Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hey folks, it’s Farm Bill time!

HildeThe Farm Bill is a piece of legislation that often feels like it’s either too early or too late to get involved in. But if there were ever a prime time to weigh in on the 2012 Farm Bill, it’s now. And by now, we mean today!

Here's the quick update: Last Friday, the Senate Agriculture Committee released their draft of the 2012 Farm Bill. This is welcome movement, as the current Farm Bill is set to expire in September, and getting new legislation to pass amidst the budgetary and election pressures at play this year is a big deal for the interests of family farmers and the good food movement. The draft itself is a mixed bag. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition provides a great breakdown of the good, the “half-baked” and the ugly for issues of rural development and local food, research, beginning farmers and organic agriculture. When it comes to conservation programs, the outlook is pretty dismal.

The Senate Ag Committee is set to “mark up” the bill tomorrow, Wednesday, April 25th. During this time, members can raise and vote on amendments to change the bill, providing an important opening to improve the bill for family farmers, eaters and the future of sustainable and organic production. If the Committee is to meet its timeline of sending an agreed upon draft to the Senate Floor by Memorial Day, the majority of what comes out of mark up this week will inevitably serve as the core of our next Farm Bill. In other words, now is a crucial time to impact Farm Bill deliberations.

So, what to do in the next 24 hours?

If you live in a state with a Senate Ag Committee member (AR, CO, GA, IA, IN, KS, KY, MI, MN, MS, MT, ND, NE, NY, OH, PA, SD, VT), call your Senator and tell them that you want a Farm Bill that rewards farmers for taking care of the land, that puts fresh, healthy food in our schools and neighborhoods, that helps young people get into farming and that restores fairness for farmers in the marketplace. You can point them to two small but important marker bills: the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act and the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act. A great new website, www.farmbillprimer.org, offers maps of the different congressional ag committees with contact information for members in your state.

You can also sign on as a citizen endorser of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s 2012 Farm Bill platform.

And if you need some brushing up on the Farm Bill, now’s as good a time as any. Check out Farm Aid’s Farm Bill page for a good primer (look for the study guide link at the bottom of the page). Remember, the Farm Bill affects us all, every day. We need everyone to get involved!

"Wheat Dollars" photo from Bigstock.

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