22, 2007 9:41 AM, By Forrest Laws
Farm Press Editorial Staff
It didn’t take long for the “honeymoon” between the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and his counterpart on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry to hit its first bump in the road.
Rep. Collin Peterson and Sen. Tom Harkin, who hail from the neighboring states of Minnesota and Iowa, have been meeting weekly to discuss the 2007 farm bill the panels they chair must write before the current law, the 2002 farm bill, expires Sept. 30.
By all accounts, the two were getting along famously until the House Agriculture Committee released its draft of the farm bill conservation title its Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy and Research was scheduled to begin “marking up” on May 22.
Before Peterson could announce the schedule for the subcommittee markups during a press briefing on May 17, Harkin released a statement criticizing the draft title for not providing enough funding for conservation programs.
“The 2002 farm bill provided the greatest expansion of conservation funding in history,” Harkin said. “Yet the promised conservation initiatives — expanding EQIP, creating the Conservation Security Program, continuing to expand acres protected in the WRP — were denied because funding was cut in subsequent legislation.”
Harkin said the new House bill “perpetuates” the damage to conservation and the environment caused by the previous two Congresses and the Bush administration by not providing the conservation funding farmers need.
Peterson tried to downplay Harkin’s displeasure with the House conservation plan, saying he had discussed the House proposal with the Senate ag committee chairman and that he knew the latter was not pleased.
He conceded that the bill does not provide funding for the Conservation Security Program at the “level Sen. Harkin wants, and there won’t be money for any new contracts for a while.” (Under the draft language in the House bill, the Conservation Security Program would not be re-authorized until the 2012 fiscal year.)
“But the important thing is the program is still there,” he said. “What you’re going to see in this mark is a reflection of what the priorities of this committee are. We put together in the 2002 bill, a good conservation title, and it worked. The programs are up and running, everyone is behind them, and we want to build on that.”
The Conservation Security Program, in contrast, came out of the Senate and was not debated in the House Agriculture Committee. (Harkin, the author of the CSP, added it in the House-Senate conference committee on the 2002 farm bill.)
“It’s had its fits and starts,” he said. “So I would have to say these other, proven programs are a higher priority with this committee. We also think significant changes are needed — the CSP is too complicated, we’re not exactly sure the priorities are set up the right way and we will be focusing on making the program more effective going forward.”
Peterson said the markup session by the Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy and Research scheduled for May 22 was to be followed by a similar session for the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry on May 24.
The markup sessions will continue for other farm bill titles in June, following the Memorial Day recess. The full committee will then review the titles and hopes to report out a farm bill by July 4.
“We are beginning a bipartisan, open and public process to create a farm bill that will address the changing landscape of our nation’s agricultural economy,” said Peterson. “We understand how important it is for farmers, ranchers and consumers that we all work together and get this farm policy right.”
The House ag committee is taking a different approach this year by allowing its subcommittees to conduct markup sessions before receiving the “chairman’s mark” of the new farm bill. In the past, the latter has allowed the committee chairman to put his stamp on the new law early in the process.
Peterson said the media had overplayed his earlier comments that the committee would not accept any farm bill proposals unless a member of the agriculture committee introduced them.
“I did not mean to imply that this was a closed process,” he said. “Other House members, of course, will be able to introduce amendments when the bill reaches the floor. It’s just that we deal with these issues all the time, and we feel that we’re more familiar with them.”
Peterson appeared at the press briefing with Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., ranking minority member on the ag committee, and with Rep. Tim Holden, D-Penn., chairman of the Conservation, Credit, Energy and Research Subcommittee, and Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., its ranking member.
Both the chairman and ranking member said dealing with the money issue will be the biggest challenge committee members will face. Because the 2002 law has not cost as much as was expected, the committee has $60 billion less to work with than it did prior to writing it.
“Some things will have to be funded out of the reserve fund in the budget resolution and will be contingent on our finding offsets in the budget,” said Peterson. “But we’re working with our leaders and the Budget Committee to try to resolve those problems.”
Goodlatte noted that the Bush administration’s budget would increase farm bill funding by $5 billion. “That $5 billion is certainly not $60 billion, but we’re not asking for the $60 billion. We’re simply asking for enough money to address conservation issues and a host of other issues for which there are not enough resources.
“This is a fiscally responsible thing we’re asking for because we have saved the taxpayers of this country $60 billion over the last farm bill. We’re just asking for a small portion of that, quite frankly, to be allowed to be used to further efforts to help rural America.”
“Most of us on the committee have a farm background, and we’re just like farmers,” said Peterson. “We put seeds in the ground. We don’t have any idea what will happen, but farmers are born optimists, and I’m optimistic we can produce a good bill.”
