Although Congress has been in recess this week, there has been considerable activity surrounding the 2013 Farm Bill on Capitol Hill as staff and farm lobbyists prepare for the agriculture committees to begin mark up of a new five-year bill as early as next week. No official dates have been announced, but the Senate Agriculture committee is widely expected to go first, followed by the House Agriculture committee by mid-May. Secretary Tom Vilsack has said the U.S. Department of Agriculture is ready to get to work and help in any way to get a new five-year bill passed.
You can help, too, by sending a message to your members of Congress that you support farmland conservation in the farm bill!
American Farmland Trust joined a coalition of agriculture, conservation, environmental, sportsmen and wildlife groups in a set of conservation principles ahead of farm bill negotiations. Key aspects of the principles include protecting funding, re-establishing conservation compliance with crop insurance premium subsidies, improving conservation performance, results and efficiency, and enhancing equity and outreach. Budget pressure remains among the many unresolved factors as the Congressional Budget Office is expected to deliver an updated farm bill score to the agriculture committees. This highlights the need to protect conservation funding as the committees examine how to achieve between $23 and $38 billion in budgetary savings.
This week USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report on honey bee health which indicates multiple factors play a role in honey bee colony declines, including parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure. An estimated one-third of all food and beverages are made possible by pollination, mainly by honey bees. In the United States, pollination contributes to crop production worth $20 to30 billion in agricultural production annually.