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Articles by Aimee Witteman

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In a stuffy room on Capitol Hill last week, I joined a couple dozen activists and farmers to discuss the farm bill. Why would we bother to meet in hot-as-an-oven Washington D.C. to discuss the legislative mess that recently sputtered to an all too drawn-out end?

While the ink is barely dry on the new farm legislation, the campaign for the 2012 Farm and Food Bill has already begun. The group of grassroots advocates met in D.C. last week to wipe the sweat from their brows, roll up their sleeves, and begin to strategize a coordinated effort to ensure $14 billion of funding won in the new farm bill translates into real support for sustainable farmers, environmental stewardship, rural economic development, urban food projects, and other good food efforts.

The $14 billion worth of programs can grow and nourish sustainable food and agriculture efforts around the country and in doing so, build the power of the 2012 Farm and Food Bill movement along the way. One of the keys is getting the word out about these new programs so that farmers and organizations can benefit from them.

Critics have likened the farm bill wins to “crumbs” because they represen... Read more

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  • The legislation isn’t perfect, but it’s far better than extending the 2002 bill

    With the new farm bill languishing in the last stages of negotiations, many are bemoaning its lack of sweeping reform, suggesting that we have gained very little from months and years of work.

    But if the new bill is not to be the visionary document that many hoped and advocated for, what, if anything, do we stand to lose if the new bill is vetoed or negotiations reach an impasse and the 2002 farm bill is extended for two years?

    There are several small but important gains that we are poised to win if the new farm bill gets passed, making it an improvement over the underlying bill from 2002. These improvements include provisions that support local and regional food systems, organic production and research, beginning farmers, nutrition, and the environment, and they are the reason why Congress should pass a new farm bill.

    These bright spots in an otherwise murky and massive bill are not likely to induce a major change to our broken-down food system, but they are seeds we must plant for greater reform and broader transformation in the years to come.

  • Direct and value-added marketing in the farm bill

    This is the last installment of a five-part series of farm bill fact sheets from the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. For additional information about the status of sustainable agriculture priorities in the House and Senate versions of the farm bill, please check out SAC's farm bill progress chart.

    Farm Bill "conference" negotiations are underway at the staff level. Please call your Senators and Representative today and tell them what you want to see in the final Farm Bill!

    Increasing consumer demand for healthy, sustainably-produced food and agricultural products from local and regional markets has great potential to improve farm income. However, tremendous challenges stand in the way of producers satisfying these consumer preferences, in part because federal policies and programs have been slow to respond.

    A number of grassroots farmer and consumer organizations have been working to ensure that the final farm bill includes increased funding for direct market and value-added enterprise opportunities, and the removal of the prohibition on interstate sale of meat products processed in state-inspected plants. Greater federal support for these programs in the 2008 Farm Bill will help a larger number of consumers access good food and allow more producers to stay on the land.

  • The Conservation Security Program

    This is the fourth in a series of five farm bill fact sheets from the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. For more information about the status of other sustainable agriculture programs in the Senate and House versions of the bill, please see this 2008 Farm Bill legislative tracking chart (PDF). The 2008 Farm Bill conference committee negotiations are just getting underway at the staff level -- please contact members of the Agriculture Committee and weigh in!

    In addition to food and fiber, farmers and ranchers are in a unique position to help provide healthy soils, clean air and water, habitat for native wildlife, carbon sinks to help mitigate global warming, energy savings and renewable energy sources, and other conservation benefits. The Conservation Security Program rewards environmental performance rather than the overproduction of commodity crops or expansion of industrial livestock waste storage, and in doing so, provides an alternative form of farm and conservation program support for family farmers and rural communities that re-enforces the public interest in a more resilient, healthy environment.

    The added ecological stress caused by the recent ethanol boom and associated expansion of corn acreage makes it more important than ever that the 2008 Farm Bill provide for a strong Conservation Security Program (CSP).

  • Organic production and research

    This is the third in a series of five farm bill fact sheets from the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. For more information on the status of all sustainable agriculture provisions in the Senate and House versions of the farm bill, please visit SAC's farm bill legislative tracking center.

    Despite the fact that organic agriculture is one of the fastest growing sectors of American agriculture, the U.S. is currently experiencing a domestic shortfall of organically produced food as consumer demand continues to outpace supply. Considering the enormous potential organic practices have to increase farm revenue in our rural communities, preserve and enhance the environment, and provide nutritious food to our citizens, federal policies aimed at assisting farmers' and ranchers' transition to organic production must be a priority in the 2008 Farm Bill.