NOTE: The Farm Bill information below applies to any state, not just California.

Farm & Food Bill 2008 ~ Action Guide!

Nearly $300 billion in taxpayer dollars is at stake in the 2007...2008 Farm Bill.

Many, many people believe the current policy is grossly misallocating funds. Just one example: In the past five years we’ve paid over $95 Billion in subsidies to growers of surplus, overabundant commodity crops, while support for organic, sustainable agriculture – a market growing 20% each year – is only receiving 1/10 of 1% of the Farm Bill budget.

With four California congressional members on the House Ag committee, and a California chairman of the Senate Ag-committee on Horticulture & Organic Agriculture, we can play a pivotal role in creating a national Farm & Food policy that ensures healthy foods, fertile farmland, and healthy communities for generations to come.

Too Busy, No Time?
What Can I Do? What Are My Options?
What Are the Top Issues?
What's Happening When?
Where Can I Get More Info?


Too Busy, No Time?

No time to read another sentence? Sign these quick petitions. Takes 1 minute.

And, sign up to receive alerts from California Coalition for Food & Farming (CCFF) or American Farmland Trust, and they’ll tell you when something urgent comes up.

Whenever you receive an alert, speak up with an easy click of your mouse. Consumer input really does matter!

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What Can I Do? What Are My Options?

Bare Minimum
Check out the latest alert.

Sign up for the CA Food & Farming (CCFF) newsletter (or the American Farmland Trust's version), and you will be notified when an important decision is being made. When you receive an alert, check it out and speak up with a click of your mouse. Consumer input matters here!

Skim the Issues & Bills chart below to get a 1-minute overview of the top issues. Or, track progress in CCFF's handy chart.

Help Publicize Important Decisions and Events
The Farm Bill needs better coverage in rural AND urban communities. Whenever a new marker bill is introduced or any critical decision is being made:

WRITE TO A PROMINENT NEWSPAPER OR MAGAZINE IN YOUR AREA:
Email or fax a letter to the Op-Ed departments of your local publications expressing your opinions or position. Email Kari Hamerschlag at CCFF if you would like help framing your letter. You can also refer to online resources to successfully write an op-ed piece.

EMAIL YOUR COLLEAGUES, FRIENDS & FAMILY:
Let the people you work with and who are close to you know why the Farm Bill is important to you personally. Refer them to our site or any of the other sites listed below.

HELP ADVOCACY GROUPS MAKE CALLS AND SEND LETTERS:
When a critical decision is being made, volunteers are needed to help call and write congresspeople. If you’re interested, email Kari Hamerschlag at CCFF.

Help Educate Congressional Decision-Makers About the Farm Bill
The House and Senate discuss thousands of topics all the time. It’s impossible for them to be aware of all of these issues at the depth they really (ideally) should.

SIGN DEAR COLLEAGUE LETTERS:
One solution is the "Dear Colleague" letter. These are letters a congressperson sends to his/her colleagues to notify and educate them about a particular bill or program they support. To give these Dear Colleague letters even more impact, a congressperson can include consumer/citizen signatures in support of their views.

Various advocacy groups are just now drafting some Dear Colleague letters for consumers to sign and submit to their congresspeople.

Attend Local Meetings with Your Congressperson
Email or call your congressperson to find out when they will be in your area. Let them know your views on the Farm Bill and find out their position on the issues first-hand.

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What Are the Top Issues and Marker Bills?

Bottom line: We need to get subsidy payments under control and apply those billions of dollars to promote programs for healthy foods, natural resources, and rural communities to supply both urban and rural citizens.

Below are the top issues and the marker bills that support their reform. Let your congressperson know your specific concerns and which marker bills you want him/her to cosponsor. (More on how to take action...)

See the bottom of this section for detailed descriptions of these bills.

