Farm Policy Roundup

Cross-posted from American Farmland Trust  roundup

By Jeremy Peters

Support Conservation in the Farm Bill

Conference negotiations are ongoing to determine the fate of the 2013 Farm Bill, including big decisions regarding our nation’s conservation funding and policy. Throughout this process, American Farmland Trust continues to tirelessly work the halls of Congress supporting our key priorities.

American Farmland Trust President Andrew McElwaine recently published an opinion piece on conservation compliance which traces the roots of modern conservation back to the writings of the father of soil conservation Hugh Hammond Bennett and discusses why Congress needs to pass this important conservation policy now more than ever.

During this crucial time, there are several things you can do to influence the process.

Keep reading … 


Farm Bill Progress Report

Cross-posted from National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

We have been hesitant to do much reporting on the House-Senate farm bill conference given the somewhat slow, step-by-step nature of the task of trying to hammer out a final, compromise bill.  But inquiring readers have asked where things stand, and we don’t blame them for asking, so here is a quick summary.

Conference Meetings – The Senators and Representatives who are members of the conference have not met again since the initial meeting on October 30, during which each member staked out their major priorities.  For better or for worse, no further meetings of the conferees are currently scheduled.

To date, the staff for all conferees have held staff-level meetings on the research, horticulture, energy, and miscellaneous titles, though they have not completed the staff-level consideration of any of those four titles as of yet.  During “staff conferencing” sessions, the goal is to try to settle as many issues as possible at the staff level, and to leave as few issues as possible open for further member-level debate.  Presumably, they will take one more stab at the four titles they have started in order to further limit the number of issues they punt to the member level.

The other eight titles – commodities, conservation, trade, nutrition, credit, rural development, forestry, and crop insurance – are still on deck.

The two chairs and ranking members – Senators Stabenow (D-MI) and Cochran (R- MS) and Representatives Lucas (R-OK) and Peterson (D-MN) – have reportedly had numerous meetings to try to work toward deals on the big funding and contentious policy issues.  Solid information on the status of those talks is hard to come by, though there are sound bites galore on a near daily basis.

Budget Conference Interface – At the same time the farm bill conference is happening, another House-Senate conference is taking place on the budget for Fiscal Year 2014.  The interface between the farm bill and the potential budget deal has been a topic of increasingly heated debate, with farm bill conferees weighing in on various sides of the debate.

Keep reading … 


Farm Bill Conference Continues

Cross-posted from the American Farm Bureau Federation

Nov. 13, 2013—Not stopping to take a break during the House’s recent weeklong recess, the work of the top four farm bill negotiators rolls on, with Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) floating the possibility of a deal before the end of the month.  Joining Stabenow in the meetings are Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.).

Stabenow, Cochran, Peterson and Lucas are hardly going it alone though.  Numerous other conference committee members and their staff are sorting through the nearly two thousand pages of farm policy legislation produced by both chambers.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) spending is expected to be the biggest hurdle to clear in conference.  The Senate’s farm bill calls for a $4.1 billion reduction in SNAP funding over the next decade, compared to the House’s $40 billion in cuts.   Conferees have said little publicly about a strategy, but they are expected to be trying to find a level of SNAP reductions that would keep House and Senate Democrats on board, while getting enough support from House conservatives to send the bill to the president for his signature.  For his part, President Barack Obama has said numerous times that he’s anxious to sign off on the bill.

Despite critical differences in SNAP spending and a few other areas, the legislation approved by the Senate and the measure passed by the House both offer a basic-but-broad risk management platform supported by all types of farmers and ranchers in all regions. Among the balanced risk management strategy are options based both on crop prices and revenue levels.

Looking at the long list of similarities between the bills, both work to protect crop insurance and offer enhancements through new provisions such as the Supplemental Coverage Option, a program that allows farmers to purchase an area-triggered revenue or yield insurance product to cover the deductible associated with the underlying individual or area insurance policy.

Keep reading … 


Farm Bill Web Forum Friday 11/15

What’s in the Farm Bill and where are we in the process?
Join us for a Conference Committee Edition Web Forum

Friday, Nov. 15, 9 am – 10 am (PT)/noon – 1 pm (ET) 

The Farm Bill debate is on again as the conference committee negotiates how to reconcile the respective Senate and House passed versions of the bill.

What are the differences between the bills and what do the conference committee negotiations mean for provisions that are vital to the health of urban and rural communities, the environment, and the farmers we all depend on to grow the food we need to be healthy?

Hear analysis from a panel of experts in agriculture, food, and nutrition policy who will offer a variety of perspectives and unique expertise to break down this massive piece of legislation. Learn about what the farm bill means for agriculture and health in communities across America.

