Last week California’s pro-farmworker governor of the 70s showed himself as a farmworker foe when he vetoed two important bills — The Humane Treatment for Farm Workers Act and the The Farm Worker Safety Act. The first would make it a misdemeanor crime, punishable by jail time and fines, to not provide appropriate water or shade to workers laboring under high heat conditions. The second bill would have allowed workers to enforce the state’s heat regulations by suing employers who repeatedly violate the law.
The Farm Bill expired on Monday (here's a roundup of what that means). So while we still have no Farm Bill, I'm here to tell you that Congress is feeling the heat. From all around the country — from farmers and mothers, environmentalists and faith communities — people are calling on Congress to pass a Farm Bill this year. While it won’t happen before the November elections it can happen during the short lame duck session that follows.
When Congress returned from recess this week they started negotiating the terms under which the Farm Bill will be extended (beyond its September 30 ending date) and funded for at least the next six months. The proposal on the table guts conservation programs.
Earlier this week the House Agriculture Committee passed its version of the Farm Bill by a vote of 35-11 after one long day and more than 100 amendments.
Here's the upshot. Conservation programs took a big hit. Genetically engineered (GE) crops were given a free ride. And unfortunate language reversing EPA’s authority to regulate pesticide pollution under the Clean Water Act is included. A vote on the House floor is up next, but it hasn't been scheduled yet. Then it's on to reconciliation with the version passed by the Senate.
In the next couple weeks the House Agriculture Committee will negotiate its version of the 2012 Food and Farm Bill, following last week’s passage of the Senate’s decent version of the bill. In preparation, we took one of the House Ag Committee decision-makers (Fresno's Rep. Jim Costa) on a tour to make real what's at stake in this bill.
After three rapid-fire days with votes on 73 amendments and big budget cuts, the Senate passed what is probably the best Farm Bill we could have hoped for. Huge thanks for all the calls, letters and meetings with elected officials delivered by a large and diverse number of individuals and groups across the country, including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC).
PAN stands with the other ten members of NSAC’s California Farm Bill Caucus to celebrate this success and gear-up for the House Farm Bill negotiations, coming up just after the 4th of July.
The Senate has one more day to vote on key Farm Bill amendments. Yesterday, Day 1 of the complex voting process, was generally a good day — thanks to the hard work of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and many groups and individuals across the country. Let’s aim for more good news today!
Today’s vote includes the Chamblish amendment on conservation compliance. This amendment (#2438) would protect our natural resources by requiring recipients of crop insurance subsidies (i.e. our tax dollars) to use practices that protect natural resources. Please call your senator now, and urge them to vote YES on the Chamblish amendment.
What does the federal Farm Bill have to do with a healthy diet? More than you'd think, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
To get more fresh produce into our diets we need to reverse the policies that put up barriers — rather than provide incentives — for farmers to produce the fresh fruits and vegetables so urgently needed in the diets of most of us in the U.S.
Farmers who protect their soil using organic or other sustainable methods often encounter hurdles that other farmers do not. Current policies provide disproportionately little support for such farming practices depite the clear benefits — for the soil, the environment, human health and economic growth.
This week the U.S. Senate will have a chance to partially correct this by supporting Food and Farm Bill amendments that link crop insurance to sound farming practices. We know that good stewardship builds diverse agroecosystems that are inherently less risky than conventional sytems. Less risk with greater protection of soil and other natural resources? That's where I want my tax dollars to go.