News & Views

A New Way of Doing Business for a New Generation (USDA, March 11, 2014) When Lindsey and Ben Shute contacted their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office looking for loan assistance to build a new cold storage facility for their farm, they had no idea what was in store for them.

Farm Bill Reflects Shifting American Menu and a Senator’s Persistent Tilling (New York Times, March 8, 2014) The farm bill signed by President Obama last month was at first glance the usual boon for soybean growers, catfish farmers and their ilk. But closer examination reveals that the nation’s agriculture policy is increasingly more whole grain than white bread.

What Does the President’s 2015 Budget Mean for Sustainable Agriculture? (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, March 5th, 2014) President Obama sent his budget proposal for 2015 to Capitol Hill yesterday. A full review of positive signs and also some disappointments for NSAC priorities in the budget request.

Farm Bill 2014: This Is Not Reform (Center for Rural Affairs, February 25, 2014) President Obama signed the Farm Bill into law on February 7, 2014 in East Lansing, Michigan. Some refer to the bill as a mixed bag. While there are some good provisions, many of which you helped us advocate for over the past few years, the Center for Rural Affairs opposed the final Farm Bill.

Farm bill: Why don’t taxpayers subsidize the foods that are better for us? (Washington Post, February 18, 2014)  Read the farm bill, and a big problem jumps right out at you: Taxpayers heavily subsidize corn and soy, two crops that facilitate the meat and processed food we’re supposed to eat less of, and do almost nothing for the fruits and vegetables we’re supposed to eat more of.

We have a farm bill at last, for better or worse (Marion Nestle, February 10, 2014) The new farm bill has twelve sections or titles. Provided here are some short synopses of some positive and negative details of the 4th Title: Nutrition.

Why the food stamp cuts in the farm bill affect only a third of states (Washington Post, February 5, 2014) When the president signs the farm bill on Friday, he’ll be enacting a huge set of policies including an $8.6 billion cut to food stamps over the next decade. But the cuts are concentrated: they will only affect individuals in about a third of states (including Washington state).

The 2014 Farm Bill: Reaction from relief to aghast (Marion Nestle, February 5, 2014) There are many varying views about the new farm bill, but the bottom line is: it could’ve been worse.

Do Farm Bills Drive or Deter Change? (WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, February 5, 2014) Farm bills over the last forty years have shaped today’s agriculture systems and technology.  They have done so by setting the “rules of the road” and defining or shaping research and investment priorities. The new farm bill provides farmers, agribusiness, rural communities, and the food industry a more stable policy framework in which to make investment and planting decisions.  But my sense is this farm bill could mark a historically significant inflection point.

The Seeds of a New Generation (New York Times, February 4, 2014) John D. Jackson lives in the heart of the Corn Belt, where most of the corn has nothing to do with sweet kernels on the cob. His farm in Southern Illinois typically grows field corn, the high-starch variety that is turned into ethanol and cattle feed. But on 10 of his 700 acres, Mr. Jackson broke from this culture of corn last fall by planting something people can sink their teeth into.

2014 Farm Bill Drill Down: The Bill by the Numbers (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, February 4, 2014) With the 2014 Farm Bill about to become law, NSAC is doing a seven-part series here on our blog that delves into the details of the bill for sustainable food and farming systems.  This first post summarizes the big picture funding decisions reflected in the final bill.

The Farm Bill Still Gives Wads of Cash to Agribusiness. It’s Just Sneakier About It. (New Republic, February 4, 2014) The Senate passed on Thursday a farm bill that took two years to complete. But while the parties argued about how much food to take away from poor people, it’s just as revealing to look at the area where they both agreed.

Farm bill to make subsidy changes (The Columbus Dispatch, February 2, 2014) Farm subsidies that have guided agriculture through record profits in recent years are going away in the five-year farm bill that could become law in the coming week. But new subsidies in the legislation could be just as generous, and farmers aren’t complaining.

What is in the 2014 Farm Bill For Sustainable Farms and Food Systems? (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, January 31, 2014) The final farm bill released earlier this week and currently making its way through Congress and to the President is somewhat of a mixed bag for sustainable food and farming systems. An overview of what is in the bill.