In other farm bill news, the House and Senate voted to approve a fiscal year 2008 budget that aims to produce a budget surplus by 2012 and contains a $20-billion reserve fund for the 2007 farm bill.
The Senate passed the budget plan 52-40 and the House, 214-209. Authors of the bill, including Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said it contains no tax increases, but Republicans claimed it would produce the largest tax increase in history, primarily by not continuing the Republican-passed tax cuts of the last six years.
The House Agriculture Committee also passed three measures that will be sent to the House floor.
H. Con. Res. 25 expresses the sense of Congress that by the year 2025, America’s agricultural, forestry, and working lands should provide at least 25 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States through renewable sources while continuing to produce safe, abundant, and affordable food, feed, and fiber.
H.R. 926, introduced by House Agriculture Committee members Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., and Goodlatte, would prohibit the provision of federal economic development assistance for any state or locality that uses the power of eminent domain to obtain property for private commercial development.
H. Res. 79 would recognize the establishment of Hunters for the Hungry programs across the United States and the contributions of those programs’ efforts to decrease hunger and help feed those in need.
Up to $20 million per year will fund fair food effort
A new, nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing fresh, locally produced and sustainably-grown food to southeast Michigan will be setting up shop in downtown Ann Arbor.
The Fair Food Foundation is expected to award annual grants worth between $12 million and $20 million per year starting in 2008.
The goal, leaders said, is to redesign a food supply system that has left urban populations with little access to fresh food.
"The food system, for many, is broken," said Oran Hesterman, program director of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's Food and Society Initiative who will serve as the Fresh Food Foundation's president and CEO.
for the foundation will be located on Main Street, above Vinology Restarurant,
in the third floor quarters temporarily occupied by Google until their move to
the McKinley Towne Centre.
While the nonprofit will move into the 3,500-square-foot space by July 1, it won't begin operations until Jan. 1, 2008. Between 20 to 25 workers are expected to occupy the office once it's fully operational.
Eventually, foundation officials plan to buy and operate an organic farm in the Ann Arbor area and run the organization from an office in Detroit, Hesterman said.
An unidentified Michigan family is funding the private foundation, which is expected to be the largest private non-profit in the country whose sole focus is on a sustainable and equitable food system, Hesterman said.
"The foundation is being started by a very generous family of considerable wealth who wants to focus their philanthropy in the area of fair food," Hesterman said. They will be the sole supporters of the foundation.
Hesterman said the food system serves people who have the ability to pay for the food where it shows up: stores, farmers markets or restaurants.
"We will focus on the urban and rural food systems so people will have greater access to healthy, local, fresh food," said Nicole de Beaufort, acting director of communications for the foundation. "... For a lot of kids growing up in these areas, they go to the gas station for their food. There's no fresh food there, just plenty of Cheetos."
At the same time, the foundation will focus on more sustainable agriculture, Hesterman said. They will address issues such as pollution, fertilizer run off and the disappearance of the family farm.
"We want to redesign the food system with a focus on all of these people," he said. The foundation will work in diverse areas, from public policy to research and education, Hesterman added.
Hesterman, who lives in Ann Arbor, is a long-time leader in sustainable agriculture and has published extensively about the food system. He worked with the governor's office to develop the Michigan Food Policy Council.
9. The Day Without Farm Workers
by David Mas Masumoto, Land Institute’s Prairie Writers Circle, Salina, Kan.
Last year for one day, no one came to work in my peach orchard. A row of ladders stood empty. This was my day without immigrant labor.Without workers, I cannot farm. If I cannot farm, my organic heirloom peaches and raisins won’t reach people’s dinner tables.
Without passage of immigration reform, I can’t get enough help to harvest my fruits. This work is transient and something most Americans won’t do, even with higher wages. Under the current system, which gives so many immigrants illegal status, good workers from south of the border are forced to hide in the shadows, constantly fearful of deportation.
As the debate over undocumented workers unfolds, the growing of food seems to be left out. This debate isn’t just about citizenship. It’s also about who works the fields and how crops are grown. And it’s about working conditions and treating workers fairly — something that I and other small farmers try to do as we labor side by side with our workers.
Immigration reform needs to grant some form of legal status to the nearly 2 million illegal workers on farms and acknowledge their contribution to the farm economy and rural communities. At the very least, we should grant undocumented workers a guest worker status, ensuring fair treatment for their hard work.
Specialty fruits and vegetables depend on these hands. Now more than ever, a labor shortage threatens these crops.
I almost lost my raisin crop two years ago. Last year, pear farmers in Northern California were forced to let fruit rot on trees because there were not enough workers. I try to ripen my peaches to perfection, but lose many when I can’t get pickers; some of my best fruits fall from my trees.
