After a full-day marathon markup that started on Wednesday morning and went into the early hours of Thursday, the House Agriculture Committee passed its version of the 2012 Farm Bill by a vote of 35-11. Seven Democrats and four Republicans voted against the bill. The Republicans who voted against the bill did so based on commodity program disagreements and fiscal concerns, while the Democrats in opposition did so because of the deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.
Overall, Wednesday’s markup yielded some notable improvements to the bill for sustainable agriculture, but some big losses as well. Ahead of the markup, almost 100 amendments were filed and throughout the day, more were added.
One highlight was the bipartisan adoption of an amendment offered by Central Illinois’s own Representative Tim Johnson that authorizes $5 million per year in mandatory spending from the Community Food Projects program to be used for SNAP Farmers Markets Incentive programs like the Link-Up Illinois Double Value coupon program. Representative Johnson championed and insisted that this amendment be considered over the objections of his own party leadership. Representative Johnson deserves a big thanks!
Continue reading to learn more about the sustainable agriculture amendments that passed, those that failed, and other notable outcomes from Wednesday’s markup. (Once again, thanks to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition for their leadership and for pulling all this wonderful information together.)
Sustainable Agriculture Amendments that Passed
Local and Regional Food — Most notably, a bipartisan amendment offered by Representatives Pingree (D-ME), Ellmers (R-NC), and Gibson (R-NY) to enhance farm to school procurement passed by a voice vote. The amendment will give more control to states and local communities by authorizing schools with low annual commodity entitlement (often small rural schools) to start making their own food purchases. The amendment also creates demonstration projects in at least 10 schools to test farm to school procurement models as alternatives to national USDA commodity food distribution.
A few other amendments making improvements for local food production also passed by voice votes. Representative Fortenberry (R-NE) offered an amendment to make fixes to the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program to create program priorities for aiding small and mid-scale farms, helping underserved areas, and improving USDA’s ability to implement the program.
Representative Pingree offered two additional amendments that were accepted. The first was her amendment to enable SNAP recipients to use benefits for purchases of Community Supported Agriculture shares. The second would require USDA to make recommendations on steps that need to be taken to better serve small and very small meat and poultry processing facilities and to improve user access to information on the meat and poultry label approval process.
Representative Pingree withdrew an amendment to remove the cap and make improvements to the Business and Industry Loan Program (B&I) for local and regional enterprise loan guarantees in the draft bill, with the understanding that she could work with Committee leadership to craft an amendment that might have the Chair’s backing before the next step in the farm bill process.
All of the above amendments stemmed from language originally introduced as the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act by Representative Pingree and many others.
There were a couple more local food amendments that passed by a voice vote. The first was an amendment by Representative Sewell (D-AL) that requires USDA to conduct a study on increasing specialty crop production by small, women, minority, and socially disadvantaged farmers. The second was one by Representative Johnson (R-IL) allowing Community Food Grants to be used for programs to incentivize farmers’ market use by SNAP recipients.
Beginning Farmers — While the major beginning farmer funding amendment was withdrawn (see below), a number of other amendments passed that improved certain beginning farmer provisions. An amendment offered by Representatives Fudge (D-OH) and Fortenberry (R-NE) to authorize microloans for beginning, young, and small farmers, as well as a community based intermediary micro farm lending program, passed by a voice vote. Representatives Boswell (D-IA) and Gibson (R-NY) successfully passed by a voice vote an amendment to authorize a military veterans liaison at USDA.
Representatives Fortenberry and Walz (D-MN) offered an amendment to restore important provisions to the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and its authorization for appropriations; this amendment also passed by a voice vote. Ahead of that vote, Ranking Member Peterson (D-MN) and Chairman Lucas (R-OK) engaged in a colloquy deciding that a provision in the bill establishing new very high matching grant requirements for this program and many other applied research and extension programs will be revisited prior to the next steps in the farm bill process.
All of these beginning farmer and veteran issues were part of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act introduced last year by Representatives Walz and Fortenberry.
Organic — The only successful amendment on organic agriculture was one by Representative Welch (D-VT) to make improvements to organic crop insurance by extending the language from the 2008 Farm Bill on organic price elections and the premium surcharge. The amendment passed by a voice vote.
Sustainable Agriculture Amendments that Failed
A bipartisan amendment offered by Representatives Walz, Noem (R-SD), and Fortenberry to authorize a national Sodsaver provision to protect native grasslands and reinvest $35 million of the $66 million in savings into the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program was withdrawn and not voted on. The deciding factor on whether or not to move ahead was Chairman Lucas’ (R-OK) vehement opposition (despite his earlier statements of support), on behalf of landowners in Oklahoma and Texas, to a national Sodsaver provision. The underlying bill limits Sodsaver to the Prairie Pothole Region of the Great Plains, greatly limiting the effectiveness of the provision. While speaking in support of the amendment, Representative Walz reminded his colleagues that the amendment had support from “greens, guns, and God,” making reference to the broad support for a national Sodsaver provision by conservation, hunting, and religious groups. Representatives Lucas and Conaway (R-TX) argued unashamedly that receiving taxpayer subsidies for insurance premiums for plowing up virgin grassland is not an ill-advised federal subsidy but rather a property right of landowners in their respective states that should not be violated.
