Farm Policy Roundup: Appropriators Cut Conservation Programs

Cross-posted from American Farmland Trust

By Jeremy Peters

The House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations subcommittees approved legislation this week making spending decisions for fiscal year 2015 agriculture programs. The bills make important increases in conservation technical assistance spending, with the largest increase to $849 million in the Senate agriculture appropriations bill.

However, the House agriculture appropriations bill proposes to cut over a half-billion dollars from important farmland conservation programs, including $60 million from the new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and $200 million from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). These cuts come on top of over $4 billion that was already cut as part of the 2014 Farm Bill.

The Senate Appropriations Committee also approved their version of the bill May 22, while the House Appropriations Committee is expected to take up their bill as early as May 29. The committee’s work can be viewed live online.

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Weekly Column: Farm Bill Supports Specialty Crop Growers, Improves Access to Healthy Food

Cross-posted from the USDA

The 2014 Farm Bill has already set in motion and accomplished so much for our country. With historic support for specialty crop producers across the country, the bill will touch every one of our lives through one of the most basic of human needs: food.

Specialty crops make up the bulk of what we eat—all of our fruits and vegetables, tree nuts and dried fruits—as well as things like cut flowers and nursery crops. They are half of MyPlate at every meal, and the daily source for most of our vitamins and nutrients. For many in rural America, these crops not only provide nutrition, they are also a primary source of income.

For nearly a decade, USDA supported specialty crop growers across the country through the Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) program. These grants enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops, sustain the livelihood of American farmers, and strengthen rural economies.

Last year, the program provided $55 million for 700 state-selected projects nationwide that contributed to food safety improvements, increased access to healthy food, and provided new research to help growers increase profitability and sustainability. The new farm bill expands support through the SCBG program to more than $66 million in grants for specialty crop growers—a historic high.

With projects focusing on everything from food safety to business planning, the block grants are designed to increase the long-term success of producers and broaden the market for specialty crops. Many states select projects that dovetail with community needs, such as establishing farm to school programs, providing training in good agricultural handling practices (GAP), creating organic and sustainable production practices, and developing food hubs that will increase opportunities for small-scale growers.

In Michigan, a 2009 grant helped the state Department of Agriculture and Resource Development work with partners to increase sales opportunities for specialty crop farmers in Southeast Michigan. They were able to identify and overcome barriers that prevented schools from purchasing products directly from local farmers, and ended up increasing the sales of apples, cucumbers, peppers, red potatoes, broccoli and several other crops within their state.

Another grant in Idaho established a partnership between the state Department of Agriculture and Boise State University-Tech to provide workshops that helped improve food safety and implement sustainable production practices for onions, potatoes, apples, cherries, peas and lentils. The project resulted in higher audit scores, increased efficiency and sustainability for participating companies, which both improve consumer confidence and help producers’ bottom lines in the long run.

Our dedication to strengthening rural America and increasing opportunities for specialty crop farmers will help keep our nation’s economy—and people—healthy for years to come. This week, we made the next round of SCBG funds available so that states can begin funding projects. If you’re interested in applying, I encourage you to contact your state department of agriculture. You can find more information at

Farm Policy Roundup

Cross-posted from American Farmland Trust

By Jeremy Peters

House Subcommittee Examines Agriculture Appropriations

The House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee held a hearing on April 8 to review USDA field agencies and fiscal year 2015 (FY15) spending. The subcommittee makes annual spending decisions for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and other related agencies.

Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Jason Weller was a witness, testifying on conservation successes the agency has experienced in working with private landowners and explaining the agency’s continued need for robust funding for technical assistance as well as for Farm Bill programs.

American Farmland Trust President and CEO Andrew McElwaine issued a press statement, calling on the subcommittee to “provide full funding for farmland conservation and for beginning farmer programs authorized in the 2014 federal Farm Bill.”

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2014 Farm Bill Drill Down: Recap and Wrap Up

Cross-posted from National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

This post wraps up our series on what is in the new 2014 Farm Bill for sustainable food and farming systems.  We started the series with an overview of what was in the bill for sustainable agriculture, and then dove into a series of posts with the nitty-gritty details of the new bill:

While the bill is a mixed bag for sustainable agriculture, the strong progress made on a variety of fronts in the bill is the result of congressional champions and the tireless efforts of farmers and grassroots advocates who made their voices heard through countless calls to Congress, meetings and farm tours with legislators, and outreach to their communities on how to weigh in on our nation’s food and farm policy.

