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Articles by Aimee Witteman

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  • A livestock title for fair and competitive markets

    This is the second in a series of five farm bill fact sheets from the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Want more details on all of the sustainable agriculture provisions in the next Farm Bill? Go here (PDF) for a matrix that shows the status of provisions in the House and Senate versions.

    A shrinking number of companies dominate the nation's food supply, exerting market power over the entire supply chain from farm gate to dinner plate. In the livestock sector, the increasingly concentrated market has left farmers and ranchers in a position to negotiate with corporations that have far greater bargaining power and control over price information. The 2008 Farm Bill is the country's last best chance to restore competition and fairness to livestock markets for the next five years.

    Contact your senators and representative today, and tell them to urge the Senate and House Agriculture Committee leadership to include a comprehensive Livestock Title in the final farm bill.

  • Supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers

    This is the first of five farm bill fact sheets from the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. For the diehard policy wonks out there, you can also download the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition's matrix (PDF) showing the status of sustainable agriculture priorities in the House and Senate versions of the farm bill.

    Soaring demand for organic and local foods means exciting market opportunities for beginning farmers and ranchers, but the current public policies required to support their entry are woefully inadequate. The future health and vitality of agriculture, the food system, and rural communities depends on policies in the 2008 Farm Bill that encourage this next generation of producers to get a start on the land.

    Now is the time to call your senators and representatives and tell them to urge the Senate and House Farm Bill conferees to include important provisions for beginning farmers and ranchers in the final farm bill.

  • Good farm policies support good farm practices

    Interest in the Farm Bill is usually confined to policy wonks and agribusiness lobbyists, but this year it has generated more buzz than a cowpie in a June paddock.

    Despite the stir, most of the public attention has been narrowly focused on only one aspect of the $280 billion policy package: the farm payments paid to corn, soybean, wheat, rice, and cotton producers. Though concerns over the current commodity programs are well-founded, their emphasis has given a negative cast to the Farm Bill debate: we should be against farm subsidies.

    But there are also things worth fighting for in the Farm Bill -- conservation programs that promote environmental enhancement, sustain family farms, and support rural communities are some of them.

  • Why we shouldn’t forget the Farm Bill

    Once again, a prime example of our misguided farm policies hits like a ton of factory-farm manure sludge -- or in this case, a massive sack of federally insured, genetically modified corn.

    Follow the money

    Last Wednesday, Monsanto announced that the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) approved a pilot program that will give farmers a 20 percent discount on insurance premiums if they plant a majority of their corn acres with seeds featuring Monsanto's trademarked YieldGard Plus with Roundup Ready Corn 2 or YieldGard VT Triple stack technology. This is the first time the FCIC Board has approved a crop insurance discount for specific crop traits, but not likely the last.

    For the moment, let's set aside the potentially sordid nature of this public/private arrangement. What is particularly ironic and imbalanced is that organic producers pay an extra 5 percent surcharge when they sign up for crop insurance because of the perceived additional risks associated with organic production.

    That's right. Organic producers are actually penalized for using production practices that have been shown to lessen risks.

    Simply put, this is bad policy that should be reformed when the Senate takes up the farm bill this month.