Table of Contents
Gridlock in the Senate
Dorgan-Grassley and other Amendments
Make Your Voice Heard - Action Alerts
Become a CFSC Member!
Gridlock in the Senate
Senate Leaders Working on a Compromise
The Farm Bill began on the floor of the Senate this week, but debate never really got off the ground due to partisan bickering over the procedure for offering amendments. Majority Leader Reid (D-NV), citing time constraints due to the approaching holiday season and an otherwise full agenda, proposed limiting the debate to amendments that are directly relevant to the Farm Bill. Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY) and other Republicans are worried that certain amendments they support would be excluded, such as the potential reform or removal of the estate tax which, if passed, could do significant harm to small and beginning farmers by driving up the cost of land.
A Reid spokesperson said Wednesday that the Majority Leader is trying to negotiate a list of allowed amendments with Sen. McConnell, to include five or six from each side. Reports from Farm Policy, Nov. 8th say that Reid might try to force action by filing for a vote that would end debate and move directly to consideration of the Dorgan-Grassley amendment. To do this, Reid would need support from 60 out of the 100 Senators. We will keep you updated as this process develops.
As we reported in last week's update, the Dorgan-Grassley amendment places limits on farm payments, saving $1.15 billion over 5 years and reinvesting that money in conservation, rural development, and nutrition programs. CFSC learned last week that $50 million of this savings could be used to fund Community Food Projects from 2012-2017, making the future of this important program much more secure.
Since a vote could come as early as Tuesday of this week, it is still important to call your Senators and ask them to vote FOR the Dorgan-Grassley amendment. You can call the Capitol Switchboard at 202.224.3121 to be connected to your Senators' offices.
83 Amendments and Counting
On Friday, Chairman Harkin released a list of amendments that had been submitted by 5:00 pm on Thursday. Notably absent is the Lugar-Lautenberg amendment, which limits direct payments and adds funds to the food stamp program, though a Lugar aide said that an agreement for its consideration is being reached. The 83+ amendments were reportedly released by Sen. Harkin on Friday, though we do not currently see them on the Agriculture Committee website. Keep watching the committee website, as they may post them again. (Congress Daily, Nov. 9th)
Possible Biofuel Amendment
Senate Energy and Natural Resources ranking member Pete Domenici (R-NM) wants to offer an amendment that would raise the renewable fuels standard, requiring refiners to produce 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels - mostly corn-based ethanol - by 2022. Reid has said that he will not offer it on the floor because such provisions belong in the energy bill, but some speculate that he will end up allowing it. The bill has bipartisan support, and Senator Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Agriculture Committee, has said that he considers energy issues to be integrally connected to farm and food policy (Congress Daily, Nov. 8th).
Food Safety Standards
An amendment sponsored by Senator Feinstein (D-CA) seeks to implement uniform food safety growing standards in response to past E. coli outbreaks among bagged leafy greens. The Community Alliance with Family Farmers and other groups are worried about the heavy use of pesticides advocated in the standards and fear that small scale, traditional family vegetable growing operations will be hurt.
Administration Issues Veto Threat
Though debate on the Farm Bill has not truly begun in the Senate, the Bush administration issued a veto threat on Monday, Nov. 5. The administration and Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner claim to oppose the bill in part because of the ways it is funded, and also because they want to see stricter payment limitations and less spending overall. However, Senator Grassley (R-IA) wagers that The Senate is likely to approve its $288 billion farm bill with more than enough votes to overcome a presidential veto (Des Moines Register, Nov. 6th).
Make Your Voice Heard!
Action Alerts from Our Allies
Lower the EQIP Limit
The National Family Farm Coalition is working to promote the $240,000 limit on Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) grants. A lower limit means that there would be more grants available, and it would target small and medium-sized farms. The $240,000 limit was removed from Chairman Harkins bill by the Committee, but could still be restored by an amendment on the floor. Let your Senators know you support lowering the EQIP payment limit.
Act to Support Small Farms
The Community Alliance with Family Farms has more information about the food safety amendment here and an action alert.
Dorgan-Grassley and the Livestock Title
See the Sustainable Agriculture Coalitions two action alerts here and here.
Raise Funding for Food Stamps and TEFAP
Calls needed to improve Food Stamps & The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Click here to support our friends at the Food Research and Action Center.
Voice Your Support for Reform
The Center for Rural Affairs has a page for grassroots action items that allow you to contact Senator Reid or contact your own Senators to support real payment limit reform and rural development.
Community Food Security Coalition
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Washington, DC 20002
Organic Vegetable and Crop Outreach Specialist
Michigan State University
C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems
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East Lansing, MI 48824
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