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Late Breaking Farm Bill Web Forum Archive

The President signed the 2014 Farm Bill into law today.

Yesterday, the Healthy Farms Healthy People Coalition hosted a Late Breaking Farm Bill Web Forum to present a range of perspectives on the final bill from a panel of agriculture, food, and nutrition policy experts.

Download the web forum.

Learn about the final 2014 Farm Bill and what its implications are for agriculture and the health of communities across America.


PHI Statement on Passage of Farm Bill

Cross-posted from Public Health Institute


“Today the President signed into law a new bipartisan farm bill that provides greater certainty for the country’s food and agriculture system, including many federal nutrition assistance programs, for the next five years.

“PHI is deeply disappointed in cuts that come at the expense of families already struggling to meet basic nutritional needs. This bill cuts Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, by $8.6 billion dollars, reducing benefit levels by about $90 per month for 850,000 SNAP households that also participate in the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Hunger remains a serious public health concern in every county in every state.

“Still, Congress came together to support other initiatives in the farm bill to improve access to affordable, quality nutrition for those most vulnerable to hunger. Funding levels for state SNAP nutrition education programs are maintained. SNAP retailer standards and stocking requirements are strengthened to ensure SNAP participants have access to more healthy choices when shopping with SNAP benefits. The Healthy Food Financing Initiative is authorized as a USDA program, increasing access to grocery stores and other food retailers in underserved communities. The bill also establishes a new initiative, Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Grants, which will incentivize SNAP participants to increase their purchase and consumption of fruits and vegetables.

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Farm Policy Roundup


Cross-posted from American Farmland Trust

By Jeremy Peters

President Signs Agricultural Act of 2014

In a special signing ceremony on the campus of Michigan State University, President Obama today signed the Agricultural Act of 2014 into law.

During the signing ceremony, the President highlighted the importance of the new agricultural bill, saying, “This Farm Bill includes support to help farmers so they don’t lose everything. It boosts conservation efforts to protect places for our children and grandchildren like the Mississippi River and the Chesapeake Bay, and it supports farmers markets to boost beginning farmers, local agriculture and organics. And it does this while reforming agricultural programs and saving taxpayers hard earned dollars.”

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CFJC Perspective on the 2014 Farm Bill

Cross-posted from Community Food and Justice Coalition

By Jessy Gill and Y. Armando Nieto

Today, on February 7, President Obama signs into law the reconciled House and Senate 2014 Farm Bill.  After two expirations and years of deliberation we welcome the passage of a full bill, but not because it is a brilliant piece of legislation. Any government that cuts $8.5 billion in food aid (SNAP) for its children and families should be ashamed, no matter the justification or frame.

For CFJC and many others, the passage comes with frustrations and disappointments.

It is accepted practice that one measure of a successful piece of legislation is that no-one is entirely satisfied with the outcome. Certainly, there is no arguing that no single community- based or social welfare organization will be satisfied with cuts made to get the bill passed through both houses of Congress. At CFJC, we are happy that some equity provisions successfully made it through negotiations and into the final bill, but other programs were eliminated under the guise of “savings.”

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Presenting…Farm Bill 2014!

Cross-posted from Fair Food Network

By Kate Fitzgerald

While many of you may have been indulging in post-Super Bowl analysis or poring over winter Olympic viewing schedules, hard core Farm Bill aficionados have had their sites focused on Congress, where the truly historic occurred last night. The Senate passed the Agriculture Act of 2014 and it’s off to the White House to be signed by the President. The nearly 1,000 page bill sets much of the nation’s farm and food policy for the next several years at a cost of almost one trillion dollars.

For those who have followed this blog for the past three years, the first message is that the bill includes a new fruit and vegetable incentive program for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps). The Farm Bill authorizes USDA to establish the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive grant program and provides it $100 million over the next five years. There was broad bipartisan support for this provision based in large part on the success of Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks program (DUFB), which has been successful at helping low-income families eat more fruits and vegetables while also boosting farmer income.

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Late Breaking Farm Bill Web Forum: Thursday 2/6

Thursday, Feb. 6th, 1 pm PST/4 pm EST 

The Farm Bill passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday 1/29 and the Senate is expected to follow suit on Tuesday 2/4. Join us next Thursday 2/6 to learn about how the issues you care about faired in the final bill.

On our last web forum, you heard about a number of 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 that we need to be healthy. We are excited to bring back the same panel of experts on agriculture, food, and nutrition policy to share their perspectives and unique expertise about the final bill and what its implications are for agriculture and the health of communities across America.