Panelists:


Farm Bill Negotiations Continue, Big Questions Remain

Cross-posted from American Farmland Trust’s Farm Policy Roundup

By Jeremy Peters

Leaders of the Farm Bill conference committee met this week to discuss progress on negotiations. While the House of Representatives is in recess, the four agriculture committee leaders continue to work on areas where agreement can be found.

The House recess means formal negotiations are not expected to continue until after November 12. Nutrition and crop insurance remain top issues for negotiators to find agreement. Nutrition decisions were made even more complex with $11 billion in increases from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, expiring on November 1.

American Farmland Trust has been in close discussion with the agriculture committees, and the conservation title is one area where agreement can be found and negotiations are proceeding. A majority of issues in conservation appear to have been largely settled, however there remain several questions for conference committee members to decide including programmatic funding and acreage levels, and priorities such as conservation compliance and sodsaver.

Click here to keep reading.


Farm to School Food Safety Web Forums Archive

This October, the Healthy Farms Healthy People Coalition hosted a series of Farm to School Month web forums to take a unique look at food safety and farm to school issues from the producer, food service, and consumer perspectives. The comment period for the new Food Safety Modernization Act and Proposed Produce Safety Rule ends on November 15. This is a critical time to understand the new rules and the implications that they have on growers and the health of students across the country. We invite you to watch the web forum recordings and to view the presentations.

Webinar 1: Farm to School Food Safety Project

The Farm to School Food Safety Project provides an in-depth look at a comprehensive review and analysis of the statutory and regulatory structure of agricultural policies as they relate to farm to school in Colorado, with a specific focus on the interconnectedness of federal mandates on state regulatory structures and local county health regulations related to food safety.

In this webinar you will learn about four specific resources from the project – each targeted for specific audiences: policymakers/regulators, public health, school food service directors, and producers. In addition, the speakers will discuss how Colorado’s resources can be used as a template for other states to undertake their own comprehensive analysis and why they should do it.

Resources (click on the links below to access the following resources):

Webinar 2: Food Safety Modernization Act, the Produce Safety Rule, and Farm to School

The Food Safety Modernization Act, the Produce Safety Rule and Farm to School provides an overview of the Food Safety Modernization Act and explores how the proposed produce rules could facilitate or hinder farm to school efforts. While much has been said about the proposed rule’s impact on specific types of producers, this webinar uniquely considers the farm to school implications from the producer and the food service director’s perspectives. Panelists include national agricultural food safety specialists, a legal analyst, and farm to school research staff.

Resources (click on the links below to access the following resources):

Webinar 3: Farm to School and the Cost of Food Safety

Farm to School and the Cost of Food Safety presents findings from a study by the Oregon Public Health Institute that investigated 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).  Hear from public health officials, producers, and school food service directors as they discuss the barriers and how to overcome them.

Resources (click on the links below to access the following resources):

Webinar 4: Food Safety, Urban Farming, and Farm to School

Food Safety, Urban Farming, and Farm to School. Learn how one of the largest school districts in the country is creating a farm to school program using acres of their own land. Denver Public Schools identified 25 acres that can be farmed. This year, three acres are under production, providing affordable organically-grown and oh-so-local vegetables to its schools.

There are many issues a school district must address when growing their own food. First and foremost is food safety. This webinar will introduce you to the innovate school farming project AND discuss the food safety issues associated with urban farming, whether existing regulations adequately address the issues, and how Denver Public Schools partners with Colorado State University Extension to ensure food safety in the farming, harvesting, and transport processes while not overburdening the farmers of these small urban plots.

Resources (click on the links below to access the following resources):


Snap-Ed Works


PHI snap-ed works infographic
Cross-posted from the Public Health Institute

1 in 3 children in the US are overweight or obese. Yet at the same time, 1 in 5 families struggle with food insecurity–not knowing from one day to the next whether their families will have enough to eat.

Nationally, SNAP and SNAP-Ed are working hand-in-hand to help support families to eat healthily. SNAP (food stamps) provides families with support in affording food; SNAP-Ed, the nutrition education program, helps SNAP and low-income families find, buy and prepare healthier foods on their limited budgets. From schools, to the YMCA, to farmer’s markets, SNAP-Ed works.

Our new SNAP-Ed infographic illustrates how critical SNAP-Ed is in supporting healthy eating: though it makes up just a fraction of SNAP funding, SNAP-Ed efforts are making a real difference.

Find out how you can take action to support SNAP-Ed.

 

Two things you can do today to make the American food system better: Part 2

Cross-posted from Fair Food Network  2012-8-22 market 0013

By Kate Fitzgerald

As we said yesterday, you can help create the food system you would like for this country. Today, let’s look at the second easy action you can take to make your voice heard as the government gets back up to speed.

