Senate Agriculture Committee Approves Farm Bill
The Senate Agriculture Committee voted a new farm bill out of committee on April 26 by a vote of 16-5. The committee bill saves $23 billion over the next ten years according to budget estimates.
The committee bill includes historic reforms to commodity subsidies. In addition to replacing automatic direct payments with a shallow loss revenue-based payment, the bill limits payments to not more than one farm manager per farm operation. Under current law, mega farms collect multiple payments worth millions of dollars through passive investors and landowners who are counted as farm managers.
“We applaud the Senate Agriculture Committee for including common sense rules to commodity payments and ending years of abuse by closing program loopholes,” said Ferd Hoefner, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “Thanks to Senator Grassley’s (R-IA) tireless leadership, the Committee was able to make sure that hardworking farmers—not mega farms and absentee investors—are the key beneficiaries of farm programs.”
The Committee also enacted a nationwide “Sodsaver” provision to protect native grass and prairie lands. The provision reduces crop insurance premium subsidies and tightens program rules in a manner that will reduce the taxpayer-funded incentive to destroy important grassland resources.
“By agreeing to a nationwide ‘Sodsaver’ provision championed by Sens. Thune (R-SD), Brown (D-OH) and Johanns (R-NE), the Senate Agriculture Committee made sure that taxpayer dollars are not subsidizing the destruction of native grass and prairie lands,” said Hoefner. “These lands are diminishing at a rapid rate and protecting them provides ranching opportunities and economic, environmental and recreational benefits to rural communities.”
While the Committee made progress on these commodity and crop insurance issues, there are several outstanding gaps in the proposed changes to the farm safety net.
“By failing to place limitations on crop insurance subsidies and to re-attach soil erosion and wetland conservation requirements to crop insurance programs, the Committee has failed to do the full reform that is needed. We intend to continue to press these issues as the bill moves forward,” continued Hoefner.
The Committee also made progress on critical programs that underpin economic growth.
“The leadership of Chairwoman Stabenow (D-MI) and Senators Brown (D-OH), Leahy (D-VT), Harkin (D-IA), and Casey (D-PA) ensured that programs that spur economic growth in rural communities built on gains from the 2008 Farm Bill,” noted Hoefner. “The Committee reauthorized critical local food and organic programs, such as the Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion Program, and National Organic Certification Cost Share.”
Despite progress, there were glaring shortfalls and omissions in the Committee’s draft.
“Sens. Harkin (D-IA), Johanns (R-NE), Casey (D-PA), and Nelson (D-NE) championed various beginning farmer provisions, but the bill lacks a cohesive strategy to assist the next generation of American farmers,” said Hoefner. “Most noticeably, the Committee failed to provide adequate funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, thus limiting critical resources that new farmers need to succeed.”
The Committee did not fund the rural development title or key programs targeted at socially disadvantaged producers, nor did it make needed improvements in farm to school programs.
“We regret the Committee’s decision to drop current farm bill funding for minority farmers in the new bill, and will work to see that funding restored,” said Hoefner. “We also echo Sen. Brown’s (D-OH) concluding statements: without a strong investment in rural development programs we will miss the opportunity to truly make this bill a jobs bill,” said Hoefner.
“Overall, the bill released out of Committee is an improvement over last year’s draft bill,” said Hoefner, “but there is a still a ways to go to produce a bill that expands opportunities for family farmers to produce good food, sustain the environment, and contribute to vibrant communities. We look forward to working with the Committee and the full Senate to ensure further progress toward that end.”
For more information, click here.
By Robin Scher
Beyond the questions surrounding the availability, effectiveness and safety of a vaccine, the COVID-19 pandemic has led us to question where our food is coming from and whether we will have enough.
- Can Urban Farms Prevent Hunger in 54 Million People in the U.S. ... ›
- New Report Finds Malnutrition World's Top Killer Amid Pandemic ... ›
- Oxfam Warns 12,000 Could Die Per Day From Hunger Due to ... ›
- Three Ways to Support a Healthy Food System During the COVID ... ›
- Trump USDA Resumes Effort to Cut Food Stamp Benefits - EcoWatch ›
- Pandemic Threatens Food Security for Many College Students ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Tearing through the crowded streets of Philadelphia, an electric car and a gas-powered car sought to win a heated race. One that mimicked how cars are actually used. The cars had to stop at stoplights, wait for pedestrians to cross the street, and swerve in and out of the hundreds of horse-drawn buggies. That's right, horse-drawn buggies. Because this race took place in 1908. It wanted to settle once and for all which car was the superior urban vehicle. Although the gas-powered car was more powerful, the electric car was more versatile. As the cars passed over the finish line, the defeat was stunning. The 1908 Studebaker electric car won by 10 minutes. If in 1908, the electric car was clearly the better form of transportation, why don't we drive them now? Today, I'm going to answer that question by diving into the history of electric cars and what I discovered may surprise you.
As bitcoin's fortunes and prominence rise, so do concerns about its environmental impact.
- 15 Top Conservation Issues of 2021 Include Big Threats, Potential ... ›
- How Blockchain Could Boost Clean Energy - EcoWatch ›
By David Drake and Jeffrey York
The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.
The Big Idea
People often point to plunging natural gas prices as the reason U.S. coal-fired power plants have been shutting down at a faster pace in recent years. However, new research shows two other forces had a much larger effect: federal regulation and a well-funded activist campaign that launched in 2011 with the goal of ending coal power.
- Major Milestone: More than 100,000 MW Worth of Coal-Fired Power ... ›
- Coal Will Not Bring Appalachia Back to Life, But Tech and ... ›
- Renewables Beat Coal in the U.S. for the First Time This April ... ›