CFJC 2012 House Farm Bill Priorities

6 July 2012

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We encourage the House to take the following important programs into consideration before making drastic and damaging cuts to the 2012 Farm Bill.  California Food and Justice Coalition supports the following programs and believes the financial support behind these programs is crucial to support an equitable Farm Bill. In recognition that the House needs offsets, we ask that funding be re-allocated from the crop insurance program (see GAO Report).  We support the Senate decision to reduce the level of federal premium support for crop insurance participants with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) over $750,000 by 15 percentage points. However the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has suggested much more drastic measures be taken to decrease spending, resulting in savings of $22 billion over 10 years.  We support the GAO report, and ask that these funds saved be re-allocated to support the following programs:

Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program

Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program, also known as Section 2501, was expanded to include veteran farmers and ranchers in the Senate version of the 2012 Farm Bill.  This program assists African-American, American-Indian, Asian-American, and Latino farmers and ranchers in owning and operating farms, and participating in USDA programs through providing competitive grants to educational institutions, Extension, and community-based organizations.  While expanding the pool of applicants to the program, the Senate also cut funding from $75 million over four years to $25 million over 5 years.  CFJC urges the House not to cut any additional funding from this important program.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

CFJC supports the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and encourages the House not to make further cuts to funding, and to go further to re-assign funding within the Farm Bill budget to ensure that the $4.5 billion cut by the Senate is restored to the program.  In alignment with the Gillibrand amendment that did not pass through the Senate vote June 21st, we propose the restorative funding for SNAP would be funded by a cut to the amount the federal government subsidizes to insurance companies to provide crop insurance to farmers.

SNAP Education

SNAP education funds programs through which SNAP eligible people can learn to feed their families a healthy diet and address their concerns with nutrition and food budget constraints. SNAP-Ed programs encourage healthy eating behaviors and reduce the instances of chronic disease in vulnerable populations. CFJC’s successful “Mothers Taking Action” SNAP-ed program is dependent on this vital funding that is threatened in the 2012 farm bill.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program

The Fresh Fruits and Vegetable Program (FFVP) is a key program to ensure that school children, especially from low-income families, have access to fresh produce. The 2008 Farm Bill allocated $150 million to fund the FFVP in schools nationwide. The Senate-proposed $50 million per year cut would result in over 1 million students nationwide being dropped from FFVP; approximately 1/3 of the students who currently rely on the program. CFJC urges that the House fully fund the program at $150 million a year, and oppose any efforts to reduce funding. Furthermore, we want the FFVP to remain a “fresh” fruit and vegetable program because it is the only child nutrition program that provides adequate funding for schools to serve a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Children already have access to canned, frozen, and dried fruits and vegetables through the school lunch, breakfast, and after-school programs. Including other fruit and vegetable forms would complicate implementation of the program and risk compromising the integrity of its nutritional contribution. Many schools aspire to serve more fresh fruits and vegetables, and the FFVP has expanded that opportunity.

Farmers’ Market Promotion Program

The Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) was created in 2002 to provide competitive grants to establish, expand, and promote local farmers’ markets and other forms of direct farmer-to-consumer markets. For the first time, the 2008 Farm Bill provided mandatory funding of $33 million over five years. However, since 2006 less than 20% of applicants have received grants due to inadequate resources. Therefore, CFJC strongly urges the House to defend and expand mandatory funding for the FMPP as a way to promote economic development and job creation.

Crop Insurance for Organic Farmers

We support efforts to increase the accessibility of crop insurance to organic producers. Organic farmers pay a 5% higher premium than conventional producers but are reimbursed at the lower conventional rate that does not reflect the true cost of organic production. Consequently crop insurance is often an economically infeasible risk management tool for small and specialty crop organic farmers. By requiring the USDA’s Risk Management Agency to research and apply organic price reimbursements, organic farmers will be better served and protected.

Conservation Compliance

First instated in the 1985 Farm Bill, this regulation required farmers participating in subsidy programs to comply with conservation plan.  After being altered in the 1996 Farm Bill, the 2012 Senate Farm Bill reinstates these protections for wetlands and highly erodible lands from conversion to crops, and is once again tied to subsidized crop insurance. Some conservation compliance measures include: regulation for buffers around water areas and outcrops for wildlife refuge. This program affects our farmland productivity and future food security, if the House version maintains the Senate’s inclusion of the regulations, conservation compliance will allow wildlife habitat to remain on up to 250 million acres of farmland.

GIPSA rules (Packers and Stockyards)

The Packers and Stockyards Act has been on the books since 1921, but the USDA has never enforced or clarifies parts of it.  The 2008 Farm Bill instructed the USDA to correct anticompetitive practices in the livestock industry by clarifying and enforcing the Packers and Stockyards Act.  In July 2010 the USDA proposed new rules that would prevent meatpackers from giving “undue preference” to large producers, like factory farms, that put small independent producers at an economic disadvantage.  Among others, it would stop price premiums and secret preferential contracts granted to factory farms and prohibit retaliation against poultry growers who speak out about abuses.  In December 2011, the USDA published its final new rules, which differed vastly from the July 2010 proposed rules. CFJC continues to support implementation for 2012 Farm Bill.

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CFJC promotes the basic human right to healthy food while advancing social, agricultural, environmental and economic justice. Through advocacy, organizing and education, we collaborate with community-based efforts to create a sustainable food supply. We envision a food system in which all activities, from farm to table, are equitable, healthful, regenerative and community-driven.

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