Opinion: The 2018 Farm Bill Battle Lines Have Been Drawn: Here’s What You Can Do
Last week, the Republican-drafted Farm Bill, called the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), failed spectacularly on the House floor when Republicans tried to leverage the farm bill to placate conservatives' agenda on immigration. Nevertheless, H.R. 2, which generally benefits large commodity producers while compromising long-term food security, provides a helpful view into where the policy battles are being fought on the road to passage.
So, good food advocates and citizens take heart and roll-up your sleeves. In this post, I read the tea leaves and provide a roadmap toward a good food bill.
The Farm Bill is an omnibus legislation, impacting food, farms, conservation and rural economies. The term "Farm Bill" is misleading because the legislation touches every American given the breadth of policies it encompasses. Passed every four or five years, the current 2014 Farm Bill is set to expire this year.
Typically, a coalition of urban Democrats who support federal programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and rural Republicans who represent farmers and ranchers passed the Farm Bill. This traditional coalition fell apart during the 2014 Farm Bill, resulting in a protracted and messy legislative process. Good food advocates should take note of emerging coalitions in this farm bill cycle to help improve their chance of passing farm bill reforms in the future.
Now back to the House bill. Three key areas in the House's draft fundamentally undermine food equity, farm sustainability and environmental health. Addressing these regressive policies in the House's H.2. should be a priority for anyone focused on creating a food-secure future.
Feed Food-Insecure Americans
Previously known as "food stamps," SNAP makes up about 80 percent of the Farm Bill cost. However, SNAP spending on a per capita basis is modest, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). Republicans, in an effort to drive down SNAP costs by getting people off assistance, have proposed conditioning benefits for millions of recipients on enrollment in job training programs. In other words, the proposed policy seeks to prevent vulnerable communities from having basic access to food—a morally reprehensible policy. Moreover, this proposal is based on false assumptions regarding SNAP recipients. As CBPP found, most SNAP recipients who can work, do work.
Congress should focus on developing and fully funding programs that ensure the availability of and access to healthy food for all Americans.
Create a Real Farm Safety Net
The House bill removes key payment limits on commodity subsidies and raises insurance payout rates on what is known as the farm safety net, benefiting large corporations.
As it is, the wealthiest producers receive the majority of federal crop insurance benefits, for which taxpayers pay 62 percent of the premium cost on average. Taxpayers shouldn't be underwriting wealthy producers who can mitigate their own risk. Why is it that the House is so willing to dole out taxpayer dollars to those who don't need it, but then prevents access to food for Americans under the poverty line?
Beyond that fundamental inequity, the farm safety net is a failed policy that helps perpetuate farm consolidation. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service detailed the "widespread and persistent" shift toward larger operations over the last three decades. The report concludes that commodity specialization (monocultures) and technology are the drivers of consolidation that take advantage of economies of scale. However, as the Open Markets Institute points out, federal policy and the decline of anti-trust enforcement have facilitated the rise of giant agribusinesses, which control farming inputs, distribution, and processing and squeeze out small and mid-sized producers.
The casualties of agricultural consolidation include devastated rural economies, water and air quality, and suppressed market innovation such as conversion to organic. This state of affairs screams for a new policy approach—not just legislative tweaks to crop insurance. Regrettably, a sea change isn't realistic for this Farm Bill given the late date. Still, advocates can demand that crop insurance be rationalized to limit federal crop insurance eligibility to farmers of modest means while creating incentives for good farming practices through reduced insurance premium rates for those that steward the land.
Protect Our Environment
The House bill makes several policy proposals that seriously undercut conservation on American farms. The conservation title of the Farm Bill is the third-largest portion of the legislation in terms of expenditures, following the nutrition/SNAP and crop insurance titles. Conservation funding is critical because federal regulations exempt most agricultural production.
Consequently, our society largely relies on voluntary conservation to address the serious environmental harms resulting from agriculture such as dirty drinking water and air pollution. The House bill has proposed about $1 billion dollars in conservation cuts, largely gained by merging two flagship conservation programs, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program. In the 2014 Farm Bill, Congress used the same tactic when it merged the conservation easement programs in order to cut funding.
While the conservation programs would benefit from administrative reforms to make them less complicated, easier to implement and more effective, wholesale lumping of programs to reduce funding is not thoughtful reform. Advocates should support fully funding conservation programs while making programs more accessible to small, socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers who could most benefit from financial assistance.
These three areas—nutrition, farm safety net and conservation—constitute the Holy Trinity of the Farm Bill, which should result in healthy people, healthy farm economies, and a healthy environment. Now, it's time to get to work and sow the seeds of good policy to achieve the unfulfilled promise of the Farm Bill.
Let's Make 2018 the Year We Rise Up and Regenerate! https://t.co/iTwkngnTQH @Greenpeace @World_Wildlife @earthhour @Sierra_Magazine— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1515198009.0
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By Daisy Simmons
1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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