Terrific Action Alert from the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group

Yesterday, the Senate formally voted to begin debate on the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (S. 3240) bringing us one step closer to completing a Farm Bill before the current bill expires on September 30th.

The Senate is taking critical votes that will have an enormous affect our farms and food system.  Please take a moment to call you Senator. You can voice your support or opposition for amendments or for specific programs.

To help pass these amendments, please call your Senator. Floor debate begins on Monday and debate on the bill is expected to continue for at least a week. Every call makes a tremendous difference.

Just dial the Senate switchboard: (202) 224-3121  Ask to be connected with one Senator from your state, and then call back and ask to speak with the other Senator. Once connected, introduce yourself and ask to speak with the agriculture staffer. Tell that staffer (or leave a message) what you support or opposes from the amendments, or other key points.

(Information sources are noted below)

Key Senate Farm Bill Amendments: 

  • BROWN- The amendment includes important programs to farmers and local food infrastructure,  beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer programs, including: Value-Added Producer Grants, Rural Microentrepeneur Assistance Program, Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program (Section 2501) (1)

 

  • Gillibrand - This amendment restores the $4.49 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). (Cuts made in the Committee Bill that is going to the Senate floor) The SNAP funding would be paid for by a cut to the amount the federal government pays to insurance companies to provide crop insurance to farmers. Gillibrand’s amendment will also provide an additional $500 million over 10 years to theFresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP). This program provides fresh produce snacks to schoolchildren. The bill also grants authority to USDA to make bonus purchases for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) has submitted an amendment that would eliminate the fresh-only requirement in the FFVP by expanding this program to include frozen, dried, or canned fruits and vegetables. (2)

 

  • TESTER - This amendment will set aside 5% of annual funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative for public cultivar and breed development(2)

 

  • GRASSLEY-CONRAD - This amendment will make it unlawful for a meatpacker to own, feed or control livestock intended for slaughter for more than 14 days before slaughter. This will reduce vertical integration of the livestock market and help independent and family growers compete. (5)

 

  • MERKLEY - This amendment will address barriers to make crop insurance more accessible to organic farmers. (5)

 

  • Leahy - an amendment which would allow states to use 15% of the value of their annual TEFAP commodity allocation to purchase local food(2)

 

  • Other Crop insurance amendments:  Durbin-Coburn - reduces the federal premium support for farmers with Adjusted Gross Income of more than $750,000.  Cardin - amendment that attaches conservation compliance rules to the purchase of crop insurance.

More Asks:

  • Hold the Line on Farm Bill Conservation Funding-  The bill introduced by the Senate Agriculture Committee includes significant cuts to conservation funding.  Conservation programs have already contributed to the deficit reduction and the Senate bill includes $23 billion in overall cuts to mandatory spending, including over $6 billion to conservation programs. Any further cuts to conservation will undermine the conservation efforts that have been carefully designed in light of the need for budget reductions. (3)

 

  • Provide mandatory resources to the Rural Cooperative Development Grants Program and the Value Added Producer Grant program.   Both of these programs are essential to ensuring that farmers and fishermen are able to work together to capture a greater share of the consumer food dollar. (4)

Harmful amendments – voice your opposition to these
Both Senators Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham have proposed amendments that would turn the SNAP program into block grants. These amendments allow states to create their own plans to administer the program and include requirements for determining eligibility and fraud prevention.

Senator Jeff Sessions  has introduced several amendments that would restrict eligibility of SNAP applicants by limiting categorical eligibility and further reduce states ability to operate “Heat and Eat” policies. Sessions has offered another amendment to the SNAP program that would repeal state bonus payments for improving SNAP participation rates and payment accuracy.

House Farm Bill Process
The House Agriculture Committee to markup its version of the Farm Bill by the end of June.

