FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 4, 2013
Contact: Wes King at (217) 528-1563
Illinois Stewardship Alliance statement on FDA Release of Food Safety Rules
SPRINGFIELD – The Food and Drug Administration released much-anticipated proposed rules detailing standards for produce safety and preventive controls for human food production Friday. The release of the rules is a major step in the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which President Obama signed into law two years ago. The law is the first significant overhaul to our nation’s food safety laws since the 1930s.
“FSMA’s aim is to improve food safety, which is a goal everyone can support, but doing so must be done in a scale and risk appropriate way. Alternatively, a one-size-fits-all approach could put family farms out of business and eliminates opportunities for local and organic food and farm entrepreneurs.” Wes King, policy director for the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, said. “The release of these rules and the subsequent comment period represents an important opportunity for those who are interested in building sustainable, local food systems to voice their opinions about the scope and impact of the proposed rules.”
Congress took several steps to guarantee that small and mid-sized family farms could adhere to new FSMA produce production standards, reporting requirements, and prevention planning requirements without costly new investments.
Specific provisions in FSMA to ensure scale-appropriate regulations include:
- The option for small, mid, and direct-market agricultural operations to comply with equivalent state regulations or modified, scale-appropriate federal regulation.
- Safeguards to ensure that the produce regulations do not undermine beneficial on-farm conservation and wildlife-friendly practices, and do not contradict strict regulations for certified organic production.
- Requiring the FDA to differentiate between low-risk and high-risk farm and food processing activities when writing the regulations
- A priority on streamlining and reducing unnecessary paperwork for farmers and small processors.
- Providing alternative means of tracing food through the supply chain, including an exemption for farm identity-preserved products.
The Illinois Stewardship Alliance is a nonprofit organization that works on issues of sustainable agriculture and local food availability.
INVEST IN THE FUTURE OF HEALTHY FARMS, FOOD & PEOPLE
PROTECT OUR PRECIOUS AIR, SOIL & WATER
REFORM FARM SUBSIDIES & LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD
This petition drive is being organized by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Illinois Stewardship Alliance is an active member of the coalition.
What exactly do we mean by an equitable, sustainable, 21st century farm bill?
INVEST IN THE FUTURE OF HEALTHY FARMS, FOOD, and PEOPLE
- Harness the economic power of local and organic food and small businesses to strengthen rural and urban communities and create jobs
- Grow the next generation of American farmers by providing the tools, training, and access to capital that beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers need to succeed
- Ensure access to fresh, healthy food for all - including those in need and in our schools
PROTECT OUR PRECIOUS AIR, SOIL, and WATER
- Reward farmers for their environmental stewardship by fully funding farm conservation programs
- Do not raid long-term conservation efforts to pay for short-term disaster fixes
- Link federal crop insurance support to conservation of wetlands and fragile soils
REFORM FARM SUBSIDIES and LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD
- Eliminate wasteful direct payments
- Target support to working farm families by closing loopholes that benefit mega-farms and millionaire investors
- Cap farm and crop insurance subsidies to improve fiscal responsibility
After a full-day marathon markup that started on Wednesday morning and went into the early hours of Thursday, the House Agriculture Committee passed its version of the 2012 Farm Bill by a vote of 35-11. Seven Democrats and four Republicans voted against the bill. The Republicans who voted against the bill did so based on commodity program disagreements and fiscal concerns, while the Democrats in opposition did so because of the deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.
Overall, Wednesday’s markup yielded some notable improvements to the bill for sustainable agriculture, but some big losses as well. Ahead of the markup, almost 100 amendments were filed and throughout the day, more were added.
One highlight was the bipartisan adoption of an amendment offered by Central Illinois’s own Representative Tim Johnson that authorizes $5 million per year in mandatory spending from the Community Food Projects program to be used for SNAP Farmers Markets Incentive programs like the Link-Up Illinois Double Value coupon program. Representative Johnson championed and insisted that this amendment be considered over the objections of his own party leadership. Representative Johnson deserves a big thanks!
Continue reading to learn more about the sustainable agriculture amendments that passed, those that failed, and other notable outcomes from Wednesday’s markup. (Once again, thanks to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition for their leadership and for pulling all this wonderful information together.)
Sustainable Agriculture Amendments that Passed
Local and Regional Food — Most notably, a bipartisan amendment offered by Representatives Pingree (D-ME), Ellmers (R-NC), and Gibson (R-NY) to enhance farm to school procurement passed by a voice vote. The amendment will give more control to states and local communities by authorizing schools with low annual commodity entitlement (often small rural schools) to start making their own food purchases. The amendment also creates demonstration projects in at least 10 schools to test farm to school procurement models as alternatives to national USDA commodity food distribution.
A few other amendments making improvements for local food production also passed by voice votes. Representative Fortenberry (R-NE) offered an amendment to make fixes to the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program to create program priorities for aiding small and mid-scale farms, helping underserved areas, and improving USDA’s ability to implement the program.
Representative Pingree offered two additional amendments that were accepted. The first was her amendment to enable SNAP recipients to use benefits for purchases of Community Supported Agriculture shares. The second would require USDA to make recommendations on steps that need to be taken to better serve small and very small meat and poultry processing facilities and to improve user access to information on the meat and poultry label approval process.
Representative Pingree withdrew an amendment to remove the cap and make improvements to the Business and Industry Loan Program (B&I) for local and regional enterprise loan guarantees in the draft bill, with the understanding that she could work with Committee leadership to craft an amendment that might have the Chair’s backing before the next step in the farm bill process.
All of the above amendments stemmed from language originally introduced as the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act by Representative Pingree and many others.
There were a couple more local food amendments that passed by a voice vote. The first was an amendment by Representative Sewell (D-AL) that requires USDA to conduct a study on increasing specialty crop production by small, women, minority, and socially disadvantaged farmers. The second was one by Representative Johnson (R-IL) allowing Community Food Grants to be used for programs to incentivize farmers’ market use by SNAP recipients.
Beginning Farmers — While the major beginning farmer funding amendment was withdrawn (see below), a number of other amendments passed that improved certain beginning farmer provisions. An amendment offered by Representatives Fudge (D-OH) and Fortenberry (R-NE) to authorize microloans for beginning, young, and small farmers, as well as a community based intermediary micro farm lending program, passed by a voice vote. Representatives Boswell (D-IA) and Gibson (R-NY) successfully passed by a voice vote an amendment to authorize a military veterans liaison at USDA.
Representatives Fortenberry and Walz (D-MN) offered an amendment to restore important provisions to the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and its authorization for appropriations; this amendment also passed by a voice vote. Ahead of that vote, Ranking Member Peterson (D-MN) and Chairman Lucas (R-OK) engaged in a colloquy deciding that a provision in the bill establishing new very high matching grant requirements for this program and many other applied research and extension programs will be revisited prior to the next steps in the farm bill process.
All of these beginning farmer and veteran issues were part of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act introduced last year by Representatives Walz and Fortenberry.
Organic — The only successful amendment on organic agriculture was one by Representative Welch (D-VT) to make improvements to organic crop insurance by extending the language from the 2008 Farm Bill on organic price elections and the premium surcharge. The amendment passed by a voice vote.
