Friday, September 14, 2012

Farm Bill on hold, conservation programs shut down

HildeWell, it’s not the update we wanted to give, but here goes (and bear with us, this is a little tricky).

Yesterday, the House approved what’s called a “continuing resolution” to keep the entire government running through next March. The Senate is likely to approve the same bill next week. In the process, they managed to shut down four critical farm bill conservation programs, effectively preventing any new enrollments in 2013 for the Conservation Stewardship Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program and Chesapeake Bay Conservation Program. Why they would allow these cuts during the worst drought in a generation is beyond us, as these are the very programs we desperately need to restore our farms and buffer our land against the ravages of future disaster. Over 13,000 farmers and over 12 million acres of land will be affected.

The passage of the continuing resolution also makes it clear that no Farm Bill is going to happen before the election. According to Farm Aid partner National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), “the last best hope” for a 2012 Farm Bill is to try to get a new 5-year bill worked out after the election during the “lame duck” session before new officials take office. They hope that this strategy will work as long as negotiations lead to a bill that enacts real farm program reform and provides a robust conservation title to fix the cuts made by the continuing resolution yesterday.

What to do in the meantime? Continue to let your Representatives know that we need a forward-thinking 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 in the marketplace. Let them know that you care about the Farm Bill — because it affects all of us, every single day.

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