Without labor, agriculture will mechanize the process as much as possible, substituting technology and capital for people on the land. This shift is not simply about the invention of a machine, but rather a dramatic change in how things are grown. It means rewarding plant breeders not for great flavor, but instead for fruit that works with machines.
I can imagine the ideal machined peaches of the future. Design them so they will simultaneously ripen. (My crews revisit a single tree four to five times, picking only what is ripe at the moment.) Breed a peach with a stem that snaps easily, so a tree can be shaken by a machine. Manufacture fruit that won’t bruise when harvested, picked rock hard to survive a handless system.
But there is no technology that can replace the human touch without sacrificing good taste.
Sustainable and organic fruit farming demands constant attention and response to nature each season: Our systems are labor intensive. I need the human element on my farm.
Farming is an inexact science. There’s an art to pruning and growing a perfect peach that requires years of practice and many hands. Without workers, I’ll have no choice but to farm differently: The politics of undocumented immigrants can change the flavor on my farm.
But agriculture is morally wrong if the sole goal is to create a new pipeline of cheap labor. Farmers must acknowledge the value of the people in their fields.
Undocumented workers have labored like ghosts — invisible, hidden, secluded. Immigration reform would shed light on them, revealing their worth.
As these new Americans are recognized, wages, working conditions and health benefits must be addressed. This will challenge farmers and the old ways of doing business. Agriculture has openly acknowledged the need for labor: We also must accept responsibility for these workers.
I farm with a social contract — a network of honorable, mutually supporting relationships that contribute to the quality I seek. My work can’t be done by machines. I want to grow “face food,” produce with faces and their stories, keeping alive the legacy of good, authentic food.
Undocumented workers are part of this food system. We all have a stake in immigration reform, and the need to recognize the important role of all food workers. We need to support farming that contributes true flavors to life.
10. If you seeking Sustainable Bags for your customers or program…
We have a local company, which does screen printing, trophy's, hats, etc.
CREATIVE CONCEPTS, Mark Bivins, owner, 616 866 1470, www.plaquesandengraving.com
Good luck, and if you need any other info, or assistance, please let me know.
Dick Johnston, Utilities Director
City of Rockford
P.O. Box 561
7 South Monroe
Rockford, Michigan 49341-0561
Ph: 616 - 866 -1537
Fax: 616 - 866 – 6406
OR another option is….
Eat Local Foods LLC BASED in Wyandotte, MI offers reusable bags that are made in the USA. There is always a tag inside the bag that will tell you where it was made. We believe that if we are encouraging consumers to buy local food, we shouldn't do it with products that are made in China.
At Eat Local Food, we offer reusable, fine art canvas tote bags that can be customized for your farmers market.
As a member of MiFMA (Michigan Farmers Market Association), you will receive a 10% discount on your orders with us. We are located in Wyandotte, and all of our products are reusable, functional, customizable and made in the USA.
The price of our bags depends on the quantity ordered, but they typically cost $9.00 to $11.25 per bag (including customization) and they retail for $17.00-$18.00. Yes, they are a bit more expensive because they are made in the USA with cotton grown in the USA.
Thanks for the opportunity to add my 2 cents,
Eat Local Food LLC
637 Emmons Blvd.
Wyandotte, MI 48192
www.eatlocalfood.com check out their beautiful vegetable and fruit art work perfect for your market place.
If you are seeking bags made from recycled materials...
One Bag at a Time http://www.1bagatatime.com/Aboutourbags.html
offers washable, screenable bags made from recycled materials
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Call: 1 Bag at a Time at 310-441-7300
Email: [log in to unmask]
Smail: 1 Bag at a Time
[log in to unmask]"> 10700 Santa Monica Blvd. Unit 7
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For single use bags made of recycled materials…
several people on this list indicated their interest in finding and using
biodegradable bags at the market, Laura Kassenbrock, an MSU graduate student working
in our office this summer, contacted several sources to request price and
ordering information. Here is a summary of what she found:
Biodegradable produce bags
$37/case (2 rolls of 1000 bags/roll)
Also carries other environmentally friendly food/restaurant carry-out products
Recy-Clean Services/Michigan Green Safe Products
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EcoFilm 3 gallon produce bags
$.12/bag for 100 bags. Call to negotiate pricing for larger quantities
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Compostable shopping bag
$55 for 400 bags
Also carries other environmentally friendly food/restaurant carry-out products
Discounts for purchasing over 1000 bags
[log in to unmask]
2.5 gallon produce bag
10 bags/box, $115 for 96 boxes
Offers a variety of bag types and sizes
[log in to unmask]
Organic Vegetable and Crop Outreach Specialist
Michigan State University
C.S. Mott Sustainable Food Systems
303 Natural Resources Bldg.
East Lansing, MI 48824
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