Sustainable Agriculture Amendments that Failed
A bipartisan amendment offered by Representatives Walz, Noem (R-SD), and Fortenberry to authorize a national Sodsaver provision to protect native grasslands and reinvest $35 million of the $66 million in savings into the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program was withdrawn and not voted on. The deciding factor on whether or not to move ahead was Chairman Lucas’ (R-OK) vehement opposition (despite his earlier statements of support), on behalf of landowners in Oklahoma and Texas, to a national Sodsaver provision. The underlying bill limits Sodsaver to the Prairie Pothole Region of the Great Plains, greatly limiting the effectiveness of the provision. While speaking in support of the amendment, Representative Walz reminded his colleagues that the amendment had support from “greens, guns, and God,” making reference to the broad support for a national Sodsaver provision by conservation, hunting, and religious groups. Representatives Lucas and Conaway (R-TX) argued unashamedly that receiving taxpayer subsidies for insurance premiums for plowing up virgin grassland is not an ill-advised federal subsidy but rather a property right of landowners in their respective states that should not be violated.
Along with farm groups from across the country, NSAC strongly opposed an amendment offered by Representatives Conaway (R-TX) and Costa (D-CA) to repeal the GIPSA livestock and poultry producer fair competition rules. The amendment repeals livestock and poultry farmer protections included in the 2008 Farm Bill. It also undoes the current broadly supported compromise that was agreed to in the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations conference agreement to allow parts of the rule to become final, after broader proposed GIPSA rules were blocked. The incredibly misguided amendment passed by a voice vote after its sponsors falsely claimed the final rules already issued by USDA went beyond what Congress dictated to USDA in the 2008 Farm Bill.
Representative Fortenberry offered and withdrew an amendment that would have placed reasonable limits on commodity payments and would have closed eligibility loopholes in commodity programs to make sure that payments go to farmers instead of absentee landowners or private investors. The Congressman promised his colleagues that he would return with the same amendment when the bill is debated on the House floor. The amendment is expected to fare much better on the floor, where mega farms that abuse the system may have fewer protectors than in Committee.
This was the only amendment offered that would have brought any real reform to the farm safety net proposed in the House’s draft bill. It is a shame that the same level of scrutiny and debate applied to alleged SNAP fraud and abuse during Committee markup did not apply to commodity programs where abuse is built into the very structure of the program as established by Congress and administered by USDA.
Representatives McIntyre (D-NC) and Walz attempted to improve the new Whole Farm Diversified revenue insurance product in the underlying bill to cover farms with liabilities of up to $1.5 million, the same figure as included in the Senate-passed farm bill and $500,000 higher than the House level. That amendment was defeated 19-25.
Representative Sewell (D-AL) tried to create a priority for strategic regional rural economic development projects with rural development grant and loan programs, but the amendment was defeated 18-26.
To everyone’s surprise, Representative Costa (D-CA) offered last-minute an amendment to restore funding for the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program, which the draft bill repeals. The amendment was pushed to a vote, and it failed 17-27. There is ideological opposition to the program by select Members on the Committee, despite broader support. Because the amendment was unexpected, we do not count this as a true representation of the level of support for the program by the Committee.
Other Notable Outcomes of Markup
Markup began with debate on Title I, the commodity title, and two amendments were the focus of that debate. One was on dairy and another on sugar. The dairy amendment was offered by Representatives Goodlatte (R-VA) and David Scott (D-GA), and would have removed supply management provisions from the proposed new dairy program. It failed, 17-29. The sugar amendment, also offered by Representative Goodlatte, would have removed the key provisions in the sugar program. It failed, 10-36.
Debate on the Nutrition Title consumed the majority of the attention of Committee Members and lasted for several hours. Despite the hours of debate, no changes were made to the overall cuts proposed in the draft bill. Representative McGovern’s (D-MA) amendment to restore the cuts failed, 31-15. Representative Schrader (D-OR) offered another amendment to replace the Nutrition Title from the draft bill with that in the Senate-passed farm bill (which would have reduced the overall cut to $4.5 billion); that amendment also failed. Efforts to make deeper cuts to SNAP, by Representative Huelskamp (R-KS), Representative Roby (R-AL), and others, also failed.
The committee moved quickly through debate on the Conservation Title. The only amendment offered was by Rep. Costa (D-CA) to designate a portion of Environmental Quality Incentives Program Conservation Innovation Grants for air quality in California and several other states — failed to pass on an 18-26 vote.
On July 5, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Peterson (D-MN) released their draft farm bill ahead of the House Agriculture Committee’s farm bill markup scheduled to begin Wednesday, July 11. The bill generates $35 billion in savings by cutting over $16 billion from nutrition programs, mainly SNAP (food stamps) and more than $6 billion from conservation programs, while increasing crop insurance subsidies and decreasing commodity subsidies for a net farm safety subsidy savings of over $14 billion.
Overall, the bill is in many ways a step backwards when it comes to reforming the nation’s food and agriculture system, especially when it is compared to the Senate passed 2012 Farm Bill. The House Bill takes several steps backwards when it comes to commodity subsidy reform, deeply cuts conservation programs and short changes the needs of beginning farmers and rural development.
A number of amendments to correct some of the glaring shortfalls in the House Agriculture Committee’s draft farm bill are expected to be offered. Stay tuned for more information and action alerts.
The path forward beyond the House Agriculture Committee’s “mark-up” of their version of the 2012 Farm Bill is very uncertain at this time. House GOP leadership has shown little to no interest in seeing the 2012 Farm Bill come up for a full floor vote, motivated by electoral political calculations they are holding their finger on the pause button. In addition, there are real concerns about whether a bi-partisan coalition of support can be forged while surviving the amendment process on the House floor.
Specific details and analysis on the content of the bill can be found below, organized by the following categories (a special thanks to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition's staff for pulling all this wonderful information together):
- Commodities and Risk Management
- Conservation and Energy
- Local Food and Rural Development
- Organic Agriculture
- Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers
- Research, Education, and Extension
- Environmental Regulations
Commodities and Risk Management
The draft House bill, like the Senate-passed bill, would eliminate commodity title direct payments made every year without regard to farm prices, revenue, or income. Beyond that basic long overdue change, the draft House bill contains very little in the way of reform.
Rather than the per farm commodity subsidy payment cap of $50,000 ($100,000 for married couples) in the Senate bill, and in even sharper contrast to the existing $40,000 cap ($80,000 married) on direct payments, the House proposal jumps all the way to $125,000 ($250,000 for married couples), an incredibly high limitation with no historical precedent.
The House proposal also leaves current law loopholes in place that allow mega farms and wealthy non-farm investors to blow right past those nominal limits and collect many multiples of the payment cap. The Senate bill in reform-minded contrast closes the loopholes.
The Senate bill does a very poor job of limiting per farm insurance premium subsidies, but at least includes a provision added during floor debate that reduces the subsidy rate for wealthy farmers and investors with very high adjusted incomes. The draft House bill does not include even that very modest reform. The House proposal also does not link receipt of crop insurance subsidies to protection of soil and wetlands, a provision also included in the Senate farm bill via a floor amendment.
The House bill would provide commodity producers with two basic options, a shallow loss revenue protection option similar, though less lucrative, than that offered by the Senate bill; and a more traditional price-based counter cyclical type payment, triggered whenever commodity prices fall below high price triggers established in the House bill. Some of the House changes to the shallow loss revenue option would be fiscally-prudent improvements to the Senate-passed version, but the additional price-based option moves in exactly the opposite direction. The fiscal overhang of both the House and Senate bills is large – if commodity prices were to tumble sometime in the next decade, the purported savings in both bills could completely disappear.