USDA has a little problem with bad publicity for the SNAP program. Although the vast majority of stores and consumers are honest, the bit of fraud that occurs gives the program a bad name and can add up to a tidy sum of taxpayer dollars.

Most of the ‘trafficking’ happens in small stores, and the Agriculture Department is wrestling with ways to crack down on the bad actors without making it harder for low-income families to buy food. Convenience stores are often the only option for people who live in communities without full-service grocery stores, and no one wants to make it harder to buy milk or bread or an apple.

Some thoughts on what could help:

  • One obvious way to improve consumers’ access to affordable, nutritious food would be to make it easier for farmers’ markets, farmstands, CSA’s (community supported agriculture), and mobile markets to be authorized to accept SNAP benefits. There are more than 8,000 farmers’ markets in the U.S. but less than half accept SNAP benefits.
  • A big part of the problem is that there is just one application to accept SNAP benefits and it is completely inappropriate for non-traditional food retailers. Creating an application for farmers’ markets would allow USDA to collect the information it needs to ensure program integrity while allowing farmers to serve low-income customers.
  • USDA could also help SNAP participants choose healthy food by letting them know that their benefits can be used at many farmers’ markets. Most of USDA’s SNAP information is geared towards shopping at supermarkets, leaving many recipients thinking that they cannot use their benefits at markets. A second easy step would be for USDA to start giving equal promotional time to farm-direct healthy food retail. Why not tell the agency that?

Keep reading … 


Two things you can do today to make the American food system better: Part 1

Cross-posted from Fair Food Network

By Kate Fitzgerald

As government agencies get back to work, there are things you can do to help create the food system you would like for this country. There are two easy actions you can take today to make your voice heard.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is asking for feedback on how to improve healthy store choices for SNAP participants, and the Food and Drug Administration wants to know what people think about draft new food safety rules. Today, let’s take a look at food safety.

Friends tell me there are fewer things less engaging for dinner party conversation than American farm policy, but federal safety regulations may be one of them. For once, however, something that seems boring and unlikely to affect you is both interesting and important. Bear with me a moment and you’ll see.

Two years ago, Congress passed the first new food safety legislation in more than 70 years – and it’s a very good piece of legislation. Earlier this year, FDA issued the draft rules it will use to implement the bill – but  unfortunately, some of the proposed rules are not good at all. Consumers now have the opportunity to tell the FDA what they think, and anyone who likes to shop at farmers’ markets, thinks farm to school programs can improve children’s nutrition, and/or is a member of a CSA should make their voice heard.

Every farmer, regardless of the size of his/her operation, is responsible for providing the safest, healthiest food possible to customers. No one is exempt from that responsibility. How one fulfills that obligation depends on the kind of farm, however. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Congress passed two years ago recognized the need for flexibility but the proposed rules do not.

Farmers who are concerned about the proposed rules are not trying to shirk their duty.  They are worried the proposed rules could result in a food system that is not only not safer than the one we have now, but could also bankrupt the very farmers who are doing the most to improve access to affordable healthy food for all Americans.

There are several basic problems with the rules.

Keep reading …


Food Safety, Urban Farming, and Farm to School Web Forum: Monday Oct. 28

Food Safety Safety, Urban Farming, and Farm to School
Monday, Oct. 28th, 10 – 11 am (PT), 11 – noon (MT), 1 – 2 pm (ET)

Register here.

Learn how one of the largest school districts in the country is creating a farm to school program using acres of their own land.  Denver Public Schools identified 25 acres that can be farmed. This year, three acres are under production, providing affordable organically-grown and oh-so-local vegetables to its schools.

There are many issues a school district must address when growing their own food.  First and foremost is food safety.  This webinar will introduce you to the innovate school farming project AND discuss the food safety issues associated with urban farming, whether existing regulations adequately address the issues, and how Denver Public Schools partners with Colorado State University Extension to ensure food safety in the farming, harvesting, and transport processes while not overburdening the farmers of these small urban plots.

Issues to be addressed:

  • What are the food safety issues associated with urban farming and does existing regulation address them?
  • Denver Public Schools (DPS) and Colorado State University Extension case study
  • Q&A

Panelists:

  • Lyn Kathlene, Ph.D., Senior Research Associate, Spark Policy Institute, and Senior Staff to the Colorado Farm to School Task Force
  • Martha Sullins, Extension Regional Specialist, Colorado State University Extension
  • Anne Wilson, Farm to School Coordinator, Denver Public Schools
  • Meg Caley, Sprout City Farms, contracted farmer for Denver Public Schools