AGree: Farm Bill ‘Falls Short’ In Helping Farmers With Long-Term Challenges

AGree, a bold initiative designed to tackle long-term agricultural, food and rural policy issues, issued the following statement regarding the 2014 Farm Bill on behalf of its four co-chairs, Dan Glickman, former USDA secretary, Gary Hirshberg, co-founder and chairman of Stonyfield Farm, Jim Moseley, a farmer and former USDA deputy secretary, and Emmy Simmons, former assistant administrator for economic growth, agriculture and trade, U.S. Agency for International Development:

“The 2014 Farm Bill contains important achievements like the end of direct payments; compliance with conservation requirements for crop insurance eligibility; a pilot project to encourage Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to purchase more fruits and vegetables; and enhanced flexibility for the international food assistance program. However, it falls short in terms of helping farmers prepare for the fundamental long-term food and agriculture challenges posed by resource scarcity, population growth, climate change, invasive pests, pathogens and diseases.

“For example, despite the fact that American agriculture owes much of its past success to a world-class public research, education and extension system, federal and state support for that system has been allowed to stagnate, even as formidable new productivity, natural resource and sustainability challenges continue to emerge. Farmers and ranchers are feeling the pressure of meeting state water quality requirements and private sector sustainability standards, but this Farm Bill did very little to support their efforts to improve agricultural ecosystems or reward active engagement in good stewardship of working lands.

“While the SNAP program became a focal point for fierce debate, the discussion was narrowly confined to budgetary questions. Congress missed a great opportunity to explore broader strategies to incentivize SNAP households and the public at large to make healthier food choices that could reduce the societal impact of obesity and food-related disease.

“And, despite the intense focus on budget priorities, and while it is important to protect producers from some risks inherent to agriculture, we believe the new crop insurance programs within this Farm Bill could present very real budget challenges.

“America needs a new way forward for food and agriculture policy and program formulation. Only a transformative restructuring of the way food and agriculture policy is developed will deliver what is needed.

“Rather than just a “Farm” Bill, we need a “Food, Farming, and Healthy Environment Act,” legislation that encompasses the needs and goals of many communities: farmers, ranchers, foresters and fishermen; consumers, rich and poor, urban and rural; food, fuel, and fiber processors and manufacturers; and agribusinesses all along the value chain. A “Food, Farming, and Healthy Environment Act” would contain innovative and cost-effective solutions to tomorrow’s challenges, based on engagement of these diverse communities in meaningful discussions long before Congress begins writing its next round of legislation.

“Such an act would incorporate: nutrition as well as food; environmental management as well as farming and ranching; local food systems as well as international trade; cutting-edge research as well as the use of high-tech information systems; urban as well as rural interests; and legal certainty for workers coupled with recognition of the importance of a skilled labor force. We understand the political challenges of tackling such sweeping concerns, but we have seen first-hand the power of broad consultations in which a diversity of views and experiences is welcomed. Listening to a variety of perspectives has helped us to integrate issues that often occupy separate silos.

In the coming months, AGree will announce concrete recommendations that will reflect the contributions of our diverse group of advisors and others with whom we are engaged. These recommendations will chart a path forward toward sustained, long-term food and nutrition security for the U.S. as well as help countries around the world improve productivity and stability in the face of population and natural resource challenges.”

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