Conservation and Energy
The bill cuts the Conservation Title funding by roughly $6.06 billion. While this is somewhat less than the $6.37 billion cut contained in the Senate-passed bill, the cut to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is increased by more than $1.1 billion, or 6 percent, over the Senate level. The Senate bill reduces funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and CSP by close to the same amount – roughly 10 percent. The draft House bill does not cut EQIP, and therefore doubles down on the CSP cut, proposing to limit CSP enrollment to 9 million acres a year rather than the Senate’s 10.3 million acres a year, or the current 12.8 million acres a year. This is a 30 percent reduction in CSP acreage per year, for a program that even at today’s level can only enroll 50 percent of the farmers and ranchers who apply each year.
Adding insult to injury, the draft House proposal would also increase the EQIP payment limitation by 150% percent to $450,000, at the behest of the CAFO industrial dairy and livestock sector. So while funding for EQIP would be higher under the House bill than the Senate, the money available for most farmers could be about the same as large factory farms walk away with even more of the total funding. Meanwhile, like its Senate counterpart, the House proposal would limit organic farmers, and only organic farmers, to $80,000.
The Senate bill funds renewable energy programs at $800 million, the result of a widely supported amendment passed during Senate Committee markup. The draft House bill, in contrast, provides no funding for the energy title.
Local Food and Rural Development
Nearly all of the existing local food programs in the Nutrition and Horticulture Titles remain intact and are similarly funded relative to the Senate bill. The draft House bill adds a pilot program for fresh fruits and vegetable procurement at schools that is not in the Senate bill, though it does not include the local food study for crucial data collection that is part of the Senate bill. Community Food Grant funding is doubled in the House proposal to $10 million, versus $5 million in the Senate bill and current funding. However, the House bill does not provide any funding for a new incentive program for SNAP recipients to shop at farmers markets that is included in the Senate bill.
Within the rural development programs, the House bill does not include a single local and regional food provision of the many recommended in the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act. On the funding side of rural development, there is only $50 million total in mandatory funding for the whole Title (all for Value-Added Producer Grants) versus $115 million (including $50 million for VAPG) in the Senate bill. No funding is provided in the draft House proposal for the innovative, job-creating Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program or to reduce the backlog in water and sewer grants to very small rural communities.
The House draft bill also includes several other highlights, including $70 million per year in mandatory funding for the Specialty crop Block Grant program and a new EBT pilot program for developing technology to accept SNAP benefits using smartphone technology. Finally, while it doesn’t repeal the program outright it does not reauthorize the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA).
Overall, the House bill is a mixed bag for organic agriculture. In a clear attack on the organic sector, the bill defunds and repeals the National Organic Certification Cost Share program. As mentioned above, the House proposal also fails to reform the EQIP Organic Initiative. On the other hand, the bill does match the Senate in renewing funding for organic research at a reduction from current levels and does provide renewed funding for the Organic Production and Market Data Initiative. The bill does not address any of the barriers that organic farmers face when trying to access crop insurance.
The House version also contains some un-savory provisions related to genetically engineering crop that are bound to create additional heartach for organic farms and sustainable agriculture by amending the Plant Protection Act to weaken the review process for biotechnology product petitions seeking “non-regulated” status with USDA. This greatly limits the scope of the environmental assessment of a petition. And requires USDA to submit a report to Congress on actions to reduce the red tape on biotechnology development, examine exemptions for biotech products from regulation, and develop a national policy for low-level presence of biotech material in crops.
Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers
Beginning farmers fared relatively well in the House draft bill, however, the biggest disappointment by far is the dramatic 50 percent cut in funding for USDA’s only beginning farmer training program. Several provisions from the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act were included in the draft bill, including policy changes in the credit and conservation titles. Funding for programs aimed at socially disadvantaged farmers was higher than levels provided in the Senate, although still represents a 50 percent cut in annual funding.
Research, Education, and Extension
The House-passed bill maintains funding for several important research programs related to specialty crops and organic agriculture, similar to levels that were included in the Senate-passed bill. However, the bill falls short in providing adequate resources to beginning farmers, local food, and other sustainable agriculture priorities, including developing public cultivars to ensure farmers have access to diverse seeds and breeds. The House proposal would repeal a research authorization to investigate antibiotic resistance, a truly short-sighted bury-your-head-in-the-sand repeal to address a major public health challenge. The research title also imposes several potentially harmful requirements, including a new across the board 1 to 1 matching funds requirement for competitive grants program for applied research and extension.
Moving far beyond the normal confines of a farm bill, the House proposal also ventures into biotechnology, Clean Water Act, and pesticide registration. The draft bill would amend the Plant Protection Act to weaken the review process for biotechnology product petitions seeking “non-regulated” status with USDA. It would attempt to reverse a court decision re-affirming EPA’s authority to regulate pesticide pollution under the Clean Water Act. It would also stop EPA from basing modifying pesticide registrations on the opinions of the National Marine Fisheries Services or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Senate bill steered clear of extraneous anti-environmental regulatory provisions that will be poison pills to getting a farm bill done this year, but the House proposal decided nonetheless to go down that road.
On January 1st, Illinois' Cottage Food Law, that was passed by the General Assembly last spring and signed by Governor Quinn this past summer, went into effect.
The cottage food bill changes Illinois’ food safety laws to allow homemade non-potentially hazardous baked goods, jams and jellies, fruit butter, dried herbs, and dried tea blends to be sold at farmers markets provided they are properly labeled as homemade products, annual gross receipts from sales are $25,000 or less, the “cottage food operation” is registered and the person preparing and selling the food has a valid Illinois Food Service Sanitation Manager Certificate.
To make things easier for potential conttage food operations we have put together a Cottage Food Guide that describes what the law does and doesn’t allow and what you have to do to qualify to become a cottage food operation. More importantly the Illinois Department of Public Health has created a Technical Information Bulliten for local health departments and potential cottage food operators. The TIB put together by IDPH can be found here.
If you are planning on starting a cottage food operation please read and review TIB #44. In addition, it is highly recommended that you reach out to your local health department early and start a conversation about your cottage food related plans.
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns please feel free to contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-528-1563.
SB 840 the bill that created Illinois Cottage Food Law was sponsored by Senator David Koehler (D-Peoria) and Representative Lisa Dugan (D-Kankakee). Both Senator Koehler and Representative Dugan deserve our thanks for all their hard work because without it, the passage of SB 840 would not have been possible.
Originally posted by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
In part one of this post, we discuss what might be next for the ongoing congressional budget debate and in turn for the new farm bill. In part two we turn to details about what was in the short-lived and now dead 2011 Farm Bill deal.
What We Know About the Farm Bill that Did Not Happen – The Basic Outline
The basic cost-cutting outline of the farm bill deal did not change in gross terms from the time the Agriculture Committee leaders signaled to the Super Committee that they would aim to cut a net of $23 billion over the next decade. The final deal tracked the original numbers – a $15 billion net cut in commodity programs, a little over $6 billion net cut in conservation programs, and a $4 billion slice from the largest of all farm bill programs, the SNAP or food stamp program. About $2 billion was thereby freed up to help fund farm bill programs that lacked secured budget baseline after the current farm bill expires in 2012 and to fund new programs.
In round numbers, the combined commodity and crop insurance subsidy programs would therefore be cut by 10 percent, the conservation programs by 10 percent, and the food stamp program by a small fraction of one percent. The conservation cut, however, would be considerably larger if the “changes to farm bill mandatory spending programs” in the agricultural appropriations bills are added, bringing the total to 15 percent, and much more than that if the appropriations bill continues in the same direction as this year.