Along with farm groups from across the country, NSAC strongly opposed an amendment offered by Representatives Conaway (R-TX) and Costa (D-CA) to repeal the GIPSA livestock and poultry producer fair competition rules. The amendment repeals livestock and poultry farmer protections included in the 2008 Farm Bill. It also undoes the current broadly supported compromise that was agreed to in the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations conference agreement to allow parts of the rule to become final, after broader proposed GIPSA rules were blocked. The incredibly misguided amendment passed by a voice vote after its sponsors falsely claimed the final rules already issued by USDA went beyond what Congress dictated to USDA in the 2008 Farm Bill.
Representative Fortenberry offered and withdrew an amendment that would have placed reasonable limits on commodity payments and would have closed eligibility loopholes in commodity programs to make sure that payments go to farmers instead of absentee landowners or private investors. The Congressman promised his colleagues that he would return with the same amendment when the bill is debated on the House floor. The amendment is expected to fare much better on the floor, where mega farms that abuse the system may have fewer protectors than in Committee.
This was the only amendment offered that would have brought any real reform to the farm safety net proposed in the House’s draft bill. It is a shame that the same level of scrutiny and debate applied to alleged SNAP fraud and abuse during Committee markup did not apply to commodity programs where abuse is built into the very structure of the program as established by Congress and administered by USDA.
Representatives McIntyre (D-NC) and Walz attempted to improve the new Whole Farm Diversified revenue insurance product in the underlying bill to cover farms with liabilities of up to $1.5 million, the same figure as included in the Senate-passed farm bill and $500,000 higher than the House level. That amendment was defeated 19-25.
Representative Sewell (D-AL) tried to create a priority for strategic regional rural economic development projects with rural development grant and loan programs, but the amendment was defeated 18-26.
To everyone’s surprise, Representative Costa (D-CA) offered last-minute an amendment to restore funding for the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program, which the draft bill repeals. The amendment was pushed to a vote, and it failed 17-27. There is ideological opposition to the program by select Members on the Committee, despite broader support. Because the amendment was unexpected, we do not count this as a true representation of the level of support for the program by the Committee.
Other Notable Outcomes of Markup
Markup began with debate on Title I, the commodity title, and two amendments were the focus of that debate. One was on dairy and another on sugar. The dairy amendment was offered by Representatives Goodlatte (R-VA) and David Scott (D-GA), and would have removed supply management provisions from the proposed new dairy program. It failed, 17-29. The sugar amendment, also offered by Representative Goodlatte, would have removed the key provisions in the sugar program. It failed, 10-36.
Debate on the Nutrition Title consumed the majority of the attention of Committee Members and lasted for several hours. Despite the hours of debate, no changes were made to the overall cuts proposed in the draft bill. Representative McGovern’s (D-MA) amendment to restore the cuts failed, 31-15. Representative Schrader (D-OR) offered another amendment to replace the Nutrition Title from the draft bill with that in the Senate-passed farm bill (which would have reduced the overall cut to $4.5 billion); that amendment also failed. Efforts to make deeper cuts to SNAP, by Representative Huelskamp (R-KS), Representative Roby (R-AL), and others, also failed.
The committee moved quickly through debate on the Conservation Title. The only amendment offered was by Rep. Costa (D-CA) to designate a portion of Environmental Quality Incentives Program Conservation Innovation Grants for air quality in California and several other states — failed to pass on an 18-26 vote.
On July 5, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Peterson (D-MN) released their draft farm bill ahead of the House Agriculture Committee’s farm bill markup scheduled to begin Wednesday, July 11. The bill generates $35 billion in savings by cutting over $16 billion from nutrition programs, mainly SNAP (food stamps) and more than $6 billion from conservation programs, while increasing crop insurance subsidies and decreasing commodity subsidies for a net farm safety subsidy savings of over $14 billion.
Overall, the bill is in many ways a step backwards when it comes to reforming the nation’s food and agriculture system, especially when it is compared to the Senate passed 2012 Farm Bill. The House Bill takes several steps backwards when it comes to commodity subsidy reform, deeply cuts conservation programs and short changes the needs of beginning farmers and rural development.
A number of amendments to correct some of the glaring shortfalls in the House Agriculture Committee’s draft farm bill are expected to be offered. Stay tuned for more information and action alerts.
The path forward beyond the House Agriculture Committee’s “mark-up” of their version of the 2012 Farm Bill is very uncertain at this time. House GOP leadership has shown little to no interest in seeing the 2012 Farm Bill come up for a full floor vote, motivated by electoral political calculations they are holding their finger on the pause button. In addition, there are real concerns about whether a bi-partisan coalition of support can be forged while surviving the amendment process on the House floor.
Specific details and analysis on the content of the bill can be found below, organized by the following categories (a special thanks to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition's staff for pulling all this wonderful information together):
- Commodities and Risk Management
- Conservation and Energy
- Local Food and Rural Development
- Organic Agriculture
- Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers
- Research, Education, and Extension
- Environmental Regulations
Commodities and Risk Management
The draft House bill, like the Senate-passed bill, would eliminate commodity title direct payments made every year without regard to farm prices, revenue, or income. Beyond that basic long overdue change, the draft House bill contains very little in the way of reform.
