Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Farm Bill Goes to Conference: What's at Stake

AliciaThe Farm Bill is in Conference! That means the long stalled process of negotiating a farm bill has reached the stage where appointed members of the House and Senate reconcile the differences in each of their farm bills in order to craft a final bill. (Check out this nifty little graphic from our friends at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition for more on the oh-so-fun farm bill process!)

But we're not in the clear yet. Given the vast differences between the House and Senate bills—things like wildly different funding levels for SNAP benefits (a.k.a. food stamps) or dramatic differences in subsidy reform language--the task is a difficult one. But the process is critically important: the final product will dictate the nation's food and farm policy for the next five years, with wide-reaching implications for farmers, eaters, rural communities, our environment and our economy. And that means all of us need to weigh in.

The last farm bill, passed in 2008, featured several innovative programs that create new markets for family farmers, build local economies, protect and restore natural resources, and foster the next generation of farmers. While these programs represent a fairly small fraction of total farm bill spending, their impact is large as they are building the foundation for a more sustainable and equitable farm and food system. But nearly all of these programs were denied funding in last year's last-minute farm bill extension, gutting hundreds of millions dollars from our food and farm future. The extension expired on September 30th, and those programs will continue to languish unless Congress passes a full and fair farm bill.

Now is the time to demand that Farm Bill conferees get it right. Pay attention if you live in the state of any of these members of Congress. Your voice is hugely important and we encourage you to call your representative to ask for a full and fair farm bill that benefits eaters and farmers alike:

House
Frank Lucas (R-OK)
Mike Rogers (R-AL)
Randy Neugebauer (R-TX)
Michael Conaway (R-TX)
Rick Crawford (R-AR)
Steve King (R-IA)
Austin Scott (R-GA)
Glenn Thompson (R-PA)
Martha Roby (R-AL)
Kristi Noem (R-SD)
Rodney Davis (R-IL)
Jeff Denham (R-CA)
Steve Southerland (R-FL).
Colin Peterson (D-MN)
Marcia Fudge (D-OH)
Mike McIntyre (D-NC)
Jim Costa (D-CA)
Tim Waltz (D-MN)
Kurt Schrader (D-OR)

Jim McGovern (D-MA)
Suzan DelBene (D-WA)
Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-CA)
Filemon Vela (D-TX)
Eliot Engel (D-NY)
Sandy Levin (D-MI)

Senate
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
John Boozman (R-AR)
John Hoeven (R-ND)

Now that you've found your member of Congress, call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or visit a website like this to find their contact information and ask your representatives for a full and fair farm bill. Here's a sample script for you:

As your constituent and an engaged citizen who cares about the food I eat and the people who grow it, I urge you to pass a full and fair five-year farm bill that invests in our family farmers, our public health, our environment, and our economy.

Please pass a balanced and reform-oriented Farm Bill that serves the interests of all farmers and eaters, and include provisions that advance rural development, natural resource conservation, renewable energy, economic justice for contract farmers, local food systems, organic farming, agricultural research, and beginning, veteran and minority farmer interests.

If you want to take it a step further, ask them to support and include full funding for the following programs:

  • Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP)
  • Conservation Reserve Transition Incentives Program (CRP-TIP)
  • Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program
  • Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program
  • Specialty Crop Research Initiative
  • Grain Inspection and Packers and Stockyards Act antitrust enforcement (GIPSA)
  • Value-Added Producer Grants Program
  • Rural Energy for America Program
  • Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program
  • Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI)
  • Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives
  • National Organic Certification Cost Share Program

Thanks for doing your part for a fair farm and food system! As Willie Nelson has said, "When we all stand with family farmers and do our part, we can bring about change that's good for all of us."

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