a jurisdictional issue between the Agriculture Committee and Education & Labor Committee. An amendment was prepared but not introduced because of this jurisdictional issue. We will continue to work with staff and members from both committees to insure this can be introduced as an amendment in full committee.
  • The Healthy Food Enterprise Development Program (HFED), which would provide funding for local food infrastructure, was not in the mark, nor does it have a firm champion yet. We are working with a number of members to see if this can be introduced as an amendment at full committee. Northeast Midwest Institute has been doing much of the advocacy for this new program.
  • We have not asked anyone to offer an amendment funding Farm to Cafeteria in the Farm Bill at this point.
  • The Direct to Consumer Marketing Assistance Program (formerly the Farmers' Market Promotion Program) has a number of members ready to offer an amendment at full committee, which would include a percentage of the funding for EBT at farmers' markets. The Sustainable Agriculture Coalition does the majority of the advocacy for this program.

II. Timeline for Legislative Action on the Farm Bill
Although schedules frequently change in Congress, here is our latest information on the timeline for the Farm Bill:

  • June 26-28: House: Full Agriculture Committee meets to continue negotiations
  • Week of July 9: Senate Full Agriculture Committee meets (very tentatively)
  • Week of July 23: Scheduled Farm Bill debate on the House Floor

Download the full update to continue reading. (doc)


CFSC Farm Bill Update, June 11, 2007
Call Congress Today to Influence the Farm Bill!

Thank you for your interest in the Farm Bill and the efforts of the Community Food Security Coalition. In an effort to keep you informed, this update is the first of many and will contain a summary of relevant happenings around the country related to food security, local food, and the Farm Bill.

I. Action on the House Agriculture Committee
The House Agriculture Committee has begun to lay out the “mark”, or first draft, of the Farm Bill. This week, the subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Risk Management is expected to meet on Thursday, June 14. Most of the issues that CFSC has advocated for in the Farm Bill are within the jurisdiction of this subcommittee, including the Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program (CFP) and the clarifying language to allow schools to give a preference for locally grown food. We anticipate amendments to be offered on both these issues at this hearing.

II. Farm Bill Timeline
Farm Bill Schedule is Tight; Act NOW! Although schedules frequently change in Congress, here is our latest information on the timeline for the Farm Bill:

  • June 14: Nutrition subcommittee meets
  • June 26-28: Full Agriculture Committee meets to continue negotiations
  • Week of July 23: Scheduled debate on the House Floor

III. Your legislators need to hear from you!
Please call your Representative today and tell them to support increased funding for CFP, language that strengthens the ability of schools to purchase from local farmers, the Healthy Food Enterprise Development Program, and urban agriculture. These provisions are all outlined in detail in HR 2364. It'’s important for your Representative to hear from you about these programs to support access to healthy food and strengthen local food systems, whether they’re on the Agriculture Committee or not. To contact your legislator, call the Congressional Switchboard at 202.224.3121.

Download the full update to continue reading. (doc)

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May 2007 Farm Bill Update

This has been a very busy time for CFSC! Two bills were introduced in May that CFSC is endorsing, one by Rep. Blumenauer and one by Sens. Clinton and Brown. Emily Jackson from the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project testified on behalf of CFSC in front of the full Senate Agriculture Committee. Sen. Kohl was joined by 17 other Senators in writing a letter to Secretary Johanns about allowing geographic preferences when bidding for school food.

Now is the time to contact your legislators and let them know your priorities for the Farm Bill! Please feel free to use any of the documents below to help you. You can also refer to the Healthy Food and Communities Initiative, CFSC's platform for the Farm Bill.


Lobby Day, March 19, 2007

On March 19th, 2007, Community Food Security Coalition is organizing a Lobby Day for those people at the conference in Baltimore who would like to meet with their legislators. In order to have a successful, efficient day, CFSC policy staff are organizing the Lobby Day in the manner outlined below. Please note that even if you work for a non-profit, you can still meet with your legislators! Most non-profits are allowed by law to do a small amount of lobbying, and even if your organization does not allow lobbying on behalf of the organization, every citizen has the right to lobby their legislator on his or her own behalf. Also, not every meeting with legislators is considered “lobbying”, some meetings are considered purely educational. In order to help make your visits as successful and informed as possible, CFSC has put together a toolkit of helpful information for you to look over before March 19th and to use on your visits with legislators and staff.

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CFSC Endorses Rural Opportunities Act of 2007

February 12, 2007
Read the press release. (doc)


Farm and Food Policy Project (FFPP)

The FFPP believes that all the major sections of the Farm Bill - commodity, nutrition, rural development, credit, conservation, research, and energy - hold significant opportunities for crafting more cost-effective and higher-impact policies that can increase farm profitability and improve the health of individuals, communities, and the environment. Organizations are invited to review and sign-on to a Declaration on directional change needed to restore balance to farm and food policy. Read the FFPP Declaration. (pdf)

The Farm and Food Policy Project will still be soliciting endorsements for this declaration over the next several months. If your organization would like to support or learn more about the Farm and Food Policy Project, please contact Steph Larsen at 202-543-8602.

Read the Press release:
Community Food Security Coalition Joins over 350 Organizations in Calling for Farm Bill Reform (doc)


CFSC Legislative Priorities for the 2007 Farm Bill

The Farm Bill, set to be rewritten in 2007, is an opportunity for CFSC to advocate for some of its top policy priorities. In addition to our work with the Farm and Food Policy Project, CFSC has a legislative agenda on issues on which the organization will take a direct lead. Read these priorities (doc), which the CFSC Board of Directors approved in December of 2006.

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