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

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