Based on the best information available to us, the following should be a fairly accurate summary of some key provisions in the new proposed farm bill. We stress, however, that without access to the bill itself or even an up-to-date detailed summary, we cannot be absolutely sure about each and every detail.
What We Know About the Farm Bill that Did Not Happen – Some Highlights
Local Food and Nutrition — The proposed bill adopted the policy provision contained in the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act (LFFJA) for a competitive grants program that combined direct marketing promotion (formerly Farmers Market Promotion Program) and scaling up of local food systems for larger scale retail and institutional markets. Called the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP), the proposed bill would have funded the program at $100 million in mandatory money over five years. The LFFJA advocates for $30 million a year, or $150 million over five years.
The Community Food Projects, a competitive grants program that aims to fight food insecurity by supporting the development of community-based food projects in low-income communities, would have received an increase in funding from $5 million a year to $10 million a year. The LFFJA also includes this policy provision.
The proposed bill would have created a new nutrition incentives program, called Hunger Free Communities Incentive Grants. Advocated for by the Fair Food Network, Wholesome Wave, and others, and modeled after already-existing state and regional examples, this new program was slated in the proposed bill to receive $100 million in mandatory funding over five years and would have incentivize purchases of fresh produce by SNAP participants at farmers markets and other direct marketing outlets.
Beginning Farmers — The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) provides grants to institutions and organizations that offer education, training and outreach to beginning farmers and ranchers. This program was slated to receive $50 million over the next five years, which is a significant decrease from its current mandatory funding levels of $75 million, and far less than the $125 million included in the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act and advocated by NSAC. However, BFRDP has no baseline after fiscal year 2012, so although funding is less than current levels, it nonetheless represented $50 million in new money over the next five years.
Organic Agriculture — The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), which provides competitive grants to fund public research on organic production systems, was slated to receive renewed mandatory funding of $80 million over five years, with an authorization for an additional $25 million in annual appropriations. This is a slight increase in funding from its current mandatory funding of $78 million during the life of the 2008 Farm Bill. However, per year funding levels would have decreased slightly from $20 million to $16 million, since OREI was funded at lower levels in fiscal year 2008.
The Organic Data Initiative (ODI), which facilitates USDA data collection efforts for the organic sector, would have also received a renewed $5 million in mandatory funding, plus an authorization for annual appropriations, in the proposed bill.
The National Organic Program (NOP), which administers the USDA organic certification program, was slated to receive first-time ever $5 million in mandatory funding, plus authorization for appropriations up to $15 million per year.
Specialty Crops — The Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) program provides grants annually to assist State Departments of Agriculture in enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops (fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery crops). The program would have received an increase in mandatory funding from $55 million a year to $70 million a year. On the negative side, though, the policy provisions for this program contained in the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act (LFFJA) were not included. LFFJA includes set-asides of program funds for local and regional specialty crop market development and research and includes a more equitable division of program funds across the specialty crop sector.
The Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), which funds research on fruits, vegetables, and other non-commodity crops, was slated to receive renewed funding at $40 million per year, over ten years – a slight decrease from its current annual funding levels of $50 million. The SCRI has no baseline for funding beyond fiscal year 2012, so this would have represented $400 million in new money over the next ten years and ensured funding would be available for this program in the following farm bill.
Crop Insurance — The proposed bill’s crop insurance title included a provision in the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act (LFFJA) that would have authorized the Risk Management Agency (RMA) to develop a whole farm revenue insurance product for diversified operations, including specialty crops and mixed grain/livestock or dairy operations. As in the LFFJA, the proposed bill would have set the coverage level at 85 percent, provided a bonus for diversification, and classified costs necessary to get products to market (e.g. the cost of packing materials) as allowable costs. Unlike the LFFJA, in the proposed bill, RMA would have had the option of contracting out the development of the new product if it decided not to do it in-house.
The proposed bill would also have increased the incentive for private consulting firms to develop new risk management products for specialty crops, and would have returned to RMA the general authority to develop products in-house.
Renewable Energy — As far as we know, only one program within the Energy Title of the proposed bill was slated to receive renewed mandatory funding. The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which has been funded in the current farm bill cycle partly by mandatory funds and partly by appropriated funds, would have continued down that path, though with a very significant reduction in mandatory funds.
The mandatory funding for the controversial Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) would have been allowed to expire in the proposed bill, but the program would be authorized to receive up to $75 million in annual appropriations for projects and for collection, harvest, storage, and transportation.
What We Know About the Farm Bill that Did Not Happen – Conservation Title
If the proposed farm bill had become law, the total cut to the Conservation Title would be $6.3 billion over ten years. Roughly 60 percent of the cut to conservation ($3.8 billion) would come from the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The program’s total acreage cap would be ratcheted down over 3 years from its current level of 32 million acres to 25 million acres. To a significant degree, this reduction would track changes in CRP enrollment expected as a result of market forces, though with the declining cap the opportunity for new general sign-ups would be small.
Related to CRP, $25 million in renewed funding would have been retained for the CRP-Transition Incentives Program (CRP-TIP), which offers a special incentive of two years of extra CRP rental payments to owners of land that is currently in the CRP but returning to production, who rent or sell to beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers who will use sustainable grazing practices, resource-conserving cropping systems, or transition to organic production. The bill would not have expanded CRP-TIP to cover intra-family deals under certain circumstances, as had been proposed in the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act (BFROA).
The proposed bill would have cut the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) by $2 billion, or approximately 10 percent. The average payment rate would have remained at $18 per acre, however the acreage cap would be reduced to 10.34 million acres a year from 12.769. The proposed farm bill also included a number of positive substantive changes to CSP beyond the numbers.
The proposed bill would have combined the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) into a single program and cut total funding by $1.865 billion, or approximately 10 percent. As has always been the case for EQIP, 60 percent of the consolidated program’s funding would go to livestock operations. The program would have also included a 5 percent set aside for wildlife in lieu of WHIP. The statutory language that led to creation of the EQIP Organic Initiative would not change. Both the Beginning Farmer and Rancher and Socially Disadvantaged Farmer and Rancher set asides within EQIP would have been retained at 5 percent. The advanced EQIP cost share for Beginning, Socially Disadvantaged, and Limited Resource Farmers and Ranchers would have also been retained at 30 percent, as opposed to 50 percent proposed by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act.
The proposed bill would also have combined the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI), Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP), Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI), and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) to create a single regional partnership program. While the CBWI and AWEP had a combined baseline of $1.1 billion through 2012, the new regional partnership program would have had a $1 billion baseline, equating to a $100 million or slightly less than 10 percent cut. Like the current CCPI, 6 percent of EQIP and CSP funds would be reserved for the regional partnership program. However, unlike the current CCPI statute, which splits funding authority between the states (90 percent) and national (10 percent), the new bill would have split the authority between national (50 percent), states (25 percent), and “critical areas” (25 percent), which would include the Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound, Ogallala Aquifer, Red River, Great Lakes, Everglades and other areas determined by the Secretary. The regional partnership program would also have had an easement option through existing programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).
