Thursday, June 13, 2013

Senate Passes the Farm Bill

AliciaThis Monday, the Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill by a vote of 66-27 (click here to see how your Senators voted). The bottom line of it is a mixed bag. Pressure to pass the bill intensified as key Senators hoped to shift attention to immigration reform, and unfortunately many critical and hugely beneficial programs and amendments were left out.

In fact, over 200 amendments were filed for debate for the Farm Bill—amendments supporting local food and rural development, conservation programs, organic farming, antitrust enforcement, support for public plant breeding, programs for minority farmers and important payout limits to insurance subsidies—but the Senate debated only 15 of them, and adopted just nine.

The good? The bill does manage to make sure that farmers receiving crop insurance are implementing important conservation practices on their farms. It also allows organic farmers to be covered under crop insurance at their retail, not conventional wholesale, prices—a critical reform that farmers have been asking for. It expands support for farmers markets and establishes some (but not enough) support initiatives for beginning farmers, specifically supports outreach to Veteran farmers, and, importantly, calls for an official hearing process to consider changes to the flawed current and proposed dairy programs.

The bad? Many farmers remain concerned that the bill is shifting an admittedly flawed safety net system of direct payments over to something that’s not much better—a corporate-controlled crop insurance payment program that will still fail to serve the great diversity of farmers on the land, without truly addressing the need for farmers to receive fair prices or for our agricultural system to become more resilient in the face of climate change and other volatile factors.

The House is expected to take up debate of the House Agriculture Committee’s draft farm bill the week of June 17. Stay tuned for opportunities to engage and support critical programs!

To keep track of the Farm Bill process, check out the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s nifty graphic outlining what lies ahead of us (click to enlarge).

Farm Bill

And if that doesn’t float your boat, take a gander at this helpful, vintage little diddy from Schoolhouse Rock!

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