The $956 billion farm bill, in one graph (Wonkblog, Washington Post, January 28, 2014) This week, Congress will vote on a massive farm bill that will set the course of U.S. food policy for the next half-decade. The old farm bill expired in 2012, and its replacement (pdf) is 959 pages long, costing some $956.4 billion over 10 years. So what’s actually in it?

Congress releases its draft budget bill (sigh) (Marion Nestle, January 14, 2014) Congress has not finished the Farm Bill, but their draft budget bill speaks to how the Farm Bill programs will be supported.  The budget bill is what Congress decides taxpayers will pay for in the farm bill as well as bills that cover other programs run by USDA.

Uncapped Entitlement is Bad for Agriculture and Holding up the New Farm Bill (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, January 12, 2014) As Congress heads into the home stretch of finalizing the long-awaited passage of a new 5-year farm bill, the issue of payment limit reform for farm commodity subsidy programs remains up in the air, holding up the completion of the House-Senate conference proceedings.

Farm Bill Fits and Starts (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, January 10, 2014) The New Year hopes for quick action on a new five-year farm bill in the first half of January are fading as negotiations on certain issues stall. These issues include farm subsidy and payment limit reform, enforcing fair competition laws, and providing robust funding for the stranded programs.

No Farm Bill in 2013 (Politico.com, December 10, 2013) Farm bill negotiators conceded Tuesday that they will not finish their work before Congress goes home for the year, but insisted that they are close to a final deal and working toward floor action in early January.

USDA Terminates Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, December 9, 2013) Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) terminated the process for developing a national leafy greens marketing agreement (NLGMA).

DelBene named to conference committee to negotiate a Farm Bill (Bothell Reporter, October 14, 2013) Congresswoman Suzan DelBene was named as a member of the conference committee to negotiate a reauthorized Farm Bill on Friday. The House of Representatives yesterday passed a resolution to enter formal talks with the Senate, and today named their conferees.

Federal Government Shuts Down Many Services (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, October 1, 2013) After the House and Senate failed to agree on a federal funding bill by midnight on September 30, the Federal Government began shutting down non-essential services on Tuesday.

Congress just let the farm bill expire. It’s not the end of the world … yet. (Washington Post, October 1, 2013) The current Congress has been spectacularly adept at not doing stuff. They’ve passed fewer bills than any other Congress in the past 50 years. They can’t get appropriations bills finished on time. They nearly let the highway bill expire. So it’s hardly a stunner that, this weekend, the 112th Congress managed to let the farm bill lapse as well.

House Passes Nutrition Bill with Huge SNAP Cuts (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Sep. 19, 2013) With almost ten times the amount of cuts proposed by the Senate, the House would be removing millions of Americans from the food stamp program with their $39 billion cut over the next decade. Now that they have two separate bills (Farm and Nutrition), coming to conference with the Senate to pass a final Farm Bill will be harder. The house will need to choose one or the other, or bring the two together again to bring forward in the process of creating a final comprehensive Farm Bill.

DelBene Floor Statement of Farm Bill Vote (http://delbene.house.gov, July 11, 2013) Our own Washington Congresswoman Suzan DelBene,  who is a member of the House Agriculture Committee, had this to say in response to the Farm Bill split.

House Republicans Push Through Farm Bill, Without Food Stamps (NY Times, July 11, 2013) The House did the unthinkable and stripped the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program from the rest of the Farm Bill; and act that hasn’t been done since 1973.  “A vote for this bill is a vote to end nutrition in America,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut.

How The Farm Bill Failed (POLITICO, June 23, 2013). Welfare was at the heart of the debate over the latest farm bill that inevitably failed. Generally, Republicans like to see welfare cuts and Democrats support added benefits. Compromise about the farm bill was hard to reach in part due to a rather radical bill amendment by Steve Southerland (R-Fla.). This would enact welfare reforms that would give states half of any savings that resulted from cutting food stamps, which progressives say “would shift SNAP’s basic purpose from feeding hungry people to lining state coffers.”

