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Farm Bill News
May 22, 2013
The Senate is considering two amendments to the Farm Bill that impact organic:
1) Tester Amendment on Classical Plant & Animal Breeding
Senator Jon Tester is introducing this amendment that aims to reinvigorate classical plant and animal breeding and public cultivar development which will improve choices for American farmers and strengthen U.S. agriculture.
2) Leahy/Cowan Amendment for EQIP Payment Limit
The Leahy (D-VT) and Cowan (D-MA) amendment eliminates the separate payment limit in EQIP for farmers participating in the Organic Initiative so that all farmers are subject to the same payment limitations in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). This program helps farmers and ranchers pay for resource-saving measures on their farm. Currently, the Organic Initiative in EQIP puts payment limits on organic farmers at a much lower limit than conventional farmers.
To show your support for these amendments, please contact your Senators.
May 20, 2013
Senate and House ag committees marked up their versions of the Farm Bill last week. See a recap of key amendments:
The Senate Ag Committee's new five-year farm bill includes reforms to commodity subsidies, improvements to crop insurance, and support for programs aimed at beginning farmers and rural development. A number of amendments made it into the bill, including one that ensures access to FSA credit for farmers producing for local and regional markets.
The committee's bill also missed some opportunities for organic and beginning farmers, specifically with equalizing payments for organic and transitioning farmers in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
Read an analysis of the bill from MOSES' partner in policy, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
The Senate Ag Committee is meeting today to add amendments to its version of the Farm Bill. The House Ag Committee will meet tomorrow. Learn more about what's in these bills.
These are the House Ag Committee members that will be marking up their version of the Farm Bill tomorrow. If any of these members are your representative, please make a call or send an email to request support for organic programs in the Farm Bill. The bill before them shortchanges organic programs, including certification cost share.
Now is a great time to contact your legislators about the support you'd like to see in the upcoming Farm Bill. Both the House and Senate agriculture committees are back at work on the 2013 Farm Bill. The marker bills (see April 25 post below) expand opportunities for organic and sustainable farmers, as well as beginning farmers and ranchers.
The lack of a farm bill to date has affected funding opportunities for farmers. Funding no longer exists for Organic Certification Cost Share, Value Added Producer Grants, and the Beginning Farmer/Rancher Program. MOSES is working with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to promote passage of this bill. We are also working on reintroducing these funding opportunities in the 2013 farm bill. You can help by sharing with your legislators how lack of these programs has impacted your farm.
April 25, 2013
To call your Member of Congress:
March 12, 2013
The Senate is considering its version of the continuing resolution this week, creating an opportunity for organic farming supporters to encourage inclusion of "orphaned" programs such as Organic Data Initiative, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, and the National Certification Cost Share Program. The House version passed last week without any support at all for these important programs.
Please contact your Senators to voice your support for these programs. Also explain that the National Organic Program must be fully funded to maintain the integrity of the seal for consumers and producers alike.
March 5, 2013
The continuing resolution (CR) being discussed in Washington could have a positive impact on farmers. According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the CR would increase funding for direct farm operating loans and guaranteed farm ownership loans by roughly $200 million and $500 million, respectively. Farm loans, and in particular direct farm loans, are one of the most effective tools that USDA has to help beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers access farm land and equipment. Demand for direct farm operating loans has far exceeded supply for several years, so this funding increase is much needed.
Jan. 22, 2013
MOSES Organic Specialist Harriet Behar attended meetings this month with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Organic Coalition. Here are recaps:
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition: Over 70 people representing over 50 member organizations traveled from across the country for 3 days of training, strategy setting, and camaraderie as we prepared for the year to come. Members voted for a full slate of priority work for 2013; work on the farm bill, and agricultural appropriations continues in Congress this year, and attendees came together to prioritize key reforms and programs that are crucial to building health, prosperity, and equity for our nation’s farms, ranches, and communities.
National Organic Coalition: In addition to many House and Senate office visits, NOC members met with Secretary Vilsack and other key USDA staff. Among the topics discussed were:
- The need for a greater availability of organic seed and organic seed research funding.
NOC members were met with a very receptive response on these topics from the Secretary, and he closed the meeting by sharing that he believes that Organic is an integral part of the growth of US agriculture.