Rather than the per farm commodity subsidy payment cap of $50,000 ($100,000 for married couples) in the Senate bill, and in even sharper contrast to the existing $40,000 cap ($80,000 married) on direct payments, the House proposal jumps all the way to $125,000 ($250,000 for married couples), an incredibly high limitation with no historical precedent.
The House proposal also leaves current law loopholes in place that allow mega farms and wealthy non-farm investors to blow right past those nominal limits and collect many multiples of the payment cap. The Senate bill in reform-minded contrast closes the loopholes.
The Senate bill does a very poor job of limiting per farm insurance premium subsidies, but at least includes a provision added during floor debate that reduces the subsidy rate for wealthy farmers and investors with very high adjusted incomes. The draft House bill does not include even that very modest reform. The House proposal also does not link receipt of crop insurance subsidies to protection of soil and wetlands, a provision also included in the Senate farm bill via a floor amendment.
The House bill would provide commodity producers with two basic options, a shallow loss revenue protection option similar, though less lucrative, than that offered by the Senate bill; and a more traditional price-based counter cyclical type payment, triggered whenever commodity prices fall below high price triggers established in the House bill. Some of the House changes to the shallow loss revenue option would be fiscally-prudent improvements to the Senate-passed version, but the additional price-based option moves in exactly the opposite direction. The fiscal overhang of both the House and Senate bills is large – if commodity prices were to tumble sometime in the next decade, the purported savings in both bills could completely disappear.
Conservation and Energy
The bill cuts the Conservation Title funding by roughly $6.06 billion. While this is somewhat less than the $6.37 billion cut contained in the Senate-passed bill, the cut to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is increased by more than $1.1 billion, or 6 percent, over the Senate level. The Senate bill reduces funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and CSP by close to the same amount – roughly 10 percent. The draft House bill does not cut EQIP, and therefore doubles down on the CSP cut, proposing to limit CSP enrollment to 9 million acres a year rather than the Senate’s 10.3 million acres a year, or the current 12.8 million acres a year. This is a 30 percent reduction in CSP acreage per year, for a program that even at today’s level can only enroll 50 percent of the farmers and ranchers who apply each year.
Adding insult to injury, the draft House proposal would also increase the EQIP payment limitation by 150% percent to $450,000, at the behest of the CAFO industrial dairy and livestock sector. So while funding for EQIP would be higher under the House bill than the Senate, the money available for most farmers could be about the same as large factory farms walk away with even more of the total funding. Meanwhile, like its Senate counterpart, the House proposal would limit organic farmers, and only organic farmers, to $80,000.
The Senate bill funds renewable energy programs at $800 million, the result of a widely supported amendment passed during Senate Committee markup. The draft House bill, in contrast, provides no funding for the energy title.
Local Food and Rural Development
Nearly all of the existing local food programs in the Nutrition and Horticulture Titles remain intact and are similarly funded relative to the Senate bill. The draft House bill adds a pilot program for fresh fruits and vegetable procurement at schools that is not in the Senate bill, though it does not include the local food study for crucial data collection that is part of the Senate bill. Community Food Grant funding is doubled in the House proposal to $10 million, versus $5 million in the Senate bill and current funding. However, the House bill does not provide any funding for a new incentive program for SNAP recipients to shop at farmers markets that is included in the Senate bill.
Within the rural development programs, the House bill does not include a single local and regional food provision of the many recommended in the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act. On the funding side of rural development, there is only $50 million total in mandatory funding for the whole Title (all for Value-Added Producer Grants) versus $115 million (including $50 million for VAPG) in the Senate bill. No funding is provided in the draft House proposal for the innovative, job-creating Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program or to reduce the backlog in water and sewer grants to very small rural communities.
The House draft bill also includes several other highlights, including $70 million per year in mandatory funding for the Specialty crop Block Grant program and a new EBT pilot program for developing technology to accept SNAP benefits using smartphone technology. Finally, while it doesn’t repeal the program outright it does not reauthorize the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA).
Overall, the House bill is a mixed bag for organic agriculture. In a clear attack on the organic sector, the bill defunds and repeals the National Organic Certification Cost Share program. As mentioned above, the House proposal also fails to reform the EQIP Organic Initiative. On the other hand, the bill does match the Senate in renewing funding for organic research at a reduction from current levels and does provide renewed funding for the Organic Production and Market Data Initiative. The bill does not address any of the barriers that organic farmers face when trying to access crop insurance.
The House version also contains some un-savory provisions related to genetically engineering crop that are bound to create additional heartach for organic farms and sustainable agriculture by amending the Plant Protection Act to weaken the review process for biotechnology product petitions seeking “non-regulated” status with USDA. This greatly limits the scope of the environmental assessment of a petition. And requires USDA to submit a report to Congress on actions to reduce the red tape on biotechnology development, examine exemptions for biotech products from regulation, and develop a national policy for low-level presence of biotech material in crops.
Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers
Beginning farmers fared relatively well in the House draft bill, however, the biggest disappointment by far is the dramatic 50 percent cut in funding for USDA’s only beginning farmer training program. Several provisions from the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act were included in the draft bill, including policy changes in the credit and conservation titles. Funding for programs aimed at socially disadvantaged farmers was higher than levels provided in the Senate, although still represents a 50 percent cut in annual funding.
Research, Education, and Extension
The House-passed bill maintains funding for several important research programs related to specialty crops and organic agriculture, similar to levels that were included in the Senate-passed bill. However, the bill falls short in providing adequate resources to beginning farmers, local food, and other sustainable agriculture priorities, including developing public cultivars to ensure farmers have access to diverse seeds and breeds. The House proposal would repeal a research authorization to investigate antibiotic resistance, a truly short-sighted bury-your-head-in-the-sand repeal to address a major public health challenge. The research title also imposes several potentially harmful requirements, including a new across the board 1 to 1 matching funds requirement for competitive grants program for applied research and extension.
Moving far beyond the normal confines of a farm bill, the House proposal also ventures into biotechnology, Clean Water Act, and pesticide registration. The draft bill would amend the Plant Protection Act to weaken the review process for biotechnology product petitions seeking “non-regulated” status with USDA. It would attempt to reverse a court decision re-affirming EPA’s authority to regulate pesticide pollution under the Clean Water Act. It would also stop EPA from basing modifying pesticide registrations on the opinions of the National Marine Fisheries Services or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Senate bill steered clear of extraneous anti-environmental regulatory provisions that will be poison pills to getting a farm bill done this year, but the House proposal decided nonetheless to go down that road.
The USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has extended its deadline for enrollments in the Conservation Stewardship Program to January 27. An earlier deadline of January 13 had been announced.
The Conservation Stewardship Program, or CSP, provides technical and financial assistance to qualified farmers; payments are based on current conservation practices and a commitment to do more conservation in future years.
"This is good news for farmers in Illinois." said Claudia Emken, conservation policy advocate at Illinois Stewardship Alliance. "This gives them more time to apply for CSP and receive funding for the good conservation work they are already doing; We encourage farmers to contact NRCS to learn more about the program."
Self screening is available on the NRCS website and will help determine if the farm under consideration is eligible.
Illinois has nearly 1,000 participants in CSP now, covering almost 600,000 acres. Conservation Stewardship Program contracts run for five years, and nationally pay an average of $18 per acre for cropland and pastureland and $4 per acre for privately owned forestland, although payments vary significantly depending on the level of conservation.
Farmers and private forestland owners can apply to the Conservation Stewardship Program anytime by going to their local NRCS office. To be considered for funding in this ranking period, applications must be submitted prior to January 27, 2012.
Originally posted by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
With the demise of the Super Committee and its deficit reduction bill that never happened, attention has now turned to crafting a new farm bill as a stand alone measure in 2012. This week Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said farm bill action will begin again with some hearings in late January or February, noting that the outline of the bill she and House Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) crafted for the Super Committee would serve as the foundation for a new 2012 Farm Bill.
The draft bill aimed at Super Committee consideration has not been released, nor has an accurate detailed summary of its contents. It appears that will remain the case. We summarized some of the key ingredients in the draft bill for our readers last week.
There continues to be speculation about the possibility of attaching a farm bill, either the draft 2011 Stabenow-Lucas measure or a variation on it, to a resuscitated government-wide deficit-reduction measure or as an offset to another spending or tax cut measure, as an alternative to proceeding to a stand alone farm bill under a more regular legislative process. The verdict for now is to head into the new year looking at a more normal farm bill process as the default setting but at the same time keeping options open as Congress grapples with larger spending, stimulus, tax, and deficit reduction measures.
Some policymakers have suggested starting all over next year from a clean slate. That seems highly unlikely. To the extent that sentiment is more than rhetoric, however, it appears to be aimed primarily at the commodity title of the bill, and there is little doubt that it was the most problematic aspect of the bill and will likely remain so. There may be some hope that a return to more regular order, with the prospect of the amendment process in committee and on the floor, will tamp down some of the wilder elements in the draft commodity title. For starters, perhaps, interest groups and Members will possibly think twice about provisions that would have distorted planting decisions and increased payment limits, knowing the difficulties they would face defending such propositions on the floor.
Another big area for changes, albeit one that has received little attention, are all the titles that were not at all fleshed out other than simple date-changing re-authorizations in the rush to complete a bill in time for Super Committee consideration. These include among others the credit, rural development, research, and trade titles. There are both funding issues and policy issues to be faced in all of these titles. Though they do not generally receive the same attention as the big money titles (nutrition, crop insurance, commodities, and conservation), there is major policy work to be done that by and large was not attended to in the hurry-up 2011 draft bill. Even in some of the big money titles there is more work to be done on the policy front than there was time for in 2011.
