Sustainable Ag Programs Under Attack

Speak Up in September

If the House of Representatives has its way, some of the sustainable agriculture movement's biggest wins in the 2002 Farm Bill will disappear for at least a year and maybe longer.

What's at stake?

The Conservation Security Program (CSP): By far the biggest win in 2002, CSP smashes the old stereotype of failed policies that put billions of dollars into a vision of agriculture that assumes, or even encourages, environmental damage from farming. CSP responds with a new vision of just how government dollars should be spent: rewarding responsible farmers who provide to all Americans, rural and urban alike, essential environmental benefits such as clean water and air, productive soil and wildlife habitats. With CSP, we are no longer fighting for the crumbs left over when powerful special interests feast on federal programs. Whereas we struggled to pass a $20 million dollar program to support sustainable agriculture in 1994, with CSP we now have nearly $4 billion at stake.

If the House prevails, this innovative new conservation program that could literally change the face of agriculture in America will get zero funding for its critical first year of implementation in 2004.

Other conservation programs the House has cut into include the Wetlands Reserve Program, reduced from 250,000 acres to 200,000, and $25 million shaved from the $1 billion Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

The House bill also guts the Value-Added Producer Grant program, transforming it from a $40 million per year mandatory program into a small ($4 million per year) discretionary program. And the $120 million Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems (IFAFS) competitive grant research and extension program is zeroed out in the House bill.

What about the Senate?

We're working hard to ensure the Senate does better. Nearly 200 national, state, and local groups signed a letter sponsored by the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (www.sustainableagriculture.net/senateApprop.php) urging the Senate to oppose the cuts in the House bill and to leave unharmed the Conservation Security Program, Value-Added Producer Grant program, Renewable Energy Systems Grant program, and the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems. The bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee before Congress recessed in August does leave most of these programs intact, but it includes smaller cuts to a variety of conservation programs.

What's next?

When Congress resumes on September 2, the National Campaign will call on everyone in our network to help defend key sustainable agriculture programs. We will push hard for the best possible bill to be passed by the full Senate. This will include a huge public advocacy effort in support of amendments that will enable more farmers and ranchers to benefit from important programs by limiting the amount of payments any given farming operation can receive.

Even during this intensive time in early September, we will do our best to issue a minimum of alerts and to give you maximum time to respond. We send you short and clear alerts that help you know precisely what to say to your Senators, together with in-depth background information and talking points that help you understand the issues and feel comfortable taking action.

What will you do?

Please check our website for urgent alerts, policy updates, and sign on letters:

www.sustainableagriculture.net/alertsMain.php

www.sustainableagriculture.net/policyUpdates.php, and

www.sustainableagriculture.net/signOn.php

What's at stake: farm policies that fail--or a new vision.

  • Will you work with us to educate and mobilize your members in support of policies that work and government that is accountable?
  • Will you strategize with us beyond this defensive action on how we can create massive public demand for fundamental re-structuring of our food and agriculture systems so they really work for people and the land?
  • Will you help us build our list of dedicated activists in key states needed for targeted and timely Washington action?

I sincerely hope so. The simple fact is that billions of our tax dollars will go to Farm Bill spending next year. Together, we have the opportunity, the information, the skills, and the responsibility to do everything we can to make sure these dollars do more good than harm. Please contact the National Campaign, [email protected], or (845) 744-8448. Thank you.

See other articles from this issue: #108 September - October - 2003