The old adage “all good things come to those who wait” likely won’t apply to the recent House and Senate Conference Committee that is passing the Agriculture Act of 2014. For months, work on this farm bill has dragged on, past the expiration of the law it replaces. It has been necessary to use extensions of the expiring law in order to keep programs running and to prevent the underlying agriculture law from 1949 from going into effect, along with the dire consequences predicted if that were to happen.
The five-year, 959-page bill cuts approximately $23 billion in farm programs (although the Congressional Budget Office puts the figure slightly lower at $16.6 billion) through three cuts to three types of programs. The first cut is $8 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Read More >
Senator Ben Cardin (D–Md.)
On Tuesday, May 28, 2013, the Baltimore Sun ran this letter to the editor, authored by CLF director Bob Lawrence:
Recently, The Sun drew attention to the rise of poverty and hunger in our region (“Poor people in Balto.’s suburbs outnumber those in city,” May 21) while Maryland’s senators turned their backs on those who need help buying food. I was saddened and disappointed by the failure of U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin to do the right thing for our at-risk neighbors and friends. Our senators voted against the farm bill amendment that would have restored the $4 billion in cuts to the food stamp program, or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and help strengthen our fraying safety net. Read More >
Will we get a farm bill in September?
After failing to pass a farm bill in the 112th Congress and burying a nine-month extension in the “fiscal cliff” tax bill that the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) deemed a “disaster for farmers,” the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are again taking up the task of crafting this complex and cumbersome piece of legislation. We take a quick look at where the Senate and House versions of the Farm Bill are, and what they may hold for public health. Read More >
The Waverly farmers' market, Baltimore, Md.
A primary role of USDA is to promote U.S. agriculture. Another is to ensure food access for vulnerable Americans. On Monday, April 29, USDA took a step that will do both. The agency did this by expanding eligibility for USDA grants for equipment that makes it possible for farmers to accept SNAP EBT cards (policy brief). While it seems like a small thing, helping overcome this technological barrier will increase access to fresh and healthy produce for SNAP participants and improve farmers’ bottom lines. Read More >
This blogpost appeared in Huffington Post Food on January 10, 2013.
Procrastination bedevils everyone, despite the best of intentions. I’ve seen it happen many times with my graduate students, as a promising paper or research idea slouches into mediocrity, or worse, at the 11th hour. Even Thomas Jefferson was an infamous procrastinator, coining the phrase, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”
I wish this 112th Congress had done a better job heeding the advice of Mr. Jefferson (who was a devoted, if not very profitable, farmer). Instead, on New Year’s Day, after dragging its feet on this pressing business for months, Congress passed a ghost of a farm bill. If they were my students, and I were grading the bill, I would have to give it a D minus. Let’s hope the entire democratic process does not go down with the bill. Read More >
With no farm bill, conservation programs are at risk
As of midnight, October 1, 2012, the farm bill officially expired. After spending a good portion of the summer learning about and reporting on the farm bill, the notion that a new farm bill might not be in the cards this year is slowly starting to sink in. Congress still has a chance to make things right if they pass a farm bill in the “lame duck” session—but opinions are mixed as to whether or not they will be willing or able to do so.
So the question then is: if there is no new farm bill, what will happen to existing farm bill programs? While all farm bill programs face an uncertain future, the fate of 37 programs hangs in a delicate balance, as they expired when then farm bill did. This means their funding “baseline” levels will be zero. Most likely, Congress will not be able to appropriate funding from the farm bill for these programs. Furthermore, if Congress is interested in keeping any of these programs afloat, members will need to identify budgetary offsets from other sources to pay for these 37 programs. Read More >
Farm Bill Now rally, Sept 12, 2012
America’s farmers, ranchers and dairymen are used to the uncertainties that come with their professions. Weather and the ups and downs of the market have been at the center of that uncertainty producers deal with day in and day out. Historically, government groups have been there to help producers mitigate those uncertainties to some degree. This year, however, the Congress’ inability to pass a new five-year farm bill to replace the programs expiring at the end of September has only compounded the difficulties farmers and ranchers face.
Several hundred farmers, ranchers, dairymen and consumer and nutrient activists converged at the Congressional reflecting pool at the U.S. Capitol building on September 12 to urge passage of a new farm bill before Congress adjourns to campaign full-time for re-election. Signs exhorting the recalcitrant House Republican leadership to pass a farm bill included slogans like, “Farmers, Kids, Americans…Need a Farm Bill” and “Do You Eat? You Need a Farm Bill Now” peppered the crowd and greeted the bipartisan speakers from both the House and Senate. Read More >
Still waiting ...
It’s been a long summer for those of us working at the Center for a Livable Future, and that’s not just because of the heat, the severe storms, and the power outages. We have been anxiously awaiting the final passage of the 2012 farm bill. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting. For me, all of this waiting begs the question: what is taking so long? In an effort to get some answers, I went back in time to research the occurrences over the last couple of months. The following is a synopsis of this summer’s farm bill activities.
FARM BILLS ARE DRAFTED
After three days of deliberation, the Senate passed their version of the farm bill (the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act) by a vote of 64-35 on June 21, 2012. Some important provisions of the bill, which CLF supports, include commodity payment reform, appropriations for rural development, improvement in soil and wetlands conservation, and continued investment in sustainable agriculture programs. Read More >
The House Agriculture Committee began marking up the farm bill this morning. As we’ve described in past posts, this bill has significant implications for public health. CLF sent the letter (below) to the House Agriculture Committee, emphasizing important changes needed in the bill in order to protect and promote health. Specific amendments that address some of these issues are being supported by the Community Food Security Coalition, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and others. Please take a moment to get informed - and take action!
Here’s the letter sent by Bob Lawrence to members of the House and their staff: Read More >
This blogpost appeared in Huffington Post Politics on July 3, 2012.
This month, once again, the rubber hits the road with the farm bill. The Senate finished its version in June, and although many food security components are flawed, there were some surprisingly good results in the realm of conservation. Next week the House will begin its markup. As always, there’s a lot at stake with this bill, for farmers and for consumers. But there’s also a lot at stake for the air, waters, and lands—not just farmlands—that farmers and the rest of us share. And ultimately what’s at stake with the farm bill is the health of every American now alive and those of future generations. Read More >