Growing Pains: The Farm Bill’s Failure (Economist, June 21, 2013). “Why has the farm bill become so politically indigestible in the House?” Bi-partisan disputes over the budget deficit seem to be the main concern—primarily regarding funds to food stamps. Ultimately what killed the bill were two amendments that simply asked too much and lost many Democratic votes.

Opposition To House Farm Bill Spans Political Spectrum (NY Times, June 17, 2013). Both red and blue advocacy groups are lining up in opposition to the House Farm Bill. They stress that the current bill benefits wealthy corporate farmers and insurance subsidies that fail to guarantee farmers’ income.

Senate passes half-trillion dollar farm bill that would cut some subsidies, expand others (AP, Washington Post, June 10, 2013). The senate issued a crop insurance expansion to boost subsidies for Southern rice and peanut farmers. The bill further benefits Midwestern corn and soybean growers, who receive more subsidies than other farmers. Critics say, “the bill would subsidize large corporate farms when farm country is in the middle of an economic boom.”

Opinion: Next farm bill must address long-term food needs (Dan Glickman, The Hill, September 9, 2012) The next Farm Bill, whether written in the midst of a budget-reduction effort or, more preferably, in a period of greater reflection, will allow policymakers to address the short- and long-term needs of food production, distribution and consumption at home and around the world.

Where the Trough Is Overflowing (Robert B. Semple Jr., New York Times, June 2, 2012)

Is Walmart Really Going Organic and Local? (Tom Philpott, Mother Jones, March/April 2012)

Still a Fast Food Nation: Eric Schlosser Reflects on 10 Years Later (Eric Schlosser, The Daily Beast, March 12, 2012)

It’s Not a Fairytale: Seattle to Build Nation’s First Food Forest (February 21, 2012)

FDA Takes a Baby Step on Factory Farm Antibiotics (Tom Philpott, Mother Jones,  Jan. 4, 2012)

Leading scientist says agroecology is the only way to feed the world (Ken Roseboro, The Organic & Non-GMO Report, December 27, 2011). Hans Herren, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized scientist specializing in sustainable agriculture. He is president of the Millennium Institute, a non-profit development research and service organization dedicated to sustainable development. Dr. Herren co-chaired the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science & Technology (IAASTD), an initiative sponsored by the World Bank and United Nations in partnership with the World Health Organization that assessed global agriculture and recommended agroecological solutions to world hunger.

Whippersnappers Unite: Young farmers work to change 2012 Farm Bill (Lindsey Lusher Shute, Grist, December 14, 2011)

Organic Can Feed the World (Barry Estabrook, The Atlantic, December 5, 2011). Given that current production systems leave nearly one billion people undernourished, the onus should be on the agribusiness industry to prove its model, not the other way around.

Locally Grown Food Now a $4.8 Billion Business, Says USDA Report, (Jim Suhr, Huffington Post, 11/14/11)

The Secret Farm Bill (Mark Bittman, The NY Times, 11/9/11)

Factbox: Deficit Super Committee’s 12 Members (Kevin Drawbaugh, Richard Cowan, Donna Smith and Thomas Ferraro, Reuters, Sept. 28, 2011)

Study debunks myths on organic farms (Paul Hanley, Star Phoenix, September 27, 2011)

Farm Programs Sure to Change: Several Policy Changes Pitched to Find Savings (Chris Clayton, DTN -The Progressive Farmer, September 23, 2011). With a new proposal from a bipartisan group of senators, the fight over the farm safety net and commodity program survival is shifting from direct payments to the permanent disaster program.

Super weeds pose growing threat to U.S. crops (Carey Gillam, Reuters News Service, September 19. 2011). AOLA, Kansas – Farmer Mark Nelson bends down and yanks a four-foot-tall weed from his northeast Kansas soybean field. The “waterhemp” towers above his beans, sucking up the soil moisture and nutrients his beans need to grow well and reducing the ultimate yield.