The new fiscal reality facing the 2012 Farm Bill is the automatic cuts to government spending that will trigger in January 2013 as a result of the Super Committee’s inaction. There continues to be lots of talk about possible ways sequestration, as the automatic cuts are know, might be un-triggered, either yet this year in some mega-negotiation over the remaining FY 2012 government funding bills and big ticket items like payroll tax cuts, alternative minimum tax rules, and Medicare payments to doctors, or next year as part of a new try at a deficit reduction deal. As of now, however, the betting line would still favor sequestration hitting in 2013.
If that betting line holds, any farm bill written next year will have to assume sequestration will in fact take effect. The biggest loser in that scenario is the crop insurance program, the largest of the farm subsidies. It is also one of the more perplexing items in the farm bill-sequestration interface. Crop insurance policy changes to meet the sequestration budget cut target will be determined by the Administration and will be formulated at the same time that the Agriculture Committees will be trying to write crop insurance provisions for the new farm bill. That dual and possibly conflicting process might in turn lead to some intriguing negotiations.
As we discussed in an earlier blog, there are many possible scenarios under which a farm bill gets finished next year and others in which it is not completed until 2013. It may be months yet before the ultimate path to the new farm bill becomes clear. Our position will remain to work for a new farm bill that addresses the pressing needs for programs and policies that promote a more sustainable farm and food system and to get that new bill completed on schedule in 2012.
The deadline for one of the most comprehensive conservation programs offered by the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has been set for January 13, 2012. The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) provides technical and financial assistance to qualified farmers; payments are based on current conservation practices and a commitment to do more conservation in future years. Applications for CSP that are submitted before January 13 will be considered for funding in this first ranking period which was announced last week by NRCS, .
"We are urging all farmers to consider enrolling in CSP," said Claudia Emken, conservation policy advocate at Illinois Stewardship Alliance. "Applying for the program now will put farmers in a position to receive funding for the good conservation work they are already doing and NRCS will help them decide what additional conservation work they can do to solve resource issues on their farm."
Self screening is available on the NRCS website and will help determine if the farm under consideration is eligible. "We encourage producers interested in learning more about CSP to contact their local NRCS office," said Ron Ziehm, NRCS Assistant State Conservationist for Area 1 (23 counties in Southern Illinois). "NRCS staff will help the producer complete a resource inventory for their farm that will identify existing and possible new conservation activities for their farm."
Illinois has nearly 1,000 participants in CSP now, covering almost 600,000 acres "As an organic farmer I enrolled in CSP to enhance field borders and improve nitrogen levels through cover crops. I encourage all farmers to look at CSP to enhance their operations," said Harold Wilken, a farmer from Danforth, who enrolled in CSP in 2010.
Conservation Stewardship Program contracts run for five years, and nationally pay an average of $18 per acre for cropland and pastureland and $4 per acre for privately owned forestland, although payments vary significantly depending on the level of conservation. Farmers and private forestland owners can apply to the Conservation Stewardship Program anytime by going to their local NRCS office. To be considered for funding in this ranking period, applications must be submitted prior to January 13, 2012.
Are your local farmers, farmers market, CSA and food coop important to you? Are you a farmer interested in having access to new and emerging direct market opportunities like farmers markets and restaurants? What about having fresh, local food for your child's school meals? Or how about selling your fresh fruits and vegetables to local institutions? We have a rare and important opportunity for you to support the continued growth of local food systems in Illinois.
In the coming days, we will be joining members of Congress and other farm and food groups in introducing the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act! This bill is what is called a "marker bill" and is intended to influence the writing of the federal farm bill (Hopefully we get a chance to do that!). More information below.
The goal of the bill is to advance the development of local and regional farm and food systems in the next farm bill -- from farm to table. Local food systems not only hold potential for connecting consumers with where their food comes from, but also for boosting farm income, stimulating job creation and economic development, and meeting public health and nutrition goals.
The bill will address the needs of consumers in accessing food from their local communities and the needs of farmers and ranchers producing for local and regional markets, including infrastructure and processing capabilities. While there are growing "relocalization" efforts and local food economies across the nation, policy reforms are needed to overcome barriers and more fully capitalize on the new farming opportunities, jobs, and economic growth this sector can deliver.
Ask your two Senators and your Representative to co-sponsor the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act! We need support from as many legislators as possible.
Don't know who your State Representative is or how to contact them?
You can look up your elected officials based on your home address by clicking here.
It's easy to call:
When you call a Senate or House office, ask for the staff member who works on agricultural issues. If the agriculture staffer isn't available, leave a message and have them call you back.
The Message is Simple:
I am a constituent, calling to urge Senator/Congress(wo)man __________ to co-sponsor the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act. This legislation is about to be introduced in the House and Senate. It will help boost farm income and meet consumer demand. It's a job creator and a cost-effective, smart investment. Can I count on Senator/Congress(wo)man_________ to be a co-sponsor?
If your Senator will co-sponsor or wants more information: Tell them to communicate with Senator Sherrod Brown's office.
If your Representative will co-sponsor or wants more information: Tell them to communicate with Representative Chellie Pingree's office.
