A national coalition of farm, conservation and rural groups is giving Congress a grade of “D-plus” and the Bush Administration a “C-minus” for efforts to implement vital parts of the 2002 Farm Bill.
Ferd Hoefner is policy director for the Washington D.C.-based Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Hoefner says the grades are based on ten key components of the bill, issues ranging from renewable energy to encouraging new farmers.
Hoefner says “Much of the funding that was promised in the 2002 Farm Bill for these innovative programs has since been either greatly reduced or removed. That resulted in low scores, especially for Congress. The administration got low scores in some cases because of program decisions of tilting the programs in a different direction that what Congress intended.” He says there’s an urgent need for genuine solutions and the 28-agency coalition is recommending several changes for the upcoming Farm Bill.
Hoefner says “We would like to see a real commitment to the Conservation Security Program which provides incentives to farmers to farm with good stewardship practices. Also, for the Value Added Producer Grant program which helps increase or improve farm income by investing money into value-added projects.” He says another area that demands attention is providing incentives to young growers to help them get a solid foundation in farming.
Hoefner says “We have a comprehensive approach to farm bill programs that would help beginning farmers and ranchers. It’s particularly relevant in Iowa and Nebraska. Actually, existing farm credit programs for beginning farmers are very well utilized in those states and I think what we’re calling for would just improve that situation immensely.” Plans to build multi-million dollar ethanol plants are being announced practically every week in the Midwest, most of which are using corn or soybeans to produce the renewable fuel.
Hoefner says switchgrass and other alternative crops need to be pursued just as eagerly. Hoefner says “We actually call for a renewable energy innovation grant program that would look particularly at cellulosic ethanol and provide some money for some pilot projects around the Midwest and the rest of the country for that matter.” He says consumers clearly are demanding more organic products, prompting imports from other countries.
Hoefner says the U-S-D-A has given little time to organics — and that too needs to change. He says the 28-member coalition is calling for Congress “to embrace reform and construct new policies and programs that promote economic opportunity, environmental stewardship, and rural prosperity.” The full report is called “No Time for Delay: A Sustainable Agriculture Agenda for the 2007 Farm Bill” and is posted online at: “http://www.msawg.org”.
Related web sites:
Sustainable Ag Agenda