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Farm Bill Update

January 12, 2012, 11:01 am

As everyone undoubtedly knows, the so-called Super Committee failed to reach an agreement on cutting the national debt, and wrapped up within that process were the secretly written recommendations regarding the 2012 Farm Bill. The Environmental Working Group obtained a copy of the secret recommendations. (Download a pdf here.)

Marion Nestle listed the recommendations she found most interesting (out of 97 total recommendations) which we reproduce here:

Commodities

  • Eliminate direct payments, counter-cyclical payments, average crop revenue election, and supplemental revenue assistance payments to create $15 billion in savings.
  • Expand crop insurance for “underserved” crops, including fruits and vegetables.
  • Create a special program to protect cotton producers.
  • Protect commodity producers against both price and yield losses.
  • Restrict benefits to farmers who make less than $950,000 per year (adjusted gross), or twice that for couples.
  • Set payment limits of $105,000 per producer, or twice that for couples.
  • Do something complicated with dairy by replacing two programs with two others.

Conservation

  • Cut the budget by an unspecified amount (continuing a long tradition of cutting conservation).
  • Reduce reserve acres from 32 million to 25 million over 10 years.

Nutrition

  • Cut SNAP (food stamp) benefits by about $4 billion a year, by eliminating automatic enrollment for anyone who gets energy benefits.
  • Require retailers to stock more fruits and vegetables.
  • Give USDA the authority to require documented need for states to allow SNAP benefits to be used in restaurants by the disabled and homeless.
  • Give USDA $5 million per year to prevent trafficking of benefits.
  • Require USDA to set rules to prevent lottery winners from getting SNAP benefits (huh?).
  • Grant $10 million to encourage whole grains in school meals.
  • Grant $20 million a year for incentives for SNAP recipients to buy fruits and vegetables.

“Specialty” crops (translation: fruits and vegetables)

  • Fund promotion program for farmers’ markets at $20 million a year
  • Give USDA $5 million to collect data on organics
  • Provide $61 million a year for programs to prevent agricultural pests
  • Give $70 million a year for grants to states to promote specialty crops
  • Allot $15 million a year to run the National Organic Program
  • Provide $40 million a year for specialty crop research.
  • Provide up to 75% of the cost of organic certification (maximum $750).

A few thoughts on this list:

As in the past, SNAP takes up about 80% of the total farm bill budget, with the remainder going mainly to commodity support and insurance programs.

As always, large agricultural producers get most of the support money—$ billions—but this plan throws a handful of small benefits ($ millions) to help fruit-and-vegetable growers.

Why did they waste time talking about lottery winners getting SNAP benefits?

Notice the ridiculous provision to end payments to farmers making less than $950,000 (previously it was to farmers who made 1 million) How blatant can you be? Do they think anyone will be fooled by reducing the amount by a paltry $50,000?

Reducing the reserve acres is a bad idea as this will hugely contribute to global warming.

It's hard to say if the bulk of these recommendations will be adopted, but at least we can try to influence the process by contacting our legislators.

Farm Bill Meeting!

Open to the public, organized by Food & Water Watch on Wed. January 18 at 7 p.m. at the Traverse City library.

Posted by at 11:01 am
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