The Federal Farm Bill & The Local Farms, Food & Jobs Act
The farm bill is a comprehensive omnibus bill that is written every 4-6 years. The farm bill is the single most influential piece of legislation when it comes to structuring the food and farm system in the U.S. The farm bill determines the size and structure of our subsidy programs, support for farmers markets and specialty crops, conservation agriculture policy, the size and structure of SNAP (formerly food stamps), support for rural development, support for organic agriculture and much more.
During the writing of the farm bill, coalitions and organizations often introduce what are called "marker bills," these are introduced as conversation pieces with goal of having the content of the "marker bill" be included in the farm bill. The more co-sponsors a "marker bill" has the more likely it will be included in the farm bill.
However, last week the Agriculture Committee leadership proposed to rewrite the food and farm bill in 2 weeks - yes you heard that right, 2 weeks - this is usually a year plus process and they want to do it in 2 weeks behind closed doors?! This would be the fastest food and farm bill decision-making process in history - 7 days from today - and will be decided without your input. Which is why the timing of the Local Farms, Food & Jobs Act being introduced now is critical.
The Local Farms, Food & Jobs Act is a comprehensive local and regional food systems "marker bill" that is being introduced by Representative Chellie Pingree and Senator Sherrod Brown.
The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act will improve federal farm bill programs that support local and regional farm and food systems. This legislation will help farmers and ranchers engaged in local and regional agriculture by addressing production, aggregation, processing, marketing, and distribution needs and will also assist consumers by improving access to healthy food and direct and retail markets. And of utmost importance, this legislation will provide more secure funding for critically important programs that support family farms, expand new farming opportunities, and invest in the local agriculture economy.
The Local Farms, Food & Jobs Act will:
Boost Income and Opportunities for Farmers and Ranchers
Improve Local and Regional Food System Infrastructure and Markets
Expand Access to Healthy Foods for Consumers
Enhance Agriculture Research and Extension
A factsheet outlining some of the provisions in the Local Farms, Food, & Jobs Act can be found here.
On April 6th, local foodies, farmers, and citizens from across the state will come together in Springfield to encourage their legislators to support local food and farms. Illinois Stewardship Alliance invites you to join us for our 2nd annual local food and farm lobby day in Springfield on April 6th, from 10a.m. - 3p.m. at the Pasfield House and IL State Capitol Complex in Springfield.
Local Food Awareness Day will consist of a legislative update, orientation, lobbying 101 training, and lunch at the Pasfield House. Following lunch we will descend upon the capitol to educate legislators about the importance of local food systems and advocate for positive policy solutions that promote and support local food systems in Illinois.
Cost: $15 (FREE for members) - includes lobbying training, orientation and lunch at the Pasfield House
*Additionally you may become a member now for $25 (1 year membership) which will allow you to attend lobby day for free.
Registration: To register for the 2011 Local Food Awareness Day @ the Captiol click here. Registration deadline is March 30th.
Payment can be made by sending a check to Illinois Stewrdship Alliance, 401 W. Jackson Parkway, Springfield IL, 62704 (Please make sure you register at the link above before sending a check) or by calling the ISA office at 217-528-1563 (ask for Dee). Or use paypal online by clicking here.
For more information contact ISA's Policy coordinator, Wes King at firstname.lastname@example.org
Are you interested and concerned about how state and federal policy affects the burgeoning local food movement in Illinois? Are you interested in becoming a voice for the local food movement and helping to shape the future of local food related public policy? If so please join us for the Illinois Stewardship Alliance’s (ISA) inaugural annual state policy meeting.
On December 13th, ISA’s Grassroots Policy Committee will be holding its inaugural annual state policy meeting to bring local farm and food stakeholders together to gather input on and discuss those issues facing Illinois’ small farmers and local food system stakeholders.
More information click here.
On June 3rd, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA published the final regulations governing the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, CSP is a voluntary program that offers payments to producers who exercise good land stewardship and want to improve their conservation performance.
Vilsack also announced that the enrollment period for CSP's second year, which is currently open, has been extended an additional two weeks, now closing June 25, 2010.
Administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), CSP is available to all producers regardless of operation size, crops produced, or geographic location. Eligible lands include cropland, pastureland, rangeland, non-industrial private forest land, and agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe. Under the final rule published today and effective immediately, the program retains the broad features outlined in the interim final rule, including:
- CSP pays participants for conservation performance – the higher the performance, the higher the payment.
- Producers get credit both for conservation measures they have already implemented and for new measures they agree to add.
- CSP is offered in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Pacific and Caribbean areas through continuous sign-up, with announced cut-off dates for ranking and funding applications.
The experience gained during the program's first year, and comments received from partners and the public during the 90-day public comment period, have contributed to a number of important changes in the program rules. The program's new features include the following:
- Higher payment rate for additional conservation performance. USDA is implementing a split payment structure, with one payment rate for existing conservation activities and a higher payment rate for new activities. This is expected to encourage producers to apply more new activities and thereby generate greater environmental benefits.
- Higher payment limit. The total contract limitation for joint operations is increased from $200,000 to $400,000, with annual payment limits increased from $40,000 to $80,000 to fairly compensate joint operations that produce environmental benefit levels needed to earn the payments.