Sources:
(1) NSAC-National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
(2) CFSC – Community Food Security Coalition 
(3) American Farmland Trust
(4) New England Farmers Union
(5) National Young Farmers Coalition
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Amy Little, Organizer
NESAWG,  The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
http://www.nesawg.org
845-255-0822 home office
845-853-3440 cell
amylittle@hvc.rr.com

Terrific Update from the Community Food Security Coalition

June 8, 2012

Congress Moves Forward with the Farm Bill

Yesterday, the Senate formally voted to begin debate on the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (S. 3240) bringing us one step closer to completing a Farm Bill before the current bill expires on September 30th. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS) spoke on the floor explaining that the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act (S. 3240) – known as the Farm Bill – is a bipartisan effort to provide a farm and food safety net for all Americans. Senator Stabenow also emphasized the Farm Bill’s importance as a job creator as “16 million jobs depend on agriculture nationwide.” The White House endorsed the bill today and called for swift Senate action.

While cutting total Farm Bill spending by more than $23 billion, the Senate bill increases funding for a number of CFSC Farm Bill priorities that improve access to healthy, affordable food in low-income communities and build the infrastructure for equitable regional food systems. See our most recent Farm Bill update for a more detailed description.

On the floor, Committee members Gillibrand (D-NY), Baucus (D-MT), and Klobuchar (D-MN) all spoke about their Farm Bill priorities and the importance of preserving both the farm and nutrition safety net for America’s families.

Many amendments to the ARFJA have already been introduced. Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) has offered an amendment restoring the $4.49 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). “I am incredibly disappointed and deeply troubled,” Gillibrand remarked. “As a mother and lawmaker, watching a child go hungry is something that I will not stand for.” The SNAP funding would be paid for by a cut to the amount the federal government pays to insurance companies to provide crop insurance to farmers.

Gillibrand’s amendment will also provide an additional $500 million over 10 years to the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP). This program provides fresh produce snacks to schoolchildren. The bill also grants authority to USDA to make bonus purchases for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) has submitted an amendment that would eliminate the fresh-only requirement in the FFVP by expanding this program to include frozen, dried, or canned fruits and vegetables.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has introduced an amendment, which would allow states to use 15% of the value of their annual TEFAP commodity allocation to purchase local food.

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is currently finalizing the language for an amendment that restores funding to crucial rural development and beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer programs, including:

  • Value-Added Producer Grants
  • Rural Microentrepeneur Assistance Program
  • Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program
  • Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program (Section 2501).

Senator Wyden (D-OR) plans to introduce an amendment establishing a pilot program in 5 states that would allow schools and school food authorities participating in USDA Foods to directly purchase local foods for food service programs. The pilot program would allow participating states to use up to 35% of their USDA Foods allotment to purchase local foods.

There will be several amendments on crop insurance, reflecting its new importance as the principal farm program with the elimination of direct and counter cyclical payments. Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Coburn (D-OK) introduced one that reduces the federal premium support for farmers with Adjusted Gross Income of more than $750,000. Senators Shaheen (D-NH), Toomey (R-PA) and Johanss (R-NE) have amendments that either restrict farmer premium subsidies or increase crop insurance purchaser transparency. Senator Cardin (D-MD) has an amendment that attaches conservation compliance rules to the purchase of crop insurance and Senator Merkley (D-OR) has one to support insurance for organic producers.

Senators Grassley (R-IA) and Conrad (D-ND) have an amendment to increase competition and improve market fairness in the livestock industry.

Several harmful amendments have also been offered. Both Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have proposed amendments that would turn the SNAP program into block grants. These amendments allow states to create their own plans to administer the program and include requirements for determining eligibility and fraud prevention.

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has introduced several amendments that would restrict eligibility of SNAP applicants by limiting categorical eligibility and further reduce states ability to operate “Heat and Eat” policies. Sessions has offered another amendment to the SNAP program that would repeal state bonus payments for improving SNAP participation rates and payment accuracy.

Debate on the bill is expected to continue for at least a week.

