Sustainable Agriculture: Farm Bill Fractures

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From #105, March-April 2003

Sustainable Agriculture: Farm Bill Fractures

B Y   K A T H Y   L A W R E N C E Building Foundation illustration

Nine months have passed since the Farm Bill was passed, and it may be difficult to remember that well-coordinated grassroots, state, regional and national advocacy won the bright spots in an otherwise dreary piece of legislation. Last fall’s changes in Congress could result in serious challenges to the farm bill—and our bright spots in particular—as a result of action on the budget. It looks possible that the new powers that be will propose a "budget reconciliation" (read large cuts to domestic spending) to make up for new tax cuts and to pay for the war. We also need to pay close attention to new trade agreements negotiated by the Administration that could have some impact on farm bill programs.

If cuts to farm bill programs are proposed, it is likely that the commodity programs will suffer the least and the other program areas—conservation, research, nutrition, rural development, and those items contained within the "miscellaneous" title—will take the biggest hits. This means that any of our farm bill priorities that cost money will need to be defended vigorously over the coming months and year.

We’ll also be keeping an eye on how USDA proposes to implement programs included in the new farm bill. The National Campaign will be sending action alerts out to our full network and posting them on our website. Co-op managers and staff who want up-to-date information for their members can always visit www.sustainableagriculture.net/alerts.php.

In addition to informing and mobilizing our grassroots network around Farm Bill implementation, the National Campaign is also busy providing new resources and services to help folks all over the country keep up on sustainable agriculture issues, policy developments, and program implementation.

Federal sustainable agriculture program primer

Lots of people—including many farmers and ranchers—think there’s nothing in the 2002 Farm Bill for them. But the fact is there are federal sustainable agriculture programs, policies, funding, credit, and technical assistance sources that can and should be working on diverse farms and in communities across the nation. The National Campaign has developed detailed information on 25 sustainable agriculture farm and food programs that deal with marketing and rural development, conservation, community food security and nutrition, equity and justice, and organics.

In a simple, user-friendly format we provide a short description of each program, who administers it, how people can access the program (including application deadlines and criteria for eligibility), how the program is funded, where to go for more information, and, when appropriate, links to current citizen action needed. Check out our website (http://www.sustainableagriculture.net/primer.php) to see the basic information we’ve pulled together on a wide range of the programs and policies that the National Campaign and its partner organizations have helped to conceive, develop, promote and/or get funded over the years.

National Campaign organizer’s tool kit

The National Campaign’s field organizer has compiled a great set of resources for a comprehensive Organizer’s Tool Kit, which can now be read and downloaded from our website. The Organizer’s Tool Kit has something for everyone—whether you’re just getting started or have been organizing for years.

National Campaign board nominations

The National Campaign Nominating Committee is accepting nominations to the board of directors. Anyone can nominate, and it would be great to have a candidate from the world of cooperative grocers. For more information, visit our website at www.sustainableagriculture.net/board.php#call. A brief description of what is expected of National Campaign Board members can be found at www.sustainableagriculture. net/board.php#expectations.

Ag matters e-news

To keep folks informed on current issues and action needed, the National Campaign is publishing an e-newsletter. You can subscribe by sending an email to subscribe@sustainable agriculture.net with the following text in the body of the message (not the subject line): subscribe agmattersbiweekly.

As always, we look forward to hearing from you about how we can work together to build the grassroots movement for environmental, economic, and social justice in our food and agriculture systems. Maybe you’d like to post a National Campaign sign-on sheet in your co-op, so members can join our action alert network. Or maybe you’d like to include our updates in your newsletter. Or maybe you have an even better idea—give us a call any time at 845/744-8448.

 

Kathy Lawrence is executive director of the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture ([email protected]).

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See other articles from this issue: #105 March - April - 2003