On the easement side of the Title, three programs–the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), Grasslands Reserve Program (GRP), and Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP)–would have been combined into a single easement program with two branches. The first branch would combine FRPP and GRP into an ‘agricultural lands easement program.’ The second branch would consist of wetlands easement program very similar to the WRP. Nationally, the split between wetland easements and agricultural land easements would be 60/40, respectively; however, each state conservationist would be able to request an adjustment to that split to better reflect the needs of their state. Perhaps most importantly, the easement program would have had a 10-year baseline of $3.2 billion. The WRP and GRP have been funded one farm bill at a time, so while the funding available, especially for WRP, would be lower, the tradeoff was to create a permanent, more secure baseline.
The bill would have made no changes to the Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) program. It would have funded the Voluntary Public Access (VPA) program at $30 million and the Watershed Rehabilitation Program at $150 million over the course of the farm bill. The VPA program and Water Rehabilitation Program previously had $50 million and $100 million, respectively, and both lack baseline funding after 2012 if not renewed.
Finally, under the proposal, all conservation programs would now be “no year funding” programs, which means that unused money in a given year does not revert back to the general treasury. Under current law, if a conservation contract is broken, for example, because a contract holder dies or just decides not to go through with a conservation project, that money must be sent back to the treasury. A significant amount of mandatory conservation money is lost from the Conservation Title through this process. Instead, under a situation like the one described above, the money would be retained within the Conservation Title.
What We Know About the Farm Bill that Did Not Happen – Some Lowlights
Commodity Payments – The commodity title of the proposed farm bill would have replaced direct payments (payments based on historical base acres and paid each year regardless of market price or farm income conditions) with a “grab bag” of commodity support options. Producers would be able to decide which program to enroll in.
One option included a farm-level shallow loss program to pay commodity crop producers when they experience small but long-term losses in revenue. Payments would cover losses between 13 and 25 percent, would be triggered by revenue circumstances at the individual farm level, and would be made on 60 percent of planted and prevented planted acres. It was expected that many corn, soy, and wheat producers would choose this option, though likely a considerably smaller percentage than if it were the only option available.
A second option was substantially higher target prices with ongoing receipt of counter cyclical payments when prices fall below the target, expected to be of most interest to rice, peanut, and sorghum producers, but perhaps many corn, soy, and especially wheat producers as well.
A third option was a special revenue insurance program for cotton (only) known as the Stacked Income Protection Plan or STAX. The movement of cotton’s share of commodity title funding to the crop insurance side of the ledger, via STAX, would have moved cotton out of adjusted gross income eligibility standards, payment limitations, and conservation requirements.
Due to the proposed termination of direct payments, saving nearly $5 billion a year, and to the relatively rosy projections of future commodity prices over the next decade, all of these commodity options could be put in the bill and estimated to result in a $15 billion savings over the next decade, or about $1.5 billion a year. If, however, a substantial price drop occurred outside the predicted range, the taxpayer exposure could be very high, easily wiping out any savings.
Payment Limits and Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) — The new payment limitation for the shallow-loss revenue program option and counter-cyclical program option would have been $210,000 for a married couple. This is significantly higher than the current $130,000 payment limit for counter-cyclical and revenue insurance payments. The new higher payment limit is the result of adding the current $80,000 payment limit for direct payments to the total. This outcome is baffling, given that direct payments were being proposed for elimination.
(Note: The proposal to the Super Committee from Senators Grassley (R-IA) and Johnson (D-SD), which had NSAC’s support, would have established a $100,000 per farm annual limit on revenue and counter-cyclical payments. In June, Grassley and Johnson introduced the Rural America Preservation Act of 2011 to lower the per farm cap on farm commodity program payments, simplify eligibility, and ensure that payments flow to working farmers. Visit our blog on the bill to read more about their effort to build a reasonable payment limit into the new farm bill.)
The proposed bill would have done nothing to close the biggest legal loophole that has been built into the support system over the last two decades, a loophole that allows individual farming interests to secure nearly unlimited taxpayer support. The loophole — allowing people to dodge the requirement to be “actively engaged in farming” to be eligible for support — allows mega farms to capture multiples of the nominal payment limit. These taxpayer-provided funds in turn can be used to bid land away from young, beginning farmers trying to get a start in farming. Unlimited payments over-inflate land values, increasing the land carrying costs for all farmers.
The proposed bill included no limit at all on marketing loan gains or loan deficiency payments, no limit at all on STAX subsidies, and no limit at all on highly subsidized crop insurance premiums. For each of those, the sky was the limit.
Finally, the adjusted gross income (AGI) limit for eligibility for commodity and conservation program payments was proposed to be $950,000, including both farm and non-farm adjusted income (generally multiplied times two if married). This is down $50,000 from the $1 million limit that was included in the FY 2012 agriculture appropriations bill that became law last week. The AGI test excludes from income all regular business expenses including the costs of renting or purchasing additional land or equipment; hence the AGI test encourages farm expansion by anyone who receives commodity subsidies and makes more than a million dollars a year, or a couple of million in the case of married persons.
For more information on payment limits, visit NSAC’s commodity program payment limitations and adjusted gross income limitations page.
Conservation Compliance — Despite the call of 56 national farmer and conservation organizations, including NSAC, to maintain and strengthen conservation compliance provisions in the farm bill, the bill would neither reattach conservation compliance to crop insurance nor establish a nationwide Sodsaver provision. Conservation compliance helps ensure that producers do not farm the most environmentally sensitive land, primarily highly erodible land and wetlands. In 1985, conservation compliance requirements have applied to commodity, crop insurance, and conservation program payments, but since 1996 it has not applied to receipt of crop insurance subsidies.
With direct payments gone, the proposed new farm bill would have only applied this minimum standard of environmental protection to counter-cyclical payments and the shallow-loss revenue insurance program. There would be no conservation compliance requirements for those who choose to receive STAX benefits or those who receive crop insurance subsidies only. NSAC has consistently advocated that crop insurance, which is the single largest farm subsidy, should be part of the same social contract that applies to commodity, credit, and conservation programs.
The agreement also did not include a nationwide “Sodsaver” provision. Sodsaver would have strengthened existing compliance rules by prohibiting all commodity and insurance subsidies on all native prairie and permanent grasslands and other remaining native land that does not have a cropping history if such land were to be cropped. In doing so, it would have protected prairie, critical habitat and biodiversity, reduced the cost of subsidy programs, and taken the pressure off of already over-subscribed conservation incentive programs. This Sodsaver provision was included in the last farm bill, but only as a voluntary pilot project that never got off the ground.
The bottomline is the proposed bill’s commodity and crop insurance titles would have encouraged and subsidized farm consolidation and diminish economic opportunity for young and beginning farmers. It would have created a “too big to fail” protection that could have left the taxpayer with a huge new exposure should the market tumble. Despite an ongoing economic crisis and need to spur rural job growth, the bill would have maximized payments and insurance subsidies to the nation’s largest farms while putting almost no money into rural economic development. There would have also been no improvements at all to the existing weak set of conservation conditions required as a condition of being eligible for production subsidies, and no re-linkage to crop insurance subsidies. These are all very major failings that need to be addressed when farm bill consideration resumes.
Rural Development –The Rural Development business programs did not fare well in the bill from a funding standpoint. The Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program, which provides competitive grants to create or develop value-added producer-owned businesses, would have been the only rural development program to receive farm bill funding. The VAPG program, however, would have received only $15 million in mandatory funding over five years, a very nominal amount. This is the same amount of funding from the 2008 Farm Bill, which was used up entirely in the first year of that farm bill cycle. In LLFJA and the BFROA, NSAC is advocating for $30 million per year in mandatory funding for the program, which has a proven track record in boosting farm income and creating rural jobs. The proposed bill would have authorized up to $40 million a year in discretionary funding, the same as under current law, but current appropriations are at only 40 percent of that level and the pressure on appropriations bills from discretionary cuts already approved by Congress will grow each year.
