Cross-posted from American Farm Land Trust
By Jeremy Peters
Senate Passes Farm Bill
This week, the United States Senate passed the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013. The bipartisan vote was 66-27, with 18 Republicans joining the Democrats in the majority. American Farmland Trust praised the Senate for passing the bill which includes reattaching conservation compliance with crop insurance premium assistance.
House Farm Bill Consideration
Attention now focuses on the House of Representatives, which will begin floor consideration of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 next week. American Farmland Trust joined with a group of over 190 organizations calling for the House to pass a comprehensive 5-year farm bill.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, made news by announcing he would vote for the farm bill to be able to “make sure the good work of the Agriculture Committee gets to a conference.” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said today he “looks forward to a full debate on the floor.” The Majority Leader has included the farm bill on the legislative calendar for next week, with floor consideration beginning on Tuesday, June 18.
Exactly how the bill will be considered on House floor for debate and the number of amendments that might be considered is still unknown. The House Rules Committee is expected to meet early next week to determine how the House will proceed with debate on the bill. The committee has set a 2PM amendment deadline for Monday, June 17.
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Action Alert from Public Health Institute
The full Senate passed a Farm Bill this week; read our statement.
Now, all eyes are on the US House of Representatives, where the threats to our nutrition programs are even greater. The House bill already cuts nationwide SNAP benefit levels by $21 billion, and SNAP-Ed by $274 million—and we’re expecting amendments that will try to make those already devastating cuts even deeper.
Call your representative and tell them America’s hungriest people are depending on full funding for our nutrition programs.
When SNAP-Ed’s Harvest of the Month program showed up in Chico, California elementary school classrooms with fresh fruits and vegetables, some students didn’t even recognize the foods they saw. But just learning about and tasting new fruits and veggies was enough to make a remarkable change: these students ate twice as many vegetables as kids who weren’t in the program.
Here’s a picture from one of those kids, showing the foods they ate:
For talking points and sample tweets, read the full action alert from Public Health Institute.
Cross posted from National Sustainable Agriculture
On Monday evening, June 10, the Senate passed its version of the 2013 Farm Bill by a vote of 66-27. The bill passed with strong bipartisan support, and only two Democrats (both of the Senators from Rhode Island) voted with 25 Republicans in opposition to the bill. Due in part to bad weather in the DC area, a number of lawmakers had their travel delayed and missed the vote.
The vote on final passage came after Senators voted to limit debate on the bill at the end of last week. Apart from final passage, the only other vote taken on the farm bill on Monday was on an amendment sponsored by Senator Leahy (D-VT) to improve rural broadband. The limited nature of the debate meant that the Senate did not consider a number of sustainable agriculture amendments.
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By Oregon Public Health Institute
The demand for increased safety of the U.S. food supply has taken a prominent role in the public dialogue over the past few years. Fruits and vegetables, while necessary for a balanced diet, have been linked to serious foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States. In response, both the food industry and the federal government have sought on-farm food safety safeguards to be implemented by fruit and vegetable growers. While growers are keen to respond to market demand for safer food, there are inherent costs they must incur to do so.
This study by the Oregon Public Health Institute investigates the cost of food safety measures among a sample of small and medium sized Oregon growers participating in the United States Department of Agriculture’s Good Agricultural Practices & Good Handling Practices Audit Verification Program (USDA GAP&GHP). Cost data are also collected from other growers for comparison. With the recent passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act, and the proposed Produce Safety Rule, GAP&GHP growers may have an advantage over growers with lower capital resources in their ability to respond to federal food safety regulations.
Download the report.
Last spring the National Network of Public Health Institutes (NNPHI), with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), selected seven nonprofit organizations to conduct policy research and analysis projects at the intersection of food systems and health. Each organization examined issues of healthy nutrition in a broader perspective of agriculture and food systems.
Click here for more research and analysis at the intersection of health and agriculture.
While nutrition groups across the country are trying to make fruits and vegetables more affordable, appealing, and widely available, farmers – like all business owners – are trying to make a living. These efforts have a lot in common, but they’re not always coordinated. Making it easier for consumers to access fruits and vegetables in their neighborhoods can improve residents’ health, especially in communities with limited options for buying fresh food. It also builds economic opportunities for farmers and rural communities by providing new markets for crops.
Learn more about the challenges that farmers and the health community face in building supply and demand for fruits and vegetables. Understanding these challenges is the first step toward working together.
Finding Common Ground is a series of Healthy Farms Healthy People issue briefs, authored by Coalition Steering Committee Member Organization ChangeLab Solutions, bringing agriculture and health stakeholders together, to build a stronger base of support for a healthy, economically viable food and farming system in the United States.
Cross-posted from the Public Health Institute
STATEMENT FROM MATTHEW MARSOM, VICE PRESIDENT, PUBLIC HEALTH POLICY & ADVOCACY
“Today, the U.S. Senate passed the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act (S. 954), commonly known as the farm bill, by a bipartisan vote of 66-27. The Public Health Institute (PHI) congratulates Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Cochran (R-MS) for their leadership to advance this legislation in a bipartisan fashion.
“The Senate farm bill adopts important policy and program improvements that promote healthy eating for all Americans. The Senate wisely rejected deeper cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and will continue to fully fund SNAP-Ed, a vital nutrition education program that promotes healthy options for low-income children and families receiving SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps. This bill also provides important support for fruit and vegetable growers, promotes local agriculture, creates jobs and provides new opportunities to increase low-income families’ access to nutritious foods.