ISSUES

MARKER BILLS*

Caps on subsidies and commodity payments to allow for new, improved programs and to comply with WTO rules
More... (PDF)

Grassley-Dorgan amendment:
This key amendment will be voted on soon in the Senate…

Fair, competitive agricultural markets instead of dominance of big ag commodity crops
More… (PDF)

- Healthy Farms, Foods & Fuels Act (Kind, Menendez)
- EAT Healthy America Act (Cardoza)
- (Feingold) bill

Land and resource conservation, protection, and stewardship
More… (PDF)

- Healthy Farms, Foods & Fuels Act (Kind, Menendez)
- EAT Healthy America Act (Cardoza)
- Farm, Nutrition & Community Investment Act (DeLauro-Gilhrest) aka NE/Mid-Atlantic Bill
- (Feingold) bill
- (Van Hollen) bill

Research for sustainable/organic agriculture, currently less than a fraction of 1% of the budget
More… (PDF)

- Healthy Farms, Foods & Fuels Act (Kind, Menendez)
- (Feingold) bill

Assistance for farms wanting to transition to sustainable/organic production
More… (PDF)

- Healthy Farms, Foods & Fuels Act (Kind, Menendez)
- Farm, Nutrition & Community Investment Act (DeLauro-Gilhrest) aka NE/Mid-Atlantic Bill
- (Feingold) bill

Assistance to our next generation of farmers, ranchers, and rural entrepreneurs in addition to socially & economically disadvantaged farmers
More… (PDF)

- Healthy Farms, Foods & Fuels Act (Kind, Menendez)
- Farm, Nutrition & Community Investment Act (DeLauro-Gilhrest) aka NE/Mid-Atlantic Bill
- (Feingold) bill
- (Nelson/Salazar) bill
- (Coleman) bill

Local food systems and economies, farmers markets, and supply chain innovations
More… (PDF)

- Local Food & Farm Support Act (Blumenauer)
- FOOD for a Healthy America Act (Brown)
- Healthy Farms, Foods & Fuels Act (Kind, Menendez)
- Farm, Nutrition & Community Investment Act (DeLauro-Gilhrest) aka NE/Mid-Atlantic Bill
- (Feingold) bill
- (Velasquez) bill

Promoting “specialty crops” (like fruits and vegetables) instead of 92% of subsidies going to commodity crops (corn, soy, wheat, rice, and cotton)
More…

- Local Food & Farm Support Act (Blumenauer)
- FOOD for a Healthy America Act (Brown)
- Healthy Farms, Foods & Fuels Act (Kind, Menendez)
- EAT Healthy America Act (Cardoza)
- Farm, Nutrition & Community Investment Act (DeLauro-Gilhrest) aka NE/Mid-Atlantic Bill

Research of commodity purchasing to minimize prevalent commodity crop surplus
More… (PDF)

- Healthy Farms, Foods & Fuels Act (Kind, Menendez)
- Farm, Nutrition & Community Investment Act (DeLauro-Gilhrest) aka NE/Mid-Atlantic Bill

Nutrition programs for the general public
More…

- Healthy Farms, Foods & Fuels Act (Kind, Menendez)
- EAT Healthy America Act (Cardoza)
- (Boxer) bill

Nutrition programs and local, healthy foods for schools, seniors, women, infants, and children
More…

- Local Food & Farm Support Act (Blumenauer)
- FOOD for a Healthy America Act (Brown)
- Healthy Farms, Foods & Fuels Act (Kind, Menendez)
- EAT Healthy America Act (Cardoza)
- Farm, Nutrition & Community Investment Act (DeLauro-Gilhrest) aka NE/Mid-Atlantic Bill
- (Feingold) bill
- (Woolsey) bill
- (Boxer) bill

Food stamps and fresh fruit/veggie food stamps
More…

- Healthy Farms, Foods & Fuels Act (Kind, Menendez)
- EAT Healthy America Act (Cardoza)
- Farm, Nutrition & Community Investment Act (DeLauro-Gilhrest) aka NE/Mid-Atlantic Bill

