Vicki Morrone

Organic Vegetable and Crop Outreach Specialist

Michigan State University

C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems

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From: Steph Larsen [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2007 1:15 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [COMFOOD:] Senate Gets Moving - CFSC Farm Bill Update










Farm Bill Action This Week


Senate Takes Up Farm Bill Debate!
Last Thursday night, the Senate reached a compromise on amendments to the Farm Bill. Under their deal, the Senate will debate up to 40 amendments each political party is allowed to propose 20. Votes are not expected until late Tuesday, though debate on amendments began Friday, and will continue this week. See below for a report on what amendments were presented Friday. Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) has said that he hopes to finish the Farm Bill by the end of next week. Harkin says if the Senate finishes the bill next week, it might be possible to move to conference (where House and Senate members work out differences between the two bills) before Christmas, but that it is more likely a conference report will be completed in January.



Now is a critical time to call your Senators. While CFSC's top priorities of increased mandatory funding Community Food Projects, flexibility for geographic preference in school food purchases, and infrastructure for local food systems are in the Senate bill, your legislators still need to hear that these priorities are important to you. This way, if something comes up that threatens these priorities, your Senators already know what to do.


Please also call your Senators to support amendments that will help small farmers, rural development, nutrition and conservation! Particularly important is the Dorgan-Grassley Payment Limits Amendment, which will be the major floor amendment on the farm bill, and is expected to be a close vote. The amendment would cap commodity payments at $250K, close loopholes, and redirect the savings to nutrition (including Community Food Projects), conservation, rural development and beginning and minority farmer programs.

To reach your Senators, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Ask for the staff person who deals with Farm Bill issues, and don't forget to say you're a constituent!


The Ball Has Begun to Roll...

On Friday afternoon, Chairman Harkin  and Ranking Member Chambliss (R-GA) came to the floor of the Senate to kick off the amendment process.  For the Democratics, Chairman Harkin presented the Dorgan-Grassley payment limit reform and an amendment from Senator Brown (D-OH) that cuts federal crop insurance expenditures. For the Republicans, Sen. Chambliss presented the Lugar-Lautenberg alternative farm bill amendment, an amendment from Sen. Cornyn (R-TX)  to strike the $5 billion agricultural disaster fund, and three amendments from Sen. Coburn (R-OK) - a ban on subsides to farmers who do not receive at least two-thirds of their income from farming, a ban to USDA funding for golf courses, casinos, and resorts, and a ban on historic barn preservation funding during declared times of emergency disasters. Senator Klobuchar (D-MN) then came to the floor and presented her amendment that would impose more stringent limits on who is eligible to receive subsidies. It would set an adjusted gross income limit at $750K for full-time farmers and a $250K limit for part-time farmers, or those who get less than 66% of their income from farming.

We will keep you updated as debate moves forward this week. 



Other News in Food Security


USDA Issues Healthy WIC Food package
Last week, the US Department of Agriculture issued new regulations for the Women, Infant and Childrens (WIC) nutrition program to provide more healthful and culturally appropriate foods. New options include a range of fruits and vegetables, low-fat milk and whole grains in not only bread, but in tortillas, rice and other grains. USDA also included important related changes that ensure clients have access to the full amounts of food theyre entitled to, though implementing these improvements on the ground will still pose a significant challenge in many communities with limited access to healthy foods. For more information, click here.


Capitol Hill Briefing on Healthy Food Access
Last Wednesday, CFSC joined Congressmen Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the Northeast Midwest Institute, the National Urban League, and Policy Link in calling on Congress to pass a Farm Bill that addresses the lack of affordable and healthy food in the nations low-income communities. Speakers Angela Glover Blackwell (PolicyLink), LaDonna Redmond (Institute for Community Resources), Daniel Ross (Nuestras Raices), and Dr. Gina Villani (the National Urban League) eloquently urged a large audience, including many House staff members, to support a Farm Bill that includes $10 million in annual funding for Community Food Projects, $7 million for the Healthy Food Urban Enterprise Development program, a no-cost healthy food priority in the Rural Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program, and a Food Access Study. 



Duly Noted


Energy Bill Doesnt Pass in Senate
On Thursday, the House passed the Energy Bill, H.R. 6, which includes a requirement that utilities generate 15% of their electricity from renewable sources, and would raise fuel efficiency to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. The bill came to the Senate on Friday, where it was brought to a cloture vote to close debate and pass the bill. The cloture vote did not get enough Republican support to reach the 60 votes it needed to pass. Its likely that the Senate will try to modify the energy bill to attain more Republican support and pass the bill. Some speculate that the renewable electricity provision would likely be cut in a bipartisan Senate compromise.
Farm Policy, Dec 8th


Alerts From Our Allies


Payment Limit Reform
Soon your Senators will cast a vote on whether to end million-dollar payments to the nation's largest farms. Click here to tell your Senators you want strict payment limits.
From the Center for Rural Affairs


Food Stamp Increases
Contact Senators and urge them to finish work on the 2007 Farm Bill (S. 2302) and pass a Farm Bill with the strongest possible nutrition title. Specifically, urge support for additional investments in the Food Stamp Program, including in the minimum monthly benefit, in Food Stamp Program access, in asset and standard deduction improvements, and in TEFAP.  A toll-free line to the U.S. Capitol (1-800-826-9624) has been made available by AARP while the Senate Farm Bill is pending. For more information, click here.
From the Food Research and Action Center


Sustainable Energy

The Biomass Energy Crop Transition Assistance provision in the Senate Farm Bill Energy Title was designed to provide incentives to farmers to grow bioenergy crops for cellulosic ethanol and other renewable bioenergy in a sustainable manner.  Restore the Programs ability to help groups of farmers come together to begin to grow biomass crops for energy, restore conservation measures removed from the Senate bill, and target the Program to land where the establishment of perennial bioenergy crops will result in improved conservation performance. Click here for more information to support the Harkin-Wyden amendment.

From the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition


Livestock Competition
Large meatpackers want to prevent family farmers and ranchers from having access to a fair and competitive marketplace for their livestock. Click here to learn more and ask your Senators to support a strong livestock title.
From the Center for Rural Affairs


Rural Development
A Farm Bill that includes support for non-farm Rural Development will work for all of rural America. Click here to learn more and write to your Senators about rural micro-enterprise.
From the Center for Rural Affairs





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