House Farm Bill Process
CFSC expects the House Agriculture Committee to markup its version of the Farm Bill by the end of June. Chairman Lucas’s (R-OK) “Mark” may be released by the end of next week and is expected to include total cuts of about $33 billion, with as much as $10-$15 billion coming from the SNAP program. The House bill is expected to continue some kind of counter cyclical payment program to protect rice and peanut farmers from price drops. Southern producers feel current crop insurance products do not adequately serve these crops.

The House bill is expected to renew the authorization for small programs that do not have “baseline” funding for the 2012 bill, leaving open the possibility that funds could be added either in a conference committee or through annual appropriations.

Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (DFL-MN) have repeatedly said that they would like the House bill to have bipartisan support and that will be necessary to convince House leadership to make floor time for the bill.

CFSC staff continue to advocate for member priorities during House deliberations and will be sending action alerts at crucial moments in the process.

After the House and Senate both pass bills, a joint conference committee will negotiate a compromise bill. Ideally, both chambers would pass this bill before the current legislation expires. If not, Congress could pass a short-term extension of the current legislation with the final bill approved as part of the lame-duck session. Alternately, the Senate bill could be attached to a larger bill likely to pass the House, either before September 30th or after the election.

Click here to view CFSC’s 2012 Farm Bill Platform.

FY 2013 Appropriations
Yesterday, the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee marked up its Agriculture Appropriations bill. The FY2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill provides$19.4 billion in discretionary funding – a cut of $365 million below last year’s level, and $1.7 billion below the President’s budget request. General details for allocations include:

WIC: $6.9 billion in discretionary funding for WIC, which is $303.5 million above last year’s level but $119 million below the President’s request.
Child Nutrition: $19.7 billion in mandatory funding – $1.5 billion below FY2012 levels and $38 million below the President’s budget request.
SNAP: $80 billion in required mandatory spending – $408 million below last year’s level and $2 billion below the President’s request.
Conservation Programs: $16 million below last year’s level.
Rural Development Programs: $180 million below last year’s level.

The Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) for WIC was funded at $16.2 million – $300,000 less than FY 12 levels. The Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program was funded at $10 million dollars – a 30% cut from last years appropriations.

The Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee passed its USDA 2013 appropriations bill in late April. Funds were not appropriated for many programs whose authority expires at the end of the current farm bill on September 30, 2012, which is also the last day of the federal FY 2012.

Summary of Action Alerts

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Amy Little
Date: Tue, Apr 24, 2012 at 3:59 PM
Subject: [NEFOOD] revised FARM BILL ACTION Alert
To: nefood@elist.tufts.edu

FARM BILL ACTION April 24, 2012

IMMEDIATE and URGENT Farm Bill Action Needed TODAY!

The Senate Agriculture Committee released its draft of the 2012 Farm Bill and we have a very short time to respond. Tomorrow the Senate agriculture committee will vote on a series of amendments to the draft bill. Several organizations have issued action alerts. Below are the issues and asks from NSAC, NYFC, CFSC, IATP, NOFA-NY, and NYCFFBWG. Pick your issues and make the call!

Please call your Senators and activate your members.

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (202) 224-4451

Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey (202) 224-6324

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy (202) 224-4242

Issues and asks:

From NSAC:

NSAC is focused on Amendments and strategies for champions:

- Help more schools serve fresh, healthy, local food. (the Casey farm to school amendment)

- Provide critical support for beginning farmers and ranchers (the Leahy agricultural land easements amendment)

- Use a “sodsaver” provision to protect ranchlands and native prairie (the Thune sodsaver amendment)

- Ensure farm support goes towards working farmers by closing loopholes that allow corporate mega-farms to collect nearly unlimited payments (the Grassley payment limitations amendment

- Restore greater fiscal responsibility in farm policy by tightening income eligibility caps on commodity payments – and investing some of the savings into beginning farmer and rural entrepreneurship programs (the Brown-Nelson AGI amendment)

Northeast Senators most need to hear about –

Senator Casey – the Grassley payment limitations amendment (he’s already leading on farm to school)

Senator Gillibrand – the Thune sodsaver amendment (she’s already leading on a “seeds and breeds” amendment)

Senator Leahy – the Brown-Nelson AGI amendment (he’s already leading on another beginning farmer initiative)

When you call, simply ask for the staffer who works on agriculture, and deliver this message: I support sensible farm policy – it’s time for a better food and farm bill! Please support the [issue-specific amendment names/sponsors here] and the Brown-Nelson AGI amendment!