Jan. 15, 2013
Secretary Vilsack appoints Dr. Francis Thicke to the National Organic Standards Board
Jan. 2, 2013
The farm bill extension deal reached in negotiations between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden is a disaster for farmers and the American people. The nine-month extension was attached to the bigger fiscal cliff bill passed at the last minute.
Deal neglects funding for organic and conservations programs: Conservation Stewardship Program, Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and more federal programs that help organic and sustainable farmers succeed have no funding under this extension. Instead, focus and funding went to commodity subsidies--which had been completely eliminated in the earlier draft bills.
Read the response from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
Changes to crop insurance
UPDATE March 7, 2013:The RMA just released a fact sheet outlining the changes to its crop insurance coverage.
March 6, 2013: Changes to Organic Crop Insurance announced by Risk Management Agency
Crop yields for 2014 will be figured differently for organic farmers than for conventional farmers, with yields of up to 35% less than conventional used for some organic crops, depending on current USDA data for regional or national yield averages for a specific organic crop. The insurance premiums paid by the organic farmer would be less than conventional if they are insured at those lower yield projections. If an organic farmer has 10 years of crop yield histories for their own organic production, those actual figures can be used. Organic farmers insurance premiums paid and any payment by the insurer could be tied to the farmers' historical organic yields but at conventional prices, unless they choose to pay extra if there is an organic price selection available for that organic crop.
The full RMA audit report and a Q and A document detailing these changes, implementation and background can be found here:
From the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition blog:
Farm Bill Archived Stories
Dec. 26, 2012
Leaders in Washington have just a couple of days left (Dec. 28-Jan. 2) to address the farm bill -- which most likely will get attached to some kind of "fiscal cliff" legislation if it makes it through at all. To learn more about the issues at hand, see the following news stories:
Milk, grocery prices on the rise if Congress ignores farm bill Dec. 26, 2012
Beware the Back-Door Farm Bill Dec. 20, 2012
Farm Bill and Agriculture Appropriations Options Heading Into December
What exactly do we mean by an equitable, sustainable, 21st century farm bill?
INVEST IN THE FUTURE OF HEALTHY FARMS, FOOD, and PEOPLE
PROTECT OUR PRECIOUS AIR, SOIL, and WATER
REFORM FARM SUBSIDIES and LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD
Oct. 11, 2012
We’re nearly two weeks past the Sept. 30 expiration of the Farm Bill, and, while it’s true the world hasn’t ended, many of the programs organic farmers rely on are either without funding or spending authority. Support is gone for programs such as the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Grant Program, the Value Added Producer Grant program, Organic Certification Cost Share, and vital conservation programs that preserve the land’s capacity for farming.
At this point, the best scenario would be for Congress to pass a Farm Bill in the Lame Duck session between the Nov. 4 election and the new session in January. Next best would be that those lame ducks pass an extension to reauthorize programs (like those above) that were defunded by Congress’ inaction this summer. The worst scenario would be that Congress lets the bill slide until January, when they’d need to start all over again to create a Farm Bill in 2013.
You can do your part to encourage your Representative to create the best scenario. The voices of farmers and concerned citizens helped ensure riders in support of organic ag made it in the Senate version of the Farm Bill (see stories below). Your voice matters even more now. Tell your Representative which programs on the list above matter to you and why you want to see a Farm Bill passed before January.
Watch this page for updates, or follow the Action Alerts on the NSAC website—MOSES is one of the organizations in that coalition.
Sept. 27, 2012
Rather than addressing much-needed reform and providing immediate relief for drought-stricken farmers, House leadership left town without addressing the Farm Bill passed by their own House Agriculture committee on a bipartisan vote. An extension is in place--a lame-duck session in November and December may address the bill. On Oct. 1, conservation and dairy support programs will expire. The lack of a Farm Bill will cause uncertainty for farmers who start planning for the next crop season even before this year’s crops are harvested.
Please take 5 to let your representative know your thoughts. Help us push for organic certification cost-share, organic research, and conservation programs, and a vote on the Farm Bill in November/ December. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, which includes MOSES, has written an FAQ-style blog on the status of the Farm Bill.
To call your congressional representative, call the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or 1-800-828-0498.
