As most people following the story know by now, the 2007 Farm Bill is looking pretty grim with respect to fundamental reform. The U.S. government seems hell-bent on pushing a policy that on balance rewards farmers for gross output at all costs — environmental considerations be damned.
However, as the Senate debates the ag committee’s version of the bill, a chance remains to make meaningful reform at the margins. My friends in the sustainable-ag lobbying world tell me that the last, best hope lies with the Dorgan-Grassley Amendment, which would cap subsidy payments to farmers at $250,000. The move would likely shave $1.15 billion off the commodity title’s outlay over the Farm Bill’s lifespan (2007-2012) — money that can be spent on critical programs.
The vote on Dorgan-Grassley will take place as early as Tuesday. As we speak, your senator is probably enduring a rather shrill and desperate appeal from Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R.-cotton interests), about why a quarter-mil just isn’t enough for some of his most important campaign donors down in Georgia. Balance his tired schtick by calling the Capitol Switchboard (202.224.3121), which can hook you up with your senator, to put in a word for sustainable ag.
And while you’ve got them on the phone, make sure to express strong support for the Livestock Title, which by some miracle is in the version that passed out of the ag committee. The title contains some important measures limiting the power of the industrial-meat industry, whose shark-like lobbyists are currently circling your senator, ready to move in for the kill.
Here are what some of the sources I trust say about Dorgan-Grassley:
Sometime Gristmill blogger Steph Larsen of the Community Food Security Coalition hopes that a tiny fraction of Dorgan-Grassley savings might be invested in Community Food Projects, which rebuild sustainable-food infrastructure in low-income areas. Think sustainable food is elitist? Support CFPs. Here’s Steph:
A late development that brings good news for Community Food Projects (CFP) is that the Dorgan-Grassley Payment Limitations Amendment saves $1.15 billion over 5 years, and CFSC has learned that $50 million over 5 years could be used to fund Community Food Projects from 2012-2017. This is critical to the future of the program, because it means that CFP will have money at the beginning of the 2012 Farm Bill, which is a huge hurdle to making it a permanent program.
This vote could come as early as Tuesday, so please call your Senators today 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.
Over at the Sustainable Ag Coalition, where Gristmiller Aimee Witteman toils, they have this to add:
Despite the groundswell of interest and dedication to farm bill reform this year, the vote on Dorgan-Grassley is expected to be very close vote. It will be introduced early in the floor debate, so please call now. If you have sent out action alerts to your networks, we encourage you to follow up on some of those alerts with calls. Monday and possibly Tuesday will likely be the last chance to get calls in!
[T]he $1.15 billion in 10-year savings from Dorgan-Grassley will increase funding for the Food Stamp Program, Emergency Food Assistance Program, Grassland Reserve Program, Farmland Protection Program, Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Accounts, Rural Microenterprise Assistance Program, Community Food Grants, Farmers Market Promotion Program, and the Pigford class action settlement involving black farmers.
Call today; you have nothing to lose but $1.15 billion to a bunch of large-scale, chemical-intensive cotton farmers.