School gardens
More…

- Local Food & Farm Support Act (Blumenauer)
- FOOD for a Healthy America Act (Brown)
- (Feingold) bill

Renewable energy
More… (PDF)

- Healthy Farms, Foods & Fuels Act (Kind, Menendez)
- Farm, Nutrition & Community Investment Act (DeLauro-Gilhrest) aka NE/Mid-Atlantic Bill
- (Feingold) bill

* Names in parentheses indicate the authors of the marker bill. Bills with no official title and just a name in parentheses are referred to by author’s name. For example, "(Feingold)" is referred to as the “Feingold marker bill".

More about:
Blumenauer bill
Brown bill
Other bills noted above

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What's Happening When?

Marker bills were introduced
UNTIL MAY 2007

Marker bills are legislative bills containing a set of specific proposals for reform. They apply to one or more Farm Bill Titles: Commodity Programs, Conservation, Trade, Nutrition Programs, Credit, Rural Development, Research and Related Matters, Forestry, Energy, Miscellaneous (crop insurance, disaster aid, animal health & welfare, organic, farmers’ markets, civil rights, etc.)

They get introduced to Congress but are usually not discussed on the floor at this time. They essentially are placeholders for the bigger bill (the all-encompassing Farm Bill).

A marker bill typically has at least a few Congressional cosponsors upon introduction.

The goal is to enlist more cosponsors after it is introduced and while it is reviewed to show support for the legislative proposals.

Ag Chairmen reviewed marker bills
UNTIL MAY 2007

The Ag Committee Chairmen of the House and Senate referred to these documents as they drafted their influential "chairman's marks". They outlined their top policy priorities and establish funding allocations for different areas of the Farm Bill. Subcommittee chairmen in the House and Senate then reviewed the documents and made their own marks.

Subcommittees reviewed marker bills and enlisted cosponsors
UNTIL JUNE 2007

Marker bills were then assigned to relevant subcommittees where they were reviewed to become part of the overall Farm Bill deliberation.

The more cosponsors who have signed on during this period, the greater the chance that particular marker bill will be integrated into the Farm Bill.

Once this hearing and review process is complete, the bills were resubmitted to the Ag Chairman, who is responsible for writing the final draft of the Farm Bill.

Farm Bill provisions negotiated between House and Senate
BEGINNING JULY 2007

Recently, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed off on a five-year farm bill that would keep multi-Billion-dollar subsidies flowing to corn and a handful of other commodity crops. Our last chance for real reform is now in the hands of the Senate.

BEGINNING NOVEMBER 2007!

The Farm Bill will now be voted on the Senate floor. It already went through the House earlier this summer with mixed reviews.

Last Thursday night (12/6), the Senate reached a compromise on amendments to the Farm Bill. Under their deal, the Senate will debate up to 40 amendments – each political party is allowed to propose 20. Votes are not expected until late Tuesday, though debate on amendments began Friday, and will continue this week. Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) has said that he hopes to finish the Farm Bill by the end of next week (12/21). Harkin says if the Senate finishes the bill next week, it might be possible to move to conference (where House and Senate members work out differences between the two bills) before Christmas, but that it is more likely a conference report will be completed in January.

On Friday afternoon, Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Chambliss (R-GA) came to the floor of the Senate to kick off the amendment process. For the Democratics, Chairman Harkin presented the Dorgan-Grassley payment limit reform and an amendment from Senator Brown (D-OH) that cuts federal crop insurance expenditures. For the Republicans, Sen. Chambliss presented the Lugar-Lautenberg alternative farm bill amendment, an amendment from Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) to strike the $5 billion agricultural disaster fund, and three amendments from Sen. Coburn (R-OK) - a ban on subsides to farmers who do not receive at least two-thirds of their income from farming, a ban to USDA funding for golf courses, casinos, and resorts, and a ban on historic barn preservation funding during declared times of emergency disasters. Senator Klobuchar (D-MN) then came to the floor and presented her amendment that would impose more stringent limits on who is eligible to receive subsidies. It would set an adjusted gross income limit at $750K for full-time farmers and a $250K limit for ‘part-time’ farmers, or those who get less than 66% of their income from farming. We will keep you updated as debate moves forward this week.

