Farm Policy Roundup – September 13, 2013

Rancher with lassoVote on Nutrition-Only Bill Expected Next Week

It is widely anticipated that House leadership will bring to the floor a nutrition bill the week of September 16. While legislation or official Congressional Budget Office scoring has not been released, the bill is expected to cut $40 billion from nutrition programs.

This sets up a scenario where conferencing House and Senate nutrition legislation would be challenging. The Senate’s Farm Bill which passed earlier this summer would cut $4 billion from nutrition. Exactly how the House and Senate would compromise on a number isn’t clear given the wide differences between the two bills. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) recently discussed the situation and thinks this and other compromises needed to get a final bill will require “outside the box” thinking and support for “bigger ideas.”

Regardless of the outcome of the House vote on nutrition, House Speaker John Boehner has indicated he will name House conferees for the Farm Bill conference committee soon after the nutrition bill is considered. This means we are on the verge of entering the final critical phase of the Farm Bill. Important decisions will be made during the conference committee to craft a final piece of legislation that can pass the House and Senate, and ultimately that the President will sign into law.

Support for farmland conservation programs and programs to support farmers markets, local foods and beginning farmers is needed more than ever to ensure these are priorities in a conference committee.

Now is as good a time as ever to contact your Members of Congress. Visit the American Farmland Trust Action Center to send your letter today!

USDA Announces Conservation Innovation Grants

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack and Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Jason Weller announced the award of 33 Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to entities across the nation to develop and demonstrate cutting-edge ideas to accelerate private lands conservation. CIG recipients will demonstrate innovative approaches to improve soil health, conserve energy, manage nutrients and enhance wildlife habitat in balance with productive agricultural systems.

CIGs are authorized under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in the Farm Bill. More information about CIG can be found from NRCS.

EPA Hosting Webinar on Nutrient Pollution and Algal Blooms

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will host a webinar on September 25, 2013 titled, “Linking Nutrient Pollution and HABs: State of the Science and EPA Actions.” The webinar is part of a series of webinars EPA is conducting on environmental and public health issues. The webinar is free but registration is required.

Hans Paerl from the University of North Carolina will discuss the state of science regarding the link between nutrient pollution and algal blooms. Ellen Gilinksy and Mario Sengco from EPA’s Office of Water will discuss actions EPA is taking to address nutrient inputs as they relate to blooms, including criteria development and state nutrient reduction strategies.

USDA and Coca-Cola Partner to Restore Drinking Water

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Coca-Cola Americas President Steve Cahillane this week announced an exciting new public-private partnership to restore and protect damaged watersheds on national lands in five states—California, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan and New Mexico. The partnership aims to return more than a billion liters of water to the National Forest System – which provides drinking water to more than 60 million Americans. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and the National Forest Foundation (NFF) are also partners in this effort.

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  • Random Quote

    “Since 1985, compliance has been a successful part of farm policy. As crop and revenue insurance becomes the core of agriculture’s financial safety net, we need to retain the same commitment to conservation that has been a part of past farm programs.” — Jon Scholl, President, American Farmland Trust