The 2012 Farm Bill: what's going on?
Congress is currently at work on the 2012 Farm Bill. This giant bill comes around about once every 5 years, and it contains much of the federal policy that affects our food and farm system. Both the Senate and House of Representatives are working on their own versions of the bill; right now, the Senate appears likely to finish their bill first. In April - this month! - Senators and their staff are working every day on the bill, which means now is the time for them to hear from you about what the Farm Bill needs to look like!
You can help - make a call today! Here's how to make the call:
- 1. Dial the number for your Congressperson's DC office. (found in your Action Alert email)
- 2. Ask for the staff member who works on agricultural issues. If the agriculture staffer isn’t available, leave a message.
The email you received contains a key, targeted message to share with your legislators.
- 3. Thank the staff member for their time.
- 4. Tell us how it went!
Get more information on the issues:
Wherever there’s local food, there are farmers feeding communities and creating jobs. Farmers and ranchers are responding to skyrocketing demand for fresh, healthy food everywhere: at farmers’ markets, grocery stores, and in schools across the nation. Local and regional agriculture is a major driver in the farm economy, too - producers are responding to skyrocketing demand for local and regional food by increasing production, creating new markets, and launching new businesses. Locally marketed foods accounted for an estimated $4.8 billion in gross sales in 2008, the number of farmers markets nationwide jumped 17 percent in 2011, and all 50 states now have farm-to-school programs. Despite these opportunities, significant infrastructure, marketing, and information barriers are limiting growth in local and regional agriculture.
The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act will drive economic growth by:
- - Creating economic opportunities for farmers and ranchers through local and regional markets.
- - Improving processing and distribution infrastructure for local and regional agriculture.
- - Expanding access to healthy food for consumers, including underserved communities.
- - Providing research, training, and information that farm entrepreneurs need to be successful.
Why It Matters:
- - Research shows that expanding local agriculture in a community can increase employment and income in that community.
- - Every two jobs created at a farmers market supports an additional job in another sector of the local economy.
- - The bill’s investment in local and regional agriculture amounts to less than one-sixth of one percent of USDA’s budget, yet will address the needs of a large and growing sector of American agriculture.
Agriculture is a vibrant sector of our nation’s economy, yet high barriers to entry make farming and ranching one of the hardest careers to pursue. Limited access to land and markets, hyperinflation in land prices, high input costs, farm and tax policy disadvantages, and lack of training discourage many would-be producers from entering agriculture. As a result, the average American farmer is now 57-years-old, and the fastest growing group of farm operators are those 65 years and older. Despite these significant hurdles, there are dedicated people who see great opportunities in agriculture today and want to start their own farm or ranch businesses.
We need a national strategy and commitment to support beginning farmer and ranchers entering agriculture. With an aging farm population, now is the time to invest in the future of American agriculture by nurturing new agriculture start-ups.
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act will invest in the next generation of American producers by:
- - Enabling access to land, credit, and crop insurance for new producers.
- - Assisting new producers to launch and strengthen new farm and value-added businesses.
- - Helping new producers become good land stewards.
- - Providing training, mentoring, and research that beginning farmers and ranchers need to be successful.
- - Conducting outreach on agricultural job opportunities for military veterans.
Why It Matters:
- - The future of family farming and ranching in America – and the viability of our nation’s food supply – depends upon removing existing obstacles to entry into farming so that more people can start to farm.
- - This bill encompasses a national strategy for addressing those barriers, focusing on the issues that consistently rank as the greatest challenges for beginning producers.
- - This bill makes an important investment in the next generation of farmers and ranchers at a cost of just a fraction of one percent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s budget.
Farmers and ranchers rely on innovative research every day to stay successful in an ever-changing world – from a smart strategy for reducing fertilizer use, to a delicious new variety of apple, to a safe way to control a new pest. Now is the time to ensure that funding for this crucial work is part of the 2012 Farm Bill - improved agricultural production and farming techniques depend on it. Investment in agricultural research is vital to continued productivity and innovation in growing and diverse sectors of American agriculture.
The 2012 Farm Bill should invest in future agricultural innovation by:
- - Reauthorizing and funding successful and consistently over-subscribed mandatory competitive research programs for beginning farmers, organic agriculture, and specialty crops.
- - Addressing research, data collection, and technical assistance needs for emerging value-added businesses and agricultural sectors.
- - Enhancing public plant and animal breeding and integrated pest management research, education, and extension to ensure farmers have the tools they need to meet growing consumer demand.
- - Integrating public health priorities into the federal agricultural research agenda to examine the link between food production and health.
Why It Matters:
- - In order to increase and improve production, farmers need cutting-edge research that is easily accessible and relevant to their farming systems.
- - For every $1 invested in publicly funded agricultural research, $20 in economic activity is generated.
- - Investments in organic and sustainable research provide innovations that enable farmers and food businesses to be successful.
- - Research on diversified agricultural systems contributes to improved public health, which is important to our nation’s economy and well-being.
Privately owned crop, pasture, and rangelands account for nearly half of the landmass in the U.S. Given that footprint, it is clear farmers and ranchers have an enormous impact on our natural environment. A suite of distinct but interrelated farm bill programs -- Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, and Cooperative Conservation Partnerships Initiative -- work together to assist farmers protect and rebuild soil, provide clean water and wildlife habitat, and supply other environmental benefits, while maintaining vibrant and productive farms and ranches.
Congress should strengthen working lands conservation programs in the 2012 Farm Bill by:
- - Protecting CSP and EQIP from unfair budget cuts.
- - Making improvements to the programs that help expand their accessbility to farms of all sizes, strengthen their conservation standards, and grow their ability to offer technical assistance for farmers.
- - Streamlining and strengthening support for project-based conservation partnerships, including increased support for projects that help farmers mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Why It Matters:
- - Working lands conservation programs improve water quality, help reverse wildlife habitat loss, and protect and enhance soil resources; they are needed now more than ever given heightened production and climate pressure.
- - The programs bring money and jobs to rural America.
- - The programs empower states to conserve resources locally by granting them flexibility to prioritize conservation issues and to develop cooperative projects to address local needs.
- - Farmer demand is very high – applications for CSP and EQIP dollars often outstrip available funds by two to three times on an annual basis.
- - If we do not invest in protecting our natural resource base, long-term costs with respect to food security and environmental mitigation efforts will far outstrip the cost of today’s targeted investment.