“PHI is disappointed that the Senate bill contains $4.1 billion in cuts that would reduce monthly nutrition benefits for 500,000 SNAP families by an average of $90 a month. These cuts are significant and will put these working families under additional hardship and at nutritional risk.
“As the farm bill moves to the House of Representatives, PHI urges members to reject the deep $20.5 billion in proposed cuts to the nutrition programs that would compromise the health and well-being of vulnerable children and families who are struggling to make ends meet, and to restore funding for SNAP benefits and SNAP nutrition education.
“PHI will continue to work with Congress and our partners in public health, nutrition, hunger and agriculture communities to protect SNAP and SNAP-Ed as the farm bill advances.”
Cross posted from American Farmland Trust
By Jeremy Peters
Final Senate Farm Bill Vote on Monday
The 2013 Farm Bill cleared yet another major hurdle on Thursday with the U.S. Senate voting 75-22 to invoke cloture, a procedure that limits debate and firmly establishes a timeline for a final vote.
Immediately after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that on Monday, June 10 one amendment #998 by Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to establish a gigabit internet pilot program in rural areas, would be considered before a vote on final passage. American Farmland Trust and over 120 other agriculture, conservation and nutrition groups led a push to urge the Senate to approve the cloture vote.
Conservation Compliance Amendment in House
Final passage of the farm bill in the Senate will shift attention to the House of Representatives, where floor consideration is expected to begin the week of June 17. In preparation for the House floor debate, Representatives Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., this week introduced H.R. 2260,The Crop Insurance Accountability Act of 2013. Virtually identical to a measure included in the Senate farm bill, H.R. 2260 would re-link conservation compliance requirements with crop insurance premium assistance. American Farmland Trust praised the bill, calling it both good for farmers and good for the environment.
Guest Blog by Lara Bryant, Agriculture Program Coordinator, National Wildlife Federation
In May, the House and Senate Agriculture committees each approved their own version of the farm bill, with some similarities (each bill maintained similar levels of funding for conservation programs) and some big differences (the House Bill cuts food stamps by $20.5 billion, compared to $4 billion in cuts from the Senate). Each body of Congress must vote on final versions before working out the differences in a final 2013 Farm Bill. In the meantime, citizens, NGOs, and agricultural groups have an opportunity to weigh in on the strengths and weaknesses in each bill.
One of the greatest differences between the two versions is that the Senate bill links conservation compliance requirements to crop insurance premium subsidies and the House bill does not. Today, Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) introduced The Crop Insurance Accountability Act, which would correct the flaw in the House version of the Farm Bill. Here’s how this difference in the two farm bills could impact public health and why it is critical that this little known provision be included in the final Farm Bill.
- Conservation compliance is a key farm bill provision that reduces soil erosion and prevents wetlands from being drained. This provision states that producers who receive certain farm bill subsidies can’t drain wetlands or farm vulnerable land without following a conservation plan. Conservation compliance has been around since 1985, and is already required for farmers who receive certain farm bill subsidies or participate in conservation programs.
- Wetlands improve water quality, while soil erosion is detrimental to soil, water, and air quality. Poor water quality resulting from agricultural runoff has been linked to toxic algal blooms, high nitrates in water, and pesticides in ground water. Dust storms resulting from wind erosion have been known to cause traffic accidents, but they can also cause eye infections, asthma and other respiratory problems. During the Dust Bowl, dust storms led to aggravated illnesses that were quite severe, often resulting in death. Wetlands, on the other hand, serve as a natural filter for nutrients and other toxins, and also alleviate flood damage.With all certainty, it is in the public’s best interest to protect wetlands and prevent soil erosion.
- Conservation compliance isn’t currently required for crop insurance premiums, but it should be. Conservation compliance is required for most farm bill subsidies, but many of those will be eliminated or reduced in the 2013 Farm Bill. If conservation compliance is not connected crop insurance subsidies, millions of acres of wetlands and highly-erodible land that were previously protected under conservation compliance will now be at risk. Meanwhile, crop insurance will become the main thread of the financial safety net for producers. Taxpayers pay, on average, 60% of each individual crop insurance premium. Yet, no conservation measures are required in return. Research shows that many producers believe conservation compliance is a good idea. However, those who do not wish to be subject to conservation compliance may still choose to forego taxpayer-funded subsidies.
In short, conservation compliance is a commonsense provision that protects the public good, as well as future productivity of the farm. Lost soil will result in unproductive farms in the long run, threatening food security and farm incomes. Our nation’s wetlands are already rapidly disappearing; it doesn’t make sense to subsidize further wetland drainage when the cost of rebuilding them or finding other ways to prevent flood damage and improve water quality is so great.
NWF asks you to please consider contacting your representatives in Congress and ask them to support The Crop Insurance Accountability Act.
Action Alert from Community Food and Justice Coalition
Raise your Voice on the Senate Floor
The Community Food and Justice Coalition (CFJC) supports the work of our partners on the ground in the districts, as well as those in Washington DC to push for a fair, comprehensive Farm Bill as Congress continues through the most unpredictable reauthorization process to date.
Senators have put together over 150 amendments for the Farm Bill, 13 of which have been brought to the floor for action. The Senate has gone to recess for the week, which means they are in their districts. Now is a critical time for you to help prepare your Senators for their votes next week, and speak on behalf of yourself and your community.
CFJC prioritizes amendments that support equitable programs highlighted in The Rural Equity and Access Act of 2013, a marker bill put together by GOAT Participants and spearheaded by close partner the Rural Coalition.
CFJC urges you, our membership, to call your Senators and take a stand on the following amendments:
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