The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

Farm bill proposals continue to come in

As the Tuesday deadline for congressional agriculture leaders to submit a farm bill proposal nears, lobbying and letter writing is intensifying to the 12 members of the super committee and to what the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is calling “the Big 4” — Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kans., House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn.

Organic research

A coalition of organic-minded groups including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the Organic Trade Association sent Stabenow, Roberts, Lucas and Peterson a letter Thursday calling for “continued and enhanced” mandatory funding for three programs that are currently funded directly by the farm bill through the Commodity Credit Corporation rather than through the appropriations process: the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, Specialty Crop Research Initiative, and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

Broader research

A coalition of 1,200 universities, agriculture groups and businesses wrote congressional farm leaders urging them to at least maintain the current level of support for agricultural research in the bill.

“For every $1 invested in publicly funded agricultural research, $20 in economic activity is generated,” the groups said.

A congressional aide working on the farm bill proposal has told The Hagstrom Report, however, that it will be hard to maintain the budget for agricultural research even though members and aides realize that it is vital to the future of U.S. agricultural and meeting a goal of feeding more people in the future.

Local food and farms

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, intend to introduce a Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act, a comprehensive bill intended for inclusion in the next farm bill, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition said Thursday.

The bill will include proposals that address conservation, credit, nutrition, rural development, research and extension, food safety, livestock, and crop insurance.

Specifically, the bill would:
Authorize the Agriculture Department’s Risk Management Agency to develop a whole farm revenue insurance product for diversified operations, including specialty crops and mixed grain/livestock or dairy operations;
  • Renew and expand the current Farmers’ Market Promotion Program;
  • Expand USDA’s rural business and industry loan funding set-aside for local and regional food enterprises and infrastructure;
  • Create an annual allocation for local and regional specialty crop market development within the Specialty Crop Block Grant program;
  • Renew funding for the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program to assist producers entering into organic production; and
  • Fund farmer food safety training through the National Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach and Technical Assistance program, which was authorized last year as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.

Blumenauer report

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., has released a report calling for cuts to large-scale agriculture and more support for small and medium sized farms.

Blumenauer was joined at a news conference Wednesday by representatives of the American Enterprise Institute, Taxpayers for Common Sense, the Environmental Working Group and Defenders of Wildlife, who called on Congress to write the farm bill through regular order rather than through the super committee.

Media reports said the coalition was odd, but similar coalitions of farm bill critics have been formed during previous farm bill debates.

Food stamp defense

White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan joined members of Congress and faith leaders Thursday in an effort to discourage the super committee from cutting funding for food stamps, which are now known as supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits or SNAP, according to a news release from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

Jarrett, the members of Congress and the faith leaders launched the fourth “Food Stamp Challenge,” in which individuals including members of Congress live on food stamp budgets for a period of item. The average SNAP allotment for a week is $31.50.

Dairy battle

Dairy processors continue to fight the market stabilization program they call supply management that House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., has proposed.

Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., has written a letter which noted that the Wisconsin dairy industry has not reached consensus on the issue.

Chicago agenda

The co-chairmen of a Chicago Council on Global Affairs project on agriculture have met with staff to the agriculture leaders and the supercommittee members, sources close to the council said.

Former World Food Program executive director Catherine Bertini, former Agriculture Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services Gus Schumacher, and former World Bank official Robert Thompson presented a white paper proposing certain farm program cuts and maintaining food aid and international development programsn, the sources said.

The council has not released the paper.