- New minimum payment. To directly encourage participation by small-scale, historically underserved producers, the rule establishes a minimum payment of $1,000.
- Pastured cropland. "Pastured cropland" is added as a new designation with a higher payment than "pastureland" because of the greater income foregone by producers who maintain a grass-based livestock production system on land suitable for cropping.
- Enhancements. Some conservation enhancements work better when implemented as a system and under the new rule are offered as enhancement "bundles." Participants who implement such comprehensive bundles get higher rankings and higher payments.
- Resource-conserving crop rotation. In response to extensive public comment, the definition of "resource-conserving crop rotation" is revised to require the use of grass and/or legumes. Since resource-conserving crops receive supplemental payments under CSP, the rule change ensures that the crops provide a sufficient level of environmental benefit.
Other changes in the regulation give producers greater flexibility in establishing their eligibility to apply for CSP and in certifying their control of the land.
Potential applicants are encouraged to use the CSP self-screening checklist to determine whether CSP is suitable for their operation and apply prior to the closing date of June 25, 2010, when applications will be scored, ranked, and funded. The checklist, which highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, contract obligations, and payments, and additional information about CSP, may be obtained from the national CSP Web site ( www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/new_csp/csp.html) or individual state NRCS offices ( www.nrcs.usda.gov/about/organization/regions.html).
USDA published the CSP interim final rule on July 29, 2009, and solicited comment through October 28, 2009. Initially scheduled to end on September 28, 2009, the comment period was extended to encourage comments throughout the program's first enrollment period. NRCS received 1,534 comments and reviewed and considered each one. Responses to the comments are incorporated in the final rule released today. The final rule can be viewed at: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-12699.pdf
Vermillion County farm showcases benefits of the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
The Green family farm in Fithian, Illinois has been in production for almost 120 years. They manage 800 acres of no-till corn and soybeans, forests, prairies, and wetlands located in scenic Vermilion County and have been protecting their natural resources for generations. A Conservation Farm Tour will be held at 10 AM on June 2, 2010 to showcase Green’s operation and discuss CSP details with interested private landowners and producers.
Owner, Kevin Green has participated in conservation programs for many years. He manages his wildlife and wetlands through USDA’s Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). He also participates in the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Rural Forest Landowner Assistance Program that offers cost-share and assistance to manage forest land, and works with numerous other programs that assist with soil and water management activities on his operation.
According to Kevin Green, “Managing my natural resources is a top priority. I also serve on the local Soil and Water Conservation District board and I am the past chair of the local Pheasants Forever chapter.” With so many conservation practices in place on his farm, Kevin was happy when the NRCS’ Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) came out in 2009.
Devin Brown, Conservation Policy Advocate with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance says “CSP is designed for landowners who have a history of managing their soil and water resources with grassed waterways, filter strips, and hedgerows and who want to do even more.”
“Kevin is an extremely conservation-minded individual and a motivated producer. He has many valuable conservation practices in place on his land and participates in numerous conservation programs. CSP is a perfect fit for Kevin,” says Glen Franke, NRCS District Conservationist for Vermilion County.
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), administered by USDA NRCS, is a voluntary conservation program designed to encourage agricultural and forestry producers to adopt additional conservation practices and improve, maintain and manage existing ones. Eligible lands include cropland, grassland, prairie, improved pastureland, rangeland, non-industrial private forestland, and agricultural land.
Remarking on the benefits of CSP, Green said, “Using CSP has allowed me to develop new grassed waterways, windbreaks, and riparian field borders.”
NRCS, in cooperation with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, will sponsor a Conservation Farm Tour at the Green family farm on Wednesday, June 2, 2010 from 10:00 am until 1:00 pm. The tour will consist of:
- A tour Kevin Green’s beautiful farm, highlighting conservation practices
- A light lunch with refreshments
- A discussion of the Conservation Stewardship Program’s incentives, eligibility requirements, and conservation benefits
The Green Family Farm’s address is 17938 N 680 E Road, Fithian, IL 61844
Directions: from I-74, take exit 206 toward Oakwood. Turn right on Newton Rd for ½ mile. Turn left on 1800 North for 2 miles. Turn right on 680 East. Take the first driveway on the right.
According to Franke, “Many landowners in Vermilion County—and within our whole region--could benefit from CSP. Farmers who practice conservation tillage, have grassed waterways to control erosion where they are needed, filter strips to protect streams or other water bodies on their farms, and manage their nutrients should apply.”
The Conservation Stewardship Program is now available statewide through continuous enrollment with announced cut-off application dates for ranking periods. The next ranking cut-off for 2010 sign-up is June 11, 2010. To learn if CSP is right for your operation, join us at Kevin Green’s Farm, visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/new_csp/csp.html, or call your local NRCS office.
Illinois Stewardship Alliance is a statewide membership that promotes ecologically sustainable, economically viable, socially just local food systems through policy development, advocacy and education
NRCS: Helping People Help The Land. USDA NRCS is an equal opportunity employer and provider.