The Rural Microenterprise Assistance Program (RMAP) provides entrepreneurs in rural areas with the skills necessary to establish new businesses and continue operation of existing rural microenterprises. While the 2008 Farm Bill included $15 million over four years in mandatory funding for the program, the proposed new bill would have included no mandatory funding for the program at all and authorized only $20 million a year in discretionary funds compared to $40 million a year last farm bill cycle.
Additionally, many of the policy proposals included in the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act (LFFJA) that would bolster “food hub” and value chain activities are not found in the new bill. For instance, the Business and Industry (B&I) Direct and Guaranteed Loan Program bolsters rural businesses and industries and includes a minimum five percent set-aside for local and regional food system activities including aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and marketing. LFFJA proposes an increase of this set-aside to ten percent and makes other improvements; however, the proposed new bill did not adopt this proposal.
Local Food and Nutrition – The proposed new bill did not contain any of the EBT or school food provisions contained in the LFFJA. The LFFJA includes a leveling of the playing field so that direct marketing outlets such as farmers markets and CSAs can serve as SNAP vendors just as wired retail outlets do. The LFFJA’s school food provisions includes a “local food credit program” that would allow School Food Authorities to use up to 15 percent of their commodity dollars for making purchases of agricultural products from local and regional farmers and ranchers. Not only would this foster economic development but it would also bolster farm to school relationships. Additionally, while the proposed new bill would have maintained funding for the Department of Defense Fresh program, which gets produce into schools, the bill would not have allowed schools to use these dollars for their own purchases of more fresh, local food. On a positive note, the proposed new bill would have allowed USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to continue to pursue a pilot program that explores avenues for local sourcing in the program.
Organic Agriculture — The National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP), which assists producers in 34 states and handlers in all 50 states with the regulatory costs of entering into organic production, was left in tatters in the proposed new bill. It would have ended any farm bill mandatory funding for the program and placed a five-year benefit limit on each farmer if, as is unlikely, the program were to shift from the farm bill to the appropriations bill. The proposed bill would have allowed farmers in the 12 Northeastern states plus HI, NV, UT, and WY to receive mandatory funding from a different source for organic certification cost share. The result would have been an absurd situation where eligibility for a farm program benefit depended on which state one resides in. For comparison, imagine if corn program subsidies were available only in 16 out of 50 states – it would not have passed the smell test.
The proposed bill also did not include the provisions in the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act (LFFJA) regarding organic crop insurance. The LFFJA would eliminate the organic premium surcharge and would direct RMA to complete development of an organic price series to allow organic policies to pay out at the organic price.
Minority Farmers and Ranchers
The proposed bill left the Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers program (also known as “Section 2501” program) high and dry. The program received $75 million in mandatory funding under the current farm bill, but was left unfunded in the proposal.
Beginning Farmers and Ranchers
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Accounts (BFRIDA) Pilot Program also was not provided with farm bill funding under the proposal. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act proposes to fund the innovative pilot program at $5 million a year in mandatory funding.
Many credit programs that are essential to helping beginning farmers start farming, would have been reauthorized, including the Conservation Loan Program, the Down Payment Loan Program, and funding set-asides for beginning farmers within the guaranteed farm ownership and direct operating loan funds. None of the important policy changes that are needed and are contemplated by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act were included, however.
Research and Extension
While the proposed bill would have provided important renewed mandatory funding for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Act, it contained no policy changes that we know of to other programs and offices with the research area.
Originally posted by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
After missing their original November 1 deadline, the House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders continued to work on hammering out a deal on what might have become the 2011 Farm Bill. Things really heated up late Thursday and early Friday, November 18, when the new farm bill deal appeared imminent. Friday came and went, however, with the bill drafters still waiting on a final budget scoring on the bill from the Congressional Budget Office, delaying its official unveiling.
The Agriculture Committee leaders intended to send the bill to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the “Super Committee”) for inclusion in the big government-wide deficit reduction bill. By this past weekend, though, it became clear the Super Committee would not succeed in producing a budget bill for consideration by the full House and Senate in December.
With the Super Committee process now dead, the Agriculture Committee leadership on Monday decided to simply scrap the deal they had nearly reached and issue no details, no summary, no budget score, and no bill. Instead, House Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Senate Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) issued a simple statement, saying:
“House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders developed a bipartisan, bicameral proposal for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction that would save $23 billion. However, the Joint Select Committee’s failure to reach a deal on an overall deficit reduction package effectively ends this effort. We are pleased we were able to work in a bipartisan way with committee members and agriculture stakeholders to generate sound ideas to cut spending by tens of billions while maintaining key priorities to grow the country’s agriculture economy. We will continue the process of reauthorizing the farm bill in the coming months, and will do so with the same bipartisan spirit that has historically defined the work of our committees.”
(Note: One downside of the decision to not release even a summary of the proposed deal is that an out of date and not completely accurate summary of the bill was distributed fairly widely on Friday. While helpful to a degree, it has also served to confuse people where the summary does not match later reports about what is in the bill.)
This “part one” post will attempt to answer the question of what happens next, with the budget and with the farm bill. A “part two” post will then outline the basic contours of the 2011 Farm Bill that wasn’t, and detail some of the more hopeful elements and some of the least positive elements.
What Happens Next – Next Year’s Budget Issues
By law, the failure of the Super Committee to produce a bill cutting the accumulated deficit by at least $1.2 trillion (over 10 years) triggers automatic budget cuts (known in budget-speak as “sequestration”) of the same $1.2 trillion over 10 year amount, but not starting until January 2013. The threat of automatic cuts — divided half and half between defense spending and non-defense spending but excluding tax expenditures, major entitlement programs, and most programs targeted to low-income families and individuals — was originally intended as the threat hanging over the Super Committee that would force a deal. In the end, however, many on both the right and the left began to view the automatic cuts as the preferred option relative, on the right, to closing tax loopholes to increase revenue and, on the left, to cutting entitlement programs.
The one-year gap before sequestration takes effect gives Congress a year in which to try to avoid sequestration by coming up with an alternative to the Super Committee process for finding a trillion dollar plus combination of spending cuts or revenue increases. The fact that 2012 is a presidential election year would tend to weigh heavily against a revived budget deal. The termination of the Bush-era tax cuts at the end of 2012, however, provides a counterweight. There is some talk about a deal based on a reduction in the automatic cuts to the defense budget plus continuation of the Bush-era tax cuts except for the wealthy. Whether that or any other iteration of a mega-deal is possible in a politically charged year remains to be seen.
If sequestration is not avoided and in fact does trigger, it will have a significant impact on the farm bill. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the farm bill’s share of the automatic cuts could be as high as $15.6 billion (the Office of Management and Budget has made the actual determination of the size of the cut, but the White House refuses to release those figures). While seemingly lower than the $23 billion in net savings in the 2011 Farm Bill deal that wasn’t, it is actually quite equivalent. That is because two programs within the farm bill are by law exempt from sequestration – SNAP (food stamps) and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Within the $23 billion near-deal, those two programs accounted for $7.8 billion of the savings. With SNAP and CRP excluded, the sequestration route and the $23 billion savings route are about the same $15 billion plus in cuts.