U.S. Farm Bill Makes Women and Children Food Insecure (Brandy Barta, UCLA Center for the Study Of Women, Policy Brief 2, July, 2011).

Was it a bribe, Monsanto? (Kathryn Gilje, Pesticide Action Network of NA, 7/11/2011). Evidence revealed last week shows that Monsanto’s former Chief Financial Officer admitted that the agrochemical corporation planned to spend $150 million in cash and trade incentives in Latin America, North America and Europe to spur the uptake of the pesticide glyphosate, better known as RoundUp.

Egg Producers and Humane Society Urging Federal Standard on Hen Cages (William Neuman, NY Times, July 7, 2011)

UN: Sustainable Food Production Needed To Feed World (Huffington Post, July 5, 2011)

The Food Ark (Charles Siebert, National Geographic, July 2011)  A crisis is looming: To feed our growing population, we’ll need to double food production. Yet crop yields aren’t increasing fast enough, and climate change and new diseases threaten the limited varieties we’ve come to depend on for food. Luckily we still have the seeds and breeds to ensure our future food supply—but we must take steps to save them.

Senate Democrats Unveil Budget Next Week (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition,  June 30th, 2011) No new information has emerged from the Biden group’s talks about the size of potential cuts to agriculture funding.  Rumored spending cuts agreed to so far include a $34 billion farm bill cut (over the next decade), assumed for purposes of coming up with the number to be achieved by completely eliminating commodity program direct payments.  It is unclear if only the number has been agreed to, or if there is a policy or set of policies that have been agreed to for reaching the number.

Peak Food is Near (Wayne Roberts, NOW Magazine, June 30, 2011). Our food supply now ranks with oil and global debt as a worry of G20 elites.

Geneticists find joy in Spudville (By Jim Wyss, Bellingham Herald, June 26, 2011)  Preserving the potato’s diversity.

Is it really economically possible to have a sustainable local food system? (Rob Marqusee, Woodbury Organics, June 17, 2011)

Food price explosion ‘will devastate the world’s poor’ (Rupert Neate, UK Guardian, June 17, 2011) After a 40% rise in global prices over the past year, droughts and floods threaten to seriously damage this year’s harvest.

Big Ag Won’t Feed the World (Tom Philpott, Mother Jones, June 15, 2011)

Best Friends Forever? Produce Growers and Pesticide Makers Deepen Their Bond (Ken Cook, Huffington Post, June 6, 2011)

The New Geopolitics of Food (Lester Brown, CommonDreams.org, May 31, 2011)  From the Middle East to Madagascar, high prices are spawning land grabs and ousting dictators. Welcome to the 21st-century food wars.

Food Prices Could Double by 2030, says Oxfam (Nathan Gray, Foodnavigator.com, May 31)

How Agriculture Can Provide Food Security Without Destroying Biodiversity (The Bioscience Research Project, May 23, 2011)

More Seniors Going Hungry (Elizabeth Crisp, May 16, 2011, USA Today)

The Farm Bill Will Be No Easy Task Amid Earmark Ban, Budget Cuts (Debbie Siegelbaum,  May 15, 2011, The Hill)

American Farmland Trust says significant changes likely in 2012 farm bill (Jennifer Morril, American Farmland Trust, Apr. 27, 2011)

Green Fields: Lawmaker sees fight over conservation reserve (Philip Brasher & Dan Piller, Des Moines Register, Apr. 23, 2011) The top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee said he expects a fight next year over the size of the government’s largest cropland reserve, the 31 million acres idled under the Conservation Reserve Program.

Congress Passes FY 2011 Budget, Cuts Billions From Agriculture On Thursday, April 14, Congress passed a final 6-month continuing resolution (CR) that will fund the government through the end of the fiscal year.  The CR cuts $42 billion relative to FY 2010 levels for non-defense spending, but couples that with a $4 billion increase in defense spending, for a net decrease of approximately $38 billion.  Of that $38 billion, $12 billion was already enacted via three preceding short-term continuing resolutions over the past five weeks, including a $2 billion cut enacted as late as April 8 in the form of a one-week CR.  Read more…

Farmers Defend Conservation and Sustainable Agriculture Programs (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, April 8, 2011)

Cut Spending – But Not My Farm Subsidies! (Don Carr, Featured Articles, Subsidies, March 29, 2011) Among the members of the 112th Congress who collect payments from USDA are six Democrats and 17 Republicans. The disparity between the parties is even greater in terms of dollar amounts: $489,856 went to Democrats, but more than 10 times as much, $5,334,565, to Republicans.