UPDATED 12/17/07
After several days of intense debate, the Senate passed a farm bill by a vote of 79-14 on Friday, December 14th. The House passed their farm bill in the summer, and now the Conference Committee reconciles the two bills - hopefully retaining the increased funding for our key priorities—farmland protection and conservation, healthy, local foods, environmentally responsible renewable energy production and nutrition programs.

The final push on the farm bill will take place in early 2008.

CA Reps Set to Influence Final Farm Bill Negotiations
UPDATED 2/7/08

With the Senate and House versions of the new farm bill passed in 2007, the next step is for the differences between the two bills to be negotiated and resolved so that one final bill can be voted on by both Chambers and sent to the President. These negotiations are carried out by a joint committee of House and Senate agriculture committee members called the "conference committee". Though the committee appointments have not yet been officially announced Reps Joe Baca (D-43) and Dennis Cardoza (D-18) are a sure bet for the committee, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi will once again have an opportunity to influence the bill as Speaker of the House. While there are many substantive differences between the bills to work through, the most notable deal with way the two bills are funded. The Bush administration has put out a veto warning because of their objection to what they call tax-based funding strategies and the lack of commodity reform - which they are in favor of because of their conflict with international trade rules.

Read more...

Farm Bill extended to April 18th
UPDATED 3/16/08

There's a new deadline, but little, if any, new progress on the farm bill. Congress extended the bill for a second time to April 18th. If a decision can't be reached by then, President Bush is urging Congress to extend the bill another year.

Funding remains the primary cause of the stalemate, with no clear signs on how to pay for an additional billion in funding for critical programs. Chairman Peterson (D-MN) says even if there is no additional funding, he will create a fallback plan to work on a new farm bill using only baseline funding.

Congress is on recess March 16th – 28th. Contact your legislator in your home district and urge them to pass the farm bill with the Average Crop Revenue program and funding for conservation, local foods and renewable energy.

To get the latest news and action alerts, sign up for the occasional emails from American Farmland Trust or CA Coalition for Food & Farming.

Regarding the Senate Bill: In a victory for subsidy reform, the optional Average Crop Revenue (ACR) program passed. By adjusting with market prices, ACR represents a good step toward changing the way subsidies operate now and in the future. Your support helped this program get into the Senate package.

The Senate bill also increases funding for conservation programs including wetland and grassland protection, stewardship of working lands and water quality. It also expands funding for nutrition, healthy diets programs for school children, and a number of local programs supporting farmers’ markets and expanded access for low income individuals. Other areas receiving additional funding include programs to save energy and help farmers and ranchers supply renewable energy to the nation, and programs to strengthen organic producers.

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Where Can I Get More Info?

There are numerous sites on the Farm Bill... Below are some good resources:

Sustainable Agricultural Coalition
California Coalition for Food and Farming (CCFF) and email alerts
Oxfam America
American Farmland Trust and email alerts
Farm Bill Primer
Farm and Food Project Seeking Balance Report (endorsed by over 400 organizations)
Sustainable Agriculture Working Group weekly updates
Ag Observatory for news
Farm Policy for news

Webcast: Michael Pollan moderates a panel discussion of the 2007 farm bill, including author of...

Book: Food Fight: A Citizen’s Guide to the Food & Farm Bill by Daniel Imhoff. (See our recent feature on Imhoff and his book.)

Some last perspective…
The Senate Farm Bill will cost about $288 BILLION over the next 5 years. This works out to about $1000 per person in the U.S. and about $2300 per tax payer. And, please consider New Zealand is doing quite nicely since they canceled farm subsidies.

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