Two important differences between an automatic farm bill cut and a non-automatic decision by Congress are worth noting. First, under automatic cuts, the biggest share of the $15 billion plus reduction would fall on Risk Management Agency-administered crop and revenue insurance since it has the biggest budget ($8 billion a year average). Under most regular farm bill scenarios, crop insurance is less likely to be cut. Second, with CRP exempt, the total cut to conservation programs would be lower under sequestration than it would have been under the near-deal on a 2011 Farm Bill.
What Happens Next – Immediate Budget Issues
More immediately, the lack of a Super Committee deal has removed a train from the legislative track on which several high cost freight cars were going to hitch a ride. Two relate to the President’s jobs bill. Extended unemployment benefits and the temporary reduction in payroll taxes both expire at the end of 2011. Also up for grabs is the annual, costly revision to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) to avoid it from triggering at a level that would impact many middle-income households as well as the now regular annual adjustment to prevent government health care payments to doctors and hospitals from going down (sometimes referred to as the doc-fix). With just a month to go this year, these are big, costly items for which there is broad political support, but for which there will be major arguments about whether or not they must be paid for with reductions elsewhere in the budget and if so, where. On top of all that, Congress must still finish the majority of the FY 2012 appropriations bills. Expect a very contentious December!
What Happens Next – Farm Bill
There are many scenarios with respect to what might become of the next Farm Bill. The wildest one, and most unlikely of the lot, is that it would still happen in 2011, with the net cuts of $23 billion in the near-deal serving as an offset for a deal on unemployment benefits, payroll tax reductions, AMT adjustments, or the so-called doc-fix.
Scenarios for 2012 include two variations on taking it up early in 2012 and finishing it by summer, before nearly all attention focuses solely on the elections. Variation one would pick up where things left off, with the draft deal from last week serving as the initial draft that would then be open to amendment. Variation two would start the whole process over from scratch. And of course there would be combination approaches in which some pieces would start over, but others would start from where things left off.
Under either of those variations, there could be a continuation of the goal of cutting total farm bill spending by $23 billion over ten years, or that number could change. Also under either variation, there could be a return to more normal legislative process, with hearings, subcommittee and full committee markups, and floor amendments and floor votes, or there could be a continuation of a less open process, especially if there is a new deficit reduction budget deal that emerges in the meantime.
Another scenario for 2012 could be more of a wait and see approach, with the Agriculture Committees crafting a bill only after the dust settles on the mega-budget situation and deficit reduction targets are known or the situation with respect to automatic cuts in January 2013 changes or does not change. The problem with the wait and see approach is that, in an election year, they could run out of time to respond with a farm bill once the mega-deal on the budget comes into focus, if in fact it ever does.
At least four things tend to weigh toward a one-year extension of the existing farm bill and delay work on the new one until 2013. Two are budgetary and two are political.
First, the overall budget situation is confusing and without knowing how much to cut, the Agriculture Committees could start down the wrong path and turn out to be out of sync with a long-term deficit reduction deal. Second, if a reduced-cost farm bill is written and becomes law in 2012, but sequestration is allowed to move ahead as per current law, then the new farm bill would be cut a second time barely before the ink has dried on the actual farm bill. A 2013 Farm Bill, on the other hand, would have the advantage of being able to revise the shape of the automatic cuts before they go into effect permanently.
Third, it is an election year and legislative time will be short, with interruptions for primaries and campaigning. Fourth, for those Agriculture Committee Republicans who may assume their party will regain control of the Senate in the November election, there is also a strong incentive to wait a year.
There are also strong countervailing forces to the 2013 scenario. It is probably safe to say that at this particular point in time, no one really knows under which scenario the farm bill debate will play out. It may take time for the dust to settle and new strategies to emerge.
Are your local farmers, farmers market, CSA and food coop important to you? Are you a farmer interested in having access to new and emerging direct market opportunities like farmers markets and restaurants? What about having fresh, local food for your child's school meals? Or how about selling your fresh fruits and vegetables to local institutions? We have a rare and important opportunity for you to support the continued growth of local food systems in Illinois.
In the coming days, we will be joining members of Congress and other farm and food groups in introducing the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act! This bill is what is called a "marker bill" and is intended to influence the writing of the federal farm bill (Hopefully we get a chance to do that!). More information below.
The goal of the bill is to advance the development of local and regional farm and food systems in the next farm bill -- from farm to table. Local food systems not only hold potential for connecting consumers with where their food comes from, but also for boosting farm income, stimulating job creation and economic development, and meeting public health and nutrition goals.
The bill will address the needs of consumers in accessing food from their local communities and the needs of farmers and ranchers producing for local and regional markets, including infrastructure and processing capabilities. While there are growing "relocalization" efforts and local food economies across the nation, policy reforms are needed to overcome barriers and more fully capitalize on the new farming opportunities, jobs, and economic growth this sector can deliver.
Ask your two Senators and your Representative to co-sponsor the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act! We need support from as many legislators as possible.
Don't know who your State Representative is or how to contact them?
You can look up your elected officials based on your home address by clicking here.
It's easy to call:
When you call a Senate or House office, ask for the staff member who works on agricultural issues. If the agriculture staffer isn't available, leave a message and have them call you back.
The Message is Simple:
I am a constituent, calling to urge Senator/Congress(wo)man __________ to co-sponsor the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act. This legislation is about to be introduced in the House and Senate. It will help boost farm income and meet consumer demand. It's a job creator and a cost-effective, smart investment. Can I count on Senator/Congress(wo)man_________ to be a co-sponsor?
If your Senator will co-sponsor or wants more information: Tell them to communicate with Senator Sherrod Brown's office.
If your Representative will co-sponsor or wants more information: Tell them to communicate with Representative Chellie Pingree's office.
The Federal Farm Bill & The Local Farms, Food & Jobs Act
The farm bill is a comprehensive omnibus bill that is written every 4-6 years. The farm bill is the single most influential piece of legislation when it comes to structuring the food and farm system in the U.S. The farm bill determines the size and structure of our subsidy programs, support for farmers markets and specialty crops, conservation agriculture policy, the size and structure of SNAP (formerly food stamps), support for rural development, support for organic agriculture and much more.
During the writing of the farm bill, coalitions and organizations often introduce what are called "marker bills," these are introduced as conversation pieces with goal of having the content of the "marker bill" be included in the farm bill. The more co-sponsors a "marker bill" has the more likely it will be included in the farm bill.
However, last week the Agriculture Committee leadership proposed to rewrite the food and farm bill in 2 weeks - yes you heard that right, 2 weeks - this is usually a year plus process and they want to do it in 2 weeks behind closed doors?! This would be the fastest food and farm bill decision-making process in history - 7 days from today - and will be decided without your input. Which is why the timing of the Local Farms, Food & Jobs Act being introduced now is critical.
The Local Farms, Food & Jobs Act is a comprehensive local and regional food systems "marker bill" that is being introduced by Representative Chellie Pingree and Senator Sherrod Brown.
The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act will improve federal farm bill programs that support local and regional farm and food systems. This legislation will help farmers and ranchers engaged in local and regional agriculture by addressing production, aggregation, processing, marketing, and distribution needs and will also assist consumers by improving access to healthy food and direct and retail markets. And of utmost importance, this legislation will provide more secure funding for critically important programs that support family farms, expand new farming opportunities, and invest in the local agriculture economy.