From Community Food Security Coalition:

Mandatory Funding for Socially Disadvantaged and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers:

“There were several successes for CFSC’s priorities including the reauthorization of the Community Food Projects program at $10 million per year through 2017 and an increase in funding and expansion in scope for the Farmers Market Promotion Program to $100 million over five years.

This draft bill, however, does not authorize mandatory funding for the 2501 Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program. The bill also reduces funding by $25 million for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). In the 2008 Farm Bill, both the 2501 program and BFRDP received $75 million in mandatory funding.

Call your Senators right now and ask them to:

Reauthorize the 2501 program and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program each at $75 million in mandatory funding. The 2501 program is essential for providing outreach and training for minority and limited resource farmers and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program is needed to help support the new crop of America’s farmers.

From NYC FOOD AND FARM BILL WORKING GROUP:

Food Stamps

Tomorrow the Senate agriculture committee will vote on a series of amendments to the draft bill, including amendments that protect food stamps from cuts, help more schools serve fresh, healthy, local food, and help families receiving food stamps become self-sufficient.

Call Senator Gillibrand today (202) 224-4451:

1. Thank her for introducing the Gillibrand Amendment to protect children from SNAP cuts

2. Ask her to also support the Casey Farm to School amendment and the Brown Employment and Training amendment

3. Ask her to vote no on any amendments that cut SNAP

Call Chairwoman Stabenow today (202) 224-4822:

1. Ask her to support the Gillibrand, Casey and Brown amendments

2. Ask her to vote no on any amendments that cut SNAP

Call today – it’s easy and it takes just a moment to deliver this important message.

FROM NOFA NY:

Beginning Farmers:

Because of the tight turn-around, Senator Gillibrand (member of the Senate Agriculture Committee) needs to hear from you today!

What to say:

Ask for the agriculture staffer, and deliver this message: “I support beginning farmers and would like to ask Senator Gillibrand to please support the Brown-Nelson AGI amendment and the Leahy Agricultural Land Easements for Beginning Farmers Amendment!”

More information on both amendments:

The Brown-Nelson AGI Amendment: Brown-Nelson AGI –this amendment will fund crucial BFR programs like BFRDP, RMAP, and IDAs. Reforming AGI Caps: Sens. Brown (D-OH) and Nelson (D-NE) will be filing an amendment to reform AGI caps.

Agricultural Land Easements for Beginning Farmers: Sen. Leahy (D-VT) will be filing an amendment to make farm viability part of the purpose of the program (formerly known as the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program) and to give authority to entities that implement the program to do so in a way that promotes farm viability and the availability of affordable farm and ranch land for future generations of farmers and ranchers.

Additional amendments:

FARM TO SCHOOL – the CASEY FARM TO SCHOOL AMENDMENT.

No-cost amendment to support Farm-to-School initiatives: Sen. Casey (D-PA) will be filing an amendment to encourage purchases of local foods for nutrition programs. The amendment clarifies that a purpose of Sec. 32 funds is to support the development of markets for foods sold locally and regionally and to include geographic preference language from the 2008 Farm Bill in the Sec. 32 Fruit, Vegetable and Nut Purchase Program. The amendment will also modify the USDA Foods commodity purchasing program and the Department of Defense Fresh produce program to authorize School Food Authorities and other service institutions to use program dollars to make purchases of foods from local agricultural producers.

PAYMENT LIMITATIONS – THE GRASSLEY PAYMENT LIMITATIONS AMENDMENT.

