Farm Policy Roundup – June 7, 2013

Rancher with lassoFinal Senate Farm Bill Vote on Monday

The 2013 Farm Bill cleared yet another major hurdle on Thursday with the U.S. Senate voting 75-22 to invoke cloture, a procedure that limits debate and firmly establishes a timeline for a final vote.

Immediately after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that on Monday, June 10 one amendment #998 by Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to establish a gigabit internet pilot program in rural areas, would be considered before a vote on final passage. American Farmland Trust and over 120 other agriculture, conservation and nutrition groups led a push to urge the Senate to approve the cloture vote.

AFT_Soil_3_web.image_400pxConservation Compliance Amendment in House

Final passage of the farm bill in the Senate will shift attention to the House of Representatives, where floor consideration is expected to begin the week of June 17. In preparation for the House floor debate, Representatives Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., this week introduced H.R. 2260, The Crop Insurance Accountability Act of 2013. Virtually identical to a measure included in the Senate farm bill, H.R. 2260 would re-link conservation compliance requirements with crop insurance premium assistance. American Farmland Trust praised the bill, calling it both good for farmers and good for the environment.

We need your help. Visit the American Farmland Trust Action Center today and urge your representative to support the Thompson/Fortenberry bill!

Over the 25-year history of conservation compliance, 295 million tons of soil have been saved per year—billions of tons of soil that has been held in place and kept from entering our rivers, lakes and streams. (For those in Washington, D.C., that’s enough to cover the entire area of the National Mall with 1,100 feet of soil every year!) Further, an estimated 1.5 million to 3.3 million acres of vulnerable wetlands have not been drained as a result of conservation compliance. Support of the Thompson/Fortenberry bill will ensure these important farmland conservation benefits continue into the future.

Free Farm Bill Webinar June 17

Ahead of House floor consideration of the farm bill, American Farmland Trust will be hosting a free webinar on June 17 from 1-2 PM titled, What To Expect When You Are Expecting A Farm Bill, to provide an update on where things stand, major provisions of both the House and Senate versions of the bill, and our priorities going forward. In case you haven’t been following farm bill activity over the last few weeks, the Congressional Research Service has been busy preparing a report reviewing the House and Senate versions of the farm bill and comparing them to current law.

House Agriculture Appropriations Update

On the spending side, the House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee this week marked up legislation to provide fiscal year 2014 (FY14) funding for USDA programs. Under the subcommittee draft, the NRCS Conservation Operations account would receive $810 million in FY14, an increase of over $40 million what the agency received for fiscal year 2013. However the subcommittee also cut over $500 million from mandatory farm bill conservation programs. Specific farm bill conservation program funding levels and related cuts in the draft include $150 million (-$50 million) for the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP), $1.35 billion (-$400 million) for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), $45 million (-$40 million) for the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) and $2.5 million (-$12.5 million) for the Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) program. American Farmland Trust and a coalition of conservation groups earlier this week urged the subcommittee to reject cuts to conservation programs.

Major USDA Climate Announcement

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack gave a speech this week outlining significant steps the administration is taking to increase collaboration with farmers, ranchers, researchers and industry to develop the next generation of solutions to help agriculture mitigate and adapt to climate challenges. American Farmland Trust attended the Secretary’s speech at the National Press Club where he highlighted several new measures that USDA will take to help farmers create new climate solutions including:

  • The formation of new Regional Climate Hubs to serve as a source of regional data and information for hazard and adaptation planning in the agriculture and forest sectors;
  • A new NRCS “Carbon Management and Evaluation Tool,” also known as COMET-FARM, which is a free online tool that will help farmers calculate how conservation actions and land management decisions impact energy use and carbon emissions and carbon sequestration;
  • An online release of data collected under the Rapid Carbon Assessment, which began in 2010 to develop statistically reliable quantitative estimates of amounts and distribution of carbon stocks for U.S. soils;
  • Uniform, science-based Cover Crop Guidelines developed by stakeholders, partner universities, and the crop insurance industry to figure out how to make cover crop guidelines straightforward and sensible using a new model based on local climate data, tillage management and soil information to account for daily crop growth and use of soil moisture.

The full transcript of Secretary Vilsack’s speech is available online.

 

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  • Random Quote

    Simply put, conservation and farmland protection are at a crossroads. Land and healthy soil are the strategic resources critical to our nation’s ability to feed itself and to secure our nation’s future. Conservation programs are vital to maintaining those resources. — Jon Scholl, President, American Farmland Trust