The Local Farms, Food & Jobs Act will:
Boost Income and Opportunities for Farmers and Ranchers
Improve Local and Regional Food System Infrastructure and Markets
Expand Access to Healthy Foods for Consumers
Enhance Agriculture Research and Extension
A factsheet outlining some of the provisions in the Local Farms, Food, & Jobs Act can be found here.
Go to foodday.org to view a map of activities from across the country.
What do homemade jams and jellies, baked goods, and dried herbs have in common? They will all be eligible to be made in home kitchens and sold at farmers markets. Illinois joined the growing list of states across the country that are supporting the growing local food movement by crafting risk and scale appropriate laws regulating local food businesses.
On August 16, in honor of Agriculture Day at the Illinois State Fair, Governor Quinn signed into law Senate Bill 840 the Illinois Local Food Entrepreneur and Cottage Food Operation Act, also known as the Cottage Food Bill. The Cottage Food Bill is a step in an ongoing effort to create policies that support the burgeoning local food movement. The cottage food bill will create new opportunities for farmers to engage in value-added processing while making it easier for aspiring entrepreneurs to start new local food businesses selling at one of Illinois 300-plus farmers markets.
The cottage food bill changes Illinois’ food safety laws to allow homemade non-potentially hazardous baked goods, jams and jellies, fruit butter, dried herbs, and dried tea blends to be sold at farmers markets provided they are properly labeled as homemade products, annual gross receipts from sales are $25,000 or less, the “cottage food operation” is registered and the person preparing and selling the food has a valid Illinois Food Service Sanitation Manager Certificate.
SB 840 was sponsored by Senator David Koehler (D-Peoria) and Representative Lisa Dugan (D-Kankakee). Both Senator Koehler and Representative Dugan deserve our thanks for all their hard work because without it, the passage of SB 840 would not have been possible.
While, the general assembly has passed it and Governor Quinn has signed it, the cottage food bill does not go into effect until January 1, 2012 so don’t start baking just yet! The registration process isn’t in place yet. In order to make it easier for potential cottage food operations to hit the ground running during the 2012 farmers market season, we have put together a handy guide that describes what the law does and doesn’t allow and what you have to do to qualify to become a cottage food operation.
On Agriculture Day, Governor Quinn also signed into law SB 1852. Senate Bill 1852, sponsored by Sen. David Luechtefeld (R-Okawville) and Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro), creates a task force to review the rules and laws defining what products can be sold at farmers’ markets, as well as sanitation and food preparation requirements. The 24-member task force will then assist the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) in developing and implementing administrative rules ensuring consistent statewide farmers’ market regulations. SB 1852 is effective immediately.
The Cottage Food Bill, Senate Bill 840 (Formerly SB 137), is receiving increasing attention. The bill allows home bakers to sell non-potentially hazardous products at farmers markets which will grow jobs, farmers markets and increase availability of locally produced foods. There are many examples of nearby states passing similar legislation. Read more about SB 840 by clicking here.
Ohio: Ohio's Cottage food laws date back to 2001, they originally only included non-potentially hazardous baked goods, jams, jellies, and fruit butters. In 2009 they expanded that list to include a whole bunch of other products (candy, granola, granola bars, popcorn, flavored popcorn, kettle corn, popcorn balls, caramel corn, unfilled baked donuts, waffle cones, pizzzelles, dry cereal, nut snack mixes with seasoning, roasted coffee (while beans or ground), dry baking mixes in a jar, dry herbs and herb blends, and dry tea blends). According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture Division of Food Safety, they have not seen an increase in foodbornes illness as a result of their cottage food laws. Ohio's laws do not contain any sort of registration or licensing provisions and unlike the other states, including the proposal for Illinois, they allow cottage food items to be sold beyond farmers markets at groceries and restaurants. Ohio's law does not contain a gross receipts threshold and does not require any licensing, registration or inspections. FOr more information click here.
Minnesota: Minnesota's cottage food or pickle law date back to 2004, which allow the production and canning of pickles, vegetables or fruits having an equilibrium pH value of 4.6 or lower (a component of the definition of not potentially hazardous) along with some baked goods and maple syrup. Minnesota has a gross receipts threshold of $5,000. According to the Minnesota Department of Health Foodborne Disease division, they have not had any problems with cottage food operations. For more information click here and click here.
Iowa: Iowa's cottage food laws date back to at least 2005. Iowa's cottage food laws just allow non-potentially hazardous baked goods . According to the Iowa food & Consumer Safety Bureau Department of Inspections & Appeals they have not had an increase in foodborne illnesses attributable to their cottage food laws and in the 6 years there has been only one incident regarding home bakers. For more information click here.
Kentucky: Kentucky's Home-based Processor laws date back to 2003 and allow farmers in their home kitchens to process whole fruits, vegetables, mixed-greens, jams, jellies, preserves, bread, fruit pies, cakes and cookies. Kentucky's Home-based processor law limits sales to farmers markets and similar direct to consumer venues, but does not include a sales threshold. According to the Kentucky: Cabinet for Health and Family Services - Food Safety Program they have not had an increase in food borne illnesses related to cottage operations/homebased processors. More detailed information http://chfs.ky.gov/dph/info/phps/food.htm (scroll down) http://www.lrc.ky.gov/KRS/217-00/015.pdf [see definitions (51)-(56)] and http://www.lrc.ky.gov/krs/217-00/136.pdf
Indiana: Indiana's cottage food laws or home-based vendor laws were just passed and finalized in the summer of 2009. They allow for the home production of baked goods, jams, jellies, and other not potentially hazardous foods for sale at farmers markets. The Indiana Department of Health, Food Protection Program said that the program is just too new and they don't have enough data yet to make a claim one way or the other. For more information click here.
Michigan: Michigan's cottage food laws were just passed and signed into law last summer (2010). There is no data from which to make a claim one way or the other regarding the impact on foodborne illness incidents.
On April 6th, local foodies, farmers, and citizens from across the state will come together in Springfield to encourage their legislators to support local food and farms. Illinois Stewardship Alliance invites you to join us for our 2nd annual local food and farm lobby day in Springfield on April 6th, from 10a.m. - 3p.m. at the Pasfield House and IL State Capitol Complex in Springfield.
Local Food Awareness Day will consist of a legislative update, orientation, lobbying 101 training, and lunch at the Pasfield House. Following lunch we will descend upon the capitol to educate legislators about the importance of local food systems and advocate for positive policy solutions that promote and support local food systems in Illinois.
Cost: $15 (FREE for members) - includes lobbying training, orientation and lunch at the Pasfield House
*Additionally you may become a member now for $25 (1 year membership) which will allow you to attend lobby day for free.
Registration: To register for the 2011 Local Food Awareness Day @ the Captiol click here. Registration deadline is March 30th.
Payment can be made by sending a check to Illinois Stewrdship Alliance, 401 W. Jackson Parkway, Springfield IL, 62704 (Please make sure you register at the link above before sending a check) or by calling the ISA office at 217-528-1563 (ask for Dee). Or use paypal online by clicking here.
For more information contact ISA's Policy coordinator, Wes King at email@example.com
Are you interested and concerned about how state and federal policy affects the burgeoning local food movement in Illinois? Are you interested in becoming a voice for the local food movement and helping to shape the future of local food related public policy? If so please join us for the Illinois Stewardship Alliance’s (ISA) inaugural annual state policy meeting.
On December 13th, ISA’s Grassroots Policy Committee will be holding its inaugural annual state policy meeting to bring local farm and food stakeholders together to gather input on and discuss those issues facing Illinois’ small farmers and local food system stakeholders.
More information click here.