So What Can We Do?
While the House argues about splitting the Farm Bill, time is running out. (See Note 1 for a recap.) With only three weeks until the next recess, and only 12 weeks until the end of the fiscal year, we need a farm bill now. And not just any old farm bill, WE NEED A GOOD FARM BILL!
NSAC suggests a way forward: “In our view, the only workable path forward is to expand and unite the constituencies served by the bill. . . [which] in contrast to dividing the bill into parts, would allow the House to bring together a broad coalition of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to move forward on a new farm bill.” (2).
1. Urge Our Legislators to Pass a GOOD farm bill!
As Republicans dither about whether they can carry the House vote to pass ANY farm bill, and the House whether it should split the farm bill, many of the “small” agriculture groups are working to define what a GOOD farm bill would look like at this stage. We can look at how the San Diego delegation voted on various pieces of farm bill legislation– see Issa’s food and ag votes, on VoteSmart, for instance–and urge our legislators to vote differently?
Or we could simply decide what we want to see in the farm bill, and tell our legislators what matters to us.
2. Be Specific.
This table summarizes the broader categories for key ingredients in a farm bill that builds on bipartisan interest, public support and alliances across sustainable agriculture, conservation, public health, anti-hunger, urban and rural communities.
We cannot forget that many important programs have already been sidelined since December 31st, 2012. That is, many of the programs that provide the key linkages for building local healthy food systems won’t make it if we don’t stand up for both fair food AND good agriculture.
3. Double-Check. What’s Missing? What Did the Sequester/Extension Leave Behind?
Check the list of the SNAP programs provided by FRAC (3) and have you double-checked to see if you, personally, care about the programs that fall on the small ag side of the Farm Bill? The following list reflects the programs that got “orphaned” between the 2008 Farm Bill and today. The numbers reflecting millions of dollars, pretty small potatoes if you look closely, are attributed to Ferd Hoefner, 2012.
|Voluntary Public Access||10M|
|Small Watershed Rehab||20M|
|Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program||3M|
|Value Added Producer Grants||3M|
|Organic Agriculture Research and Extension||20M|
|Specialty Crop Research Initiative||50M|
|Beginning Farmer & Rancher Dev Pro||19M|
|Biobased Markets Program||2M|
|Biodiesel Fuel Education Program||1M|
|Rural Energy for American Program||51M|
|Biomass Research and Development||33.6M|
|Biomass Crop Assistance Program||38.6M|
|Farmers Market Promotion Program||10M|
|Organic Cost Share||5M|
|Outreach and Tech Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers||15M|
Notes and References:
1. Need a brief recap? (Check also references in previous entries.)
- The US Senate passed a Farm Bill in May– California Senators voted for the Senate Farm Bill, and the House of Representatives Failed to Pass a Farm Bill in June.
- San Diego’s Congressional delegation split down party lines. Republicans Duncan Hunter and Darrell Issa voting for the bill, while Democrats Susan Davis, Juan Vargas, and Scott Peters voted no.
- Rep. Cantor suggested splitting the Farm Bill. Sometime in the near future, House Speaker John Boehner will make a final decision about whether the Farm bill should be split—meaning he will decide whether to keep the bill as a whole omnibus legislation or create two or more separate bills for SNAP and myriad farm programs.
- Many agriculture groups large and small oppose splitting the Farm Bill.
- If they split the farm bill, it is unlikely that both bills could pass in the two-bill strategy. Writer Chris Day of the Stillwater Newspress (1) explains that “Lucas doesn’t favor the [splitting] approach because the Senate has approved a comprehensive farm bill. A conference committee would have to reconcile three bills instead of two.” NSAC’s position is that if they split the bill, “it would almost certainly doom any final action on the farm bill this year.” GAME OVER. Moreover, the current farm bill quandary is also holding up House action on the agriculture appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2014 (2).
1. Some Republicans want to do their jobs and create legislation. See http://www.stwnewspress.com/local/x1696736600/Lucas-will-do-what-I-have-to-do-to-pass-2013-farm-bill
2. NSAC’s letter to oppose splitting the farm bill links from this blog page: http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/nsac-dont-split-the-farm-bill/
3. See SNAP Programs – http://frac.org/leg-act-center/farm-bill-2012/#progs