Payment Limitations and Actively Engaged: Sen. Grassley (R-IA) will be filing an amendment that will tighten payments limitations and close loopholes in commodity payment programs. This amendment will establish a measurable test to determine whether or not a farmer is actively engaged in the operation of a farm in order to qualify for commodity payments.

SODSAVER – THE THUNE SODSAVER AMENDMENT.

Sodsaver: Sen. Thune (R-SD) will be filing an amendment to prohibit commodity and insurance subsidies on all native prairie and permanent grasslands and other remaining native land without a cropping history if such land is cropped in the future. This provision, known as “Sodsaver,” was included in both the House and Senate versions on the 2008 Farm Bill, but was dismantled in conference and became a voluntary project that never got off the ground. Sodsaver would not prohibit farmers from breaking out native lands; it would only ensure that they do so at their own risk, not at the risk of the taxpayer.

From National Young Farmers Coalition:

Here are the amendments that we’re asking the Senate to support:

Family Farms First and Training for Beginning Farmers. Senators Brown (D-OH) and Nelson (D-NE) – This amendment will direct crop subsidies to the farmers who need them most by capping the income for those eligible to receive them – and use the savings to fund beginning farmer training and a beginning farmer matched savings account program.

Affordable Land for Farmers, Forever. Senator Leahy (D-VT) – This amendment will encourage land trusts to enter into new agreements that will make farms permanently affordable for full-time growers.

Non-GMO Plant and Animal Breeding. Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) – This amendment will require that 5 percent of total Agriculture and Food Research Initiative funding be used for non-GMO, public plant and animal breeding research.

Crop Insurance for Organics. Senator Casey (D-PA) – This amendment will improve crop insurance for organic farmers by removing the unjustified premium surcharge for organic farms and directing the Risk Management Agency to develop organic price elections.

FROM IATP:

The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee has finally issued its draft of the 2012 Farm Bill. Despite some good provisions supporting the growing and consumption of healthy food, the Senate’s draft doesn’t level the playing field for small and midsize family farmers who produce fruits and vegetables and makes significant cuts to food stamp (SNAP) benefits for low income people. The Senate’s draft incentivizes large farms to grow a few commodity crops (primarily corn and soybeans) through a revamped crop insurance program, without taking any steps to manage the overproduction of these crops. The bill does not go nearly far enough in supporting farmers who grow healthy food for local and regional food systems.

It’s URGENT that you contact committee members TODAY about the key healthy food provisions that are still missing, because the Senate Agriculture Committee will begin work on the bill tomorrow. Write or call members of the Senate Agriculture Committee today and ask them to include the following key provisions:

- Full funding for the SNAP program (food stamps) that protects against hunger and improves nutrition by providing critical resources to vulnerable people. Cuts to SNAP will only make it harder for millions of families to afford a nutritious diet.

- Better, more affordable crop insurance for organic farmers that helps reduce the increase financial risk of growing organic crops, which reduce the use of harmful chemicals that endanger human health and the environment.

- Support for Senator Leahy’s public health reporting amendment which would require USDA to report on the public health impacts of federal agricultural policies.

- Restore funding for outreach to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. The funding provides assistance in successfully acquiring, owning, operating, and retaining farms and ranches and helps ensure they can equitably participate in all USDA programs. The program has been important in addressing historic discrimination against farmers of color by USDA and also supports domestic production of healthy food, as 18 to 20 percent of farms that grow vegetables, melons, fruits and tree nuts are operated by farmers of color

- Authorize schools and other service institutions to use federal program dollars to purchase food from local agricultural producers.

For More information:

NSAC Alert and Update: http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/senate-farm-bill-local-food-rd/

CFSC alert: http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=923d8af6802cd35b0a1f16530&id=f1190ccd98&e=baf13adda1

IATP alert: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6562/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=10420

NESAWG is a network and supports the advocacy work of our participating organizations. If you would like to engage the NESAWG network on policy issues, please contact us.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Amy Little, Organizer

NESAWG, The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group

http://www.nesawg.org

845-255-0822 home office

845-853-3440 cell

amylittle@hvc.rr.com

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