House GOP budget bill aims to slash environmental regulation (Richard Simon, L.A. Times, March 7, 2011)

Further Reading on Agricultural Subsidies (Mark Bittman, NY Times, March 2, 2011)

Over 185 Groups Urge Congress to Oppose H.R. 1 Cuts to Sustainable Agriculture (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, March 1, 2011)

Dan Imhoff on the Farm Bill ( Diana Vergis Vinh , Urban Farm Hub, March 1st, 2011)

State of Organic Seed: Advancing the Viability and Integrity of Organic Seed Systems (Organic Seed Alliance, Feb 23, 2011) The report serves as the first comprehensive analysis of the organic seed sector. Although the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) requires the use of organic seed when commercially available, the organic seed industry has not caught up to meet the increased demand for organic seed. According to Matt Dillon, one of the study’s lead authors, “The lack of organically bred and produced seed is a barrier to the growth and ongoing success of organic farming.” Many farmers report difficulties in finding specific varieties, or finding varieties with desirable genetic traits. At the same time, a majority of the farmers surveyed reported increased pressure by certification agents to source organic seed. Based on these findings, the authors of the report argue that organic seed needs to meet regional challenges in terms of climate and soil, but also conform to local market demand. Furthermore, additional investment in organic plant breeding is needed to promote seed with genetics that are better adapted to pest and disease pressures, growing seasons, and flavor and nutrition.

Farm Bill; Climate Issues; Biotech; and Food Safety [Senate Perspective] on FarmPolicy.com (Keith Wood, February 17, 2011)

Farm Bill Issues and the Agricultural Economy on FarmPolicy.com (February 16, 2011) Scroll down past the first ten or so paragraphs for a discussion on what Obama’s budget proposal means for The Farm Bill.

Obama USDA Budget Proposal a Mixed Bag (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition [NSAC], February 15, 2011)

NSAC Comments on Obama Cuts to Conservation (Fred Hoefner, February 14, 2011)

Republicans Are Weak On Farm Subsidies (CATO Institute, February 9, 2011). With respect to the farm bill, Republican representatives face a conundrum as they support cuts to government spending, yet many represent farming states home to big agriculture, who demand heavy subsidies. There is enormous hypocrisy in the fact that republicans—who are for the most part fiscally conservative—seem to gloss over farm subsidies in their lofty budget cut proposals and instead support them. If they want to make deeper federal spending cuts, they will have to answer to their agribiz constituents.

The 2012 Farm Bill: Deciding what’s for dinner (Union of Concerned Scientists, February 1, 2011)

Here’s an Easy One [for Congress] (NY Times editorial, January 15, 2011) Op-ed on food subsidies.

After Long Fight, Farmworkers in Florida Win an Increase in Pay (NY Times, Kristofer Rios, January 11, 2011)

Farmers Find Organic Arsenal to Wage War on Pests (Jim Robbins, NY Times, November 29, 2010)  The research described in this article was funded under the 2008 Farm Bill’s Conservation Title.

Unlikely Allies in Food Stamp Debate (Anemona Hartocollis, NY Times, October 16, 2010) Gives a short  history of SNAP.

Why the Farm Bill Matters to All of  Us Dan Imhoff presents a one-hour lecture at The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, Minnesota, March 9, 2009.

All the Health Risks of Processed Foods — In Just a Few Quick, Convenient Bites

Northwest Farm Bill Action Group • www.nwfoodfight.org • 2011
Design based on Missed Spring theme • Rainier image courtesy of USGS/Cascades Volcano Observatory