Sept. 17, 2012
The Farm Bill Now coalition rallied at the U.S. capitol last week to urge Congress to pass a new, comprehensive, five-year farm bill before the current farm programs expire at the end of September. Since returning to the capitol a week ago, Congress hasn't acted on passing a farm bill.
If you'd like to light a fire under your Reps, now would be a good time to do so! Read below for talking points or go to the Take Action page from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (of which MOSES is a member). NSAC has made it easy to send a quick message to your Reps. You just fill out an online form.
Sept. 10, 2012
Congress is back in session. Representatives should respond to the pressure they are getting from farm groups to pass a full 2012 farm bill before the current one expires Sept. 30. The drought experienced by many farmers in the central part of the U.S. will push legislators to pass some sort of farm relief package, but it is unknown how it would be funded or if it would be part of the more comprehensive 2012 farm bill process.
You can help ensure programs that support organic ag make it in the final farm bill. Contact your Senators and Representatives to tell them how these programs impact the economic viability of your operation. Here are a few “talking points” for you to share with your members of Congress.
August 15, 2012
Every five years, farm policies and spending are reviewed and changed under the Farm Bill process. With the current budget shortfalls, it is important that we make our voices heard. We want to be sure cuts are made fairly among the many programs, and policies are put in place to ensure organic agriculture continues to grow and flourish.
July 16, 2012
House Agriculture Committee approves farm bill legislation and moves it on to the entire House for consideration
July 12, 2012
House Ag Committee passes its version of 2012 Farm Bill by vote of 35-11. Language on organic crop insurance was extended from the 2008 Farm Bill. Several amendments passed to help beginning farmers and vets. Read more.
June 27, 2012
The Agriculture Appropriations bill headed to the House contains a rider that promotes planting of genetically engineered seeds and serves only to offer “assurance” to agbiotech companies like Monsanto, not farmers. Representative DeFazio (D-OR) will introduce an amendment to strike this Monsanto rider from the final bill. Read more from the Center for Food Safety.
June 21, 2012
The Senate passed the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act by a vote of 64-35. The bill includes historic commodity payment limit reforms and renewed investments in a variety of sustainable farm and food programs, but a $3.7 billion cut to conservation programs on working farms and ranches.
Several major amendments adopted by the Senate made significant improvements to the bill:
The House Agriculture Committee plans to take up the farm bill after the July 4 recess, however, there are no plans to debate the bill on the House floor this summer. The current farm bill expires Sept. 30.
June 20, 2012
Thanks for calling your Senators yesterday -- it worked! The Toomey Amendment that would have eliminated the Organic Certification Cost-Share program, a program that helped over 6,100 organic farmers become certified or maintain organic certification in 2010, was voted DOWN in the Senate.
The Merkley amendment to the farm bill was approved 63-36 by the Senate today. The amendment, which makes it easier for organic farmers to get crop insurance, was co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, of Maine.
See the Organic Farming Research Foundation for more details on the good and bad aspects of the Farm Bill as it relates to organic farmers.
The Senate Agriculture Committee's version of the 2012 Farm Bill (Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act) is ready for debate in the full Senate. The National Organic Coalition has summarized the bill's provisions that affect organic agriculture.
Two amendments of critical importance include a change to crop insurance, providing for full payment at an organic price and removing the 5% surcharge (Merkley amendment) and a dedication of 5% of the funds in crop and livestock breeding be dedicated to publicly available (non-patented) seeds and livestock breeds (Tester amendment).
Call your senators today and tell them to support these amendments to the Farm Bill, and support the future of organic agriculture. The U.S. Capitol switchboard is (202) 224-3121, ask to be connected your state’s senator. Check this page regularly for more action alerts as the next five years of farm policy is being decided in the next few months!
More amendments that affect rural development:
Senate Agricultural Committee Passes Farm Bill
A short snapshot of the Senate Ag Committee’s bill:
Food Safety Training for Farmers and Small Processors-Many groups fought hard for the inclusion of training funds into the Food Safety Modernization Act, which will be implemented sometime in the near future. The Senate bill did not include any funds for this training, and congress never has, even though it is a law. If small and mid-sized operations are to continue having access to institutional markets as well as many wholesale and retail markets, they will need to meet whatever food safety regulations are put forward by the FDA, and/or the USDA. This training is critical to provide the knowledge and tools so these producers can develop and implement scale appropriate food safety plans.