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Farm Bill

Margaret Reeves's picture

Healthy food & farms: How will Congress vote?

I am neither a farmer nor an octogenarian, yet images of the disastrous U.S. dust bowl of the 1930s are forever etched in my memory. What I am is a mom, who is well aware of how children's health is linked to the food our kids eat — in all kinds of ways. And these two things are are inextricably linked through our food system, and the policies that shape it.

How farmers treat the soil and how they grow and market our food determines, in the big picture, the health of our children. The choices farmers have and the decisions they make are strongly influenced by government policies — policies that are being crafted this week as the Farm Bill moves forward on Capitol Hill. 

Margaret Reeves
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Support for local food systems? Brilliant.

There's plenty of Farm Bill news from DC these days. Hopeful proposals are in the works that support local food economies, family farms and conservation. But we still have lots of work to do to protect the good programs won in the 2008 Farm Bill — most were "stranded" without funding at the end of last year.

Here's a brief rundown of what bits of legislation are moving, what last week's budget proposal from the President means to farmers and conservation programs, and what's up next in the 2013 Farm Bill process.

Margaret Reeves
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Margaret Reeves's picture

What's to debate? It's time for smarter Farm Bill funding.

The Farm Bill is again in motion, and budget negotiations are first up. This past week the House and Senate passed different versions of a Continuing Resolution (CR), the short-term budget fix that will keep programs afloat for the coming year.

The House version fails to fund key conservation programs or provide support for rural communities. The Senate did a bit better, but their version still leaves many important programs stranded. Between now and March 27 Congress will be reconciling these two versions of the budget, and we'll be pressing hard for decisions that support smart, innovative farming. We’ll keep you posted as the process unfolds and action is needed.

Margaret Reeves
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Margaret Reeves's picture

Farm Bill extension fails farmers

New Year's Eve proved disastrous for farmers, consumers and the environment. That was the day Congress kicked the Farm Bill can down the road, failing to pass a new five-year law with much needed reforms and improvements — or even the reasonable short-term extension that was on the table.

Instead, legislators passed an awful nine-month extension as part of the "fiscal cliff" bargain. The bill includes no reform of huge payments to the big commodity crops, no disaster assistance and no extension of funding for a range of important programs — from farmers markets to rural micro-enterprise to organic research. The silver lining? We now have nine months to push for a decent Farm Bill that keeps what's working and reforms what's broken. We're rolling up our sleeves.

Margaret Reeves
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Margaret Reeves's picture

Soil-building success stories!

The adage "we are what we eat" supports  food and nutrition education programs across the country. The same goes for the farm — production of an abundant diversity of healthy crops depends on healthy soil and crop management techniques.

Farmers aren't born knowing how to do this, they learn. They learn from each other, and through programs like USDA's new soil health initiative. This is why we're working hard to make sure the next Farm Bill is a strong one that supports innovative farmer education.

Margaret Reeves
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Topsoil's happy history lesson, Ken Burns style

Pop quiz:

Q1: What is the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history?

Q2: What U.S. law provides the single largest source of federal funding for environmental conservation? 

Answers: The Dust Bowl and the Farm Bill. And these two facts have everything to do with one another. 

Pesticide Actio...
Margaret Reeves's picture

Still no Farm Bill? Now's the time.

In a recent blog, I showcased farmers and environmentalists joined in a common Farm Bill mission with faith communities, moms and organic “foodies.” I'm happy to report that the broad-based movement for smarter farm policies continues to expand, and pressure on Congress is building. We invite you to add your voice.

Margaret Reeves
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Dear Congress, we the people want a Farm Bill

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.

Margaret Reeves
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House Farm Bill: Bit of good, mostly not

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.

Margaret Reeves
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