Meeting on Thursday, June 3 on the benefits of the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
Southern Illinois farmers, ranchers, and wood lot owners are invited to an informational meeting on Thursday, June 3 on the Conservation Stewardship Program. The meeting will be held at the City of Harrisburg, Pruett Building, 107 East Church Street in downtown Harrisburg from 11:00 to 1:00. Lunch and refreshments will be provided.
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), administered by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), is a voluntary conservation program designed to encourage agricultural and forestry producers to adopt additional conservation practices and improve, maintain and manage existing ones. Eligible lands include cropland, grassland, prairie, improved pastureland, rangeland, non-industrial private forestland, and agricultural land.
Producers who enroll and are accepted receive a 5 year CSP contract with a payment cap of $200,000. In 2009 Illinois had 175,298 acres enrolled in CSP, which totaled over $4 million in payments to farmers, ranchers, and forest owners. However, few Southern Illinois Counties showed much interest in the program.
“A lot of farms in Southern Illinois are diverse.” says Devin Brown, Conservation Policy Advocate with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance. “Many of these farms have some forest, some pasture, some crop land, and most already manage their land for erosion, water quality, and nutrients. Because CSP includes so many conservation practices and land uses, it could really work well for farmers down in this part of the state.”
“I manage my forests for health, productivity, and wildlife habitat.” says Josh Brown of Jackson County who received a 2009 CSP contract. “CSP payments help with the cost of invasive species control, timber stand improvement, and erosion control.”
“CSP encourages enhanced conservation, but also rewards landowners with a history of land stewardship.” says Troy Daniell, NRCS Assistant State Conservationist for Southern Illinois. “It promotes sustainable agricultural ecosystems by improving water quality, air quality, and energy conservation.”
Commenting on CSP sign-up, Robert Mount of Johnson County says “I have forest, crop land, and hay land enrolled in CSP. The sign-up went pretty smooth. As long as you keep good records, it is straight forward.”
The Conservation Stewardship Program is now available statewide through continuous enrollment with announced cut-off application dates for ranking periods. The next ranking cut-off for 2010 sign-up is June 11, 2010. To learn if CSP is right for your operation, come to the informational meeting June 3rd, visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/new_csp/csp.html, or call your local NRCS office.
Illinois Stewardship Alliance is a statewide membership that promotes ecologically sustainable, economically viable, socially just local food systems through policy development, advocacy and education
NRCS: Helping People Help The Land. USDA NRCS is an equal opportunity employer and provider.
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is a working lands conservation program that provides technical and financial assistance to farmers who practice soil and water conservation, promote wildlife habitat, encourage carbon sequestration, and conserve water and energy. Since CSP sign-up is nation-wide, it has the potential of enhancing water quality in every watershed within the US. CSP encourages active conservation of working lands, thereby keeping land in production while conserving natural resources.
In President Obama’s budget released February 1, 2010, over 769,000 acres will be permanently removed from CSP, which is the equivalent to nearly 14 million dollars that won’t go to farmers. It is up to our representatives to block this threat to conservation and ensure that the mandatory funding that was established by Congress remains intact.
The message is simple: Please thank Senator Durbin for his past support and ask him to protect the full funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) with no limitations placed on its funding as passed in the 2008 Farm Bill.
It’s easy to write or call. Below are Senator Durbin’s address, fax and phone numbers. Simple letters in your own words are best. (Faxing to Congress is more reliable than U.S. mail.) If you can’t write, please call and ask for his aide listed below. If she is unavailable, please leave messages on her voice mailbox with your key points, name and phone number.
The Honorable Dick Durbin
United States Senate
309 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-1304
Phone: (202) 224-2152
Fax: (202) 228-0400
Ask for Erin Collinson
• You live in Illinois. You seek full funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program as passed in the 2008 Farm Bill. CSP’s financial and technical assistance helps farmers and ranchers nationwide implement sound conservation systems that improve soil, water, and ecosystem health. The Farm Bill provides mandatory funding for CSP. It is crucial that funding authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill be fully protected!
• CSP rewards innovative and proactive stewardship practices, while keeping farmers and their land in production. Assistance applies to the full spectrum of working agricultural lands, from cropland to pasture to rangeland.
For more information on the Conservation Stewardship Program contact:
Conservation Policy Advocate
On February 23rd, 2010, at 6:30pm in the Carnegie Room of the Lincoln Library Main Branch in Springfield, Illinois Stewardship Alliance will be co-sponsoring with the Sierra Club Sangamon Valley Group a showing of the new short film Big River: A King Corn Companion.
Following the film Stacey James, Water Resource Scientist with Prairie Rivers Network will be on hand to discuss the impacts of agriculture run-off to water quality in Illinois.
Big River is a follow-up to the Peabody Award-winning documentary King Corn. King Corn told the story of two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that enabled a fast-food nation. Big River picks-up where King Corn left off. Big River investigates and explores the environmental impact that the one acre of corn from King Corn has on the people and places located downstream. Big River documents and explores the impact chemical-intensive agriculture has on the water quality from the heartland to the Gulf of Mexico.
Agribusiness… It’s in the Water
Is your Illinois-based organization interested in hosting a showing of Big River in your community? Contact Wes King, 217-528-1563, email@example.com.