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Jun 202013
 

From Green Right Now Reports

farmers-market

The House Farm Bill would have cut $20 billion in food assistance to the poor, and also cut environmental programs.

The House version of the Farm Bill failed today (read about it at The Hill), the apparent victim of its own overreach.

The bill included deep cuts for food stamps for the needy, which Republicans said were needed to reduce the deficit and which most Democrats argued were unfair and unnecessary.

Advocates for the poor cheered the defeat, saying it will save school children from going hungry.

“Today the House of Representatives failed to approve its farm bill legislation by a vote of 195 to 234, marking a significant victory for the millions of American who live at risk of hunger,” said Bob Aiken, president and CEO of Feeding America.

“Members of Congress heard from their constituents loud and clear that the proposed cuts of $21 billion to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program were unacceptable.

“The cuts would have caused 2 million individuals to lose food assistance entirely and 850,000 households to see their food benefits cut by an average $90 per month. Additionally, the bill would have cut free school meals for 210,000 low-income children.

Congress should now create a new farm bill that “protects and strengthens nutrition assistance,” Aiken said.

Some environmentalists also were relieved that the House Farm Bill was defeated, because it gave conservation short shrift.

“The House farm bill failed commonsense conservation standards, and it failed to get enough votes to pass,” said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.

“Reasonable measures to protect taxpayers and natural resources must be included a farm bill. The National Wildlife Federation will continue to fight for a farm bill that includes a link between conservation compliance and crop insurance, and a National Sodsaver program.”

Others noted that the farm bill would have continued to subsidize big producers over small farmers, an inequity that would have human and land costs.

In a blog about the bill, Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group, explained how the bill would have continued to confer large subsidies to big corporate growers, but not smaller operators, who are more likely to be farming the family-owned property in  land-conserving ways:

“Because subsidies remain unlimited, the largest 1 percent of crop insurance subsidy recipients will continue to collect, on average, about $220,000 apiece in premium support, while the bottom 80  percent will get about $5,000.”

And while plumping subsidies to big producers, the bill would have needlessly cut programs to help the hungry and the environment – by $20 billion and $5 billion, respectively, he wrote.

Even Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack noted that the House bill seemed unfair.

“Unfortunately, the House version of this bill would have unfairly denied food assistance for millions of struggling families and their children, while failing to achieve needed reforms or critical investments to continue economic growth in rural America. As a result, the House was unable to achieve bipartisan consensus.”

 

 

Because subsidies remain unlimited, the largest 1 percent of crop insurance subsidy recipients will continue to collect, on average, about $220,000 apiece in premium support, while the bottom 80 percent will get about $5,000. Rather than rein in subsidies to meet deficit reduction targets, the committee’s bill actually increases many farm subsidies and needlessly cuts programs designed to help the hungry and the environment – by $20 billion and $5 billion, respectively.Read More at: http://www.greenrightnow.com/keye/2013/06/18/house-farm-bill-would-fatten-subsidies-for-big-producers-and-harm-the-environment/

 

Because subsidies remain unlimited, the largest 1 percent of crop insurance subsidy recipients will continue to collect, on average, about $220,000 apiece in premium support, while the bottom 80 percent will get about $5,000. Rather than rein in subsidies to meet deficit reduction targets, the committee’s bill actually increases many farm subsidies and needlessly cuts programs designed to help the hungry and the environment – by $20 billion and $5 billion, respectively.Read More at: http://www.greenrightnow.com/keye/2013/06/18/house-farm-bill-would-fatten-subsidies-for-big-producers-and-harm-the-environment/

 


Jun 042013
 

Farm Bill. The mere mention of this lumbering piece of legislation can stop a conversation cold. We brace instinctively for the onslaught of remote concepts and acronyms that will follow.  Crop subsidies, Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SPAP), Adverse Market Payments (AMP), DPMPP, EQIP, CSP, CIG and SNAP. Who can fathom these things as they crawl across the regulatory landscape?

Farm PromoAnd yet you’d better wake up and smell the milk! There’s plenty that we consumers, urban, suburban and rural, need to know about in this $1 trillion legislation.

First, there’s the big picture. The Farm Bill under consideration in the Senate this week will try to nail down how much money farmers will get in crop subsidies, and is expected to whittle back significantly on how much those making ridiculous sums of money (like $750,000 or more a year AGI)  can get in government aid.  It will also put out the cash for food stamp programs, which helps poor people, but also assures a bigger market for domestic producers. That money too is expected to be cut as lawmakers try to trim overall spending and repair the deficit.

Aside from all that, there’s a tractor load of special amendments riding in on this already weighty bill — 234 at last count — that will affect pretty much everyone who eats. Some are pro-consumer, others push the agenda of Big Ag; some you may never hear about if lawmakers give them the heave-ho.

Here are a couple topics in the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 that you may care about, and may even want to voice your support:

  • LABELING: Amendment 1025 put forth by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)  would not require labeling of genetically modified foods or GMOs, but would issue a statement of support on behalf of labeling, which is the norm in dozens of countries in the developed world. A companion amendment, No. 1026, could have even bigger impact in the U.S., where the vast majority of domestic corn, soybeans and sugar beets are genetically modified. It would require that the USDA study the prospect of a federal labeling bill and how it might work better than having several separate state laws, which appears likely now that Vermont and Connecticut have passed labeling laws and several other states are considering them.  In case you’re new to the movement, GMO foods are typically engineered to resist certain herbicides (usually RoundUp), which critics say makes them more likely to have toxic residues. Public health groups have worried that GMOs could hurt human health, even though the FDA swears that genetically modified foods are substantially the same as conventional crops. These issues prompted a U.S. movement for GMO labeling laws.
  • MONSANTO SLAP DOWN: Amendment 978 would repeal the law known as the  “Monsanto Protection Act,” which protects the seed giant from legal challenges. The MPA slid through as part of a big budget bill earlier this year. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) filed the repeal proposal, following weeks of public outcry over the special treatment for Monsanto, the world’s biggest seed and pesticide company.
  • ORGANICS: Amendment 1093 would provide more help to organic farmers, by streamlining a government aid program known as EQIP. Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) (D-VT), Mo Cowan (D-MA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are the sponsors. 
  • FOOD DESERTS: This measure, contained within the main bill, establishes a “Healthy Food Financing Initiative” for loans to help improve access to healthy, fresh foods in food deserts, generally urban areas served by fast food but cut off from supermarkets. The goal is to improve the health of families and preserve jobs.
  • FRUIT AND VEGETABLE PRODUCERS: The bill proposes expanded crop coverage for “underserved” crops and regions, which means more money, potentially, for produce farmers who operate in smaller sectors of this industry.

 

 

 

 

 

Here, courtesy of the Organic Consumer’s Association, is a sampling of the measures, or riders, contained in this law of which you may want to take note.:

 

 

GMOS
• … label genetically engineered food.” (Support Boxer Amendments 1025 and 1026)
• … repeal the Monsanto Protection Act.” (Support Merkley Amendment 978)
• … ban genetically engineered salmon.” (Support Begich Amendment 934)

???S 
• … save the honeybees.” (Support Boxer Amendment 1027)

ORGANIC
• … give organic farmers equal access to funds for environmental improvement.” (Support Leahy Amendment 1093)

CLIMATE CHANGE 
• … add climate change mitigation to conservation programs.” (Support Whitehouse Amendment 1058)

FACTORY FARMS 
• … address factory farms’ drug abuse problem, responsible for antibiotic-resistant superbugs that infect hundreds of thousands and kill tens of thousands of Americans each year.” (Support Gillibrand Amendment 940)
• … reign in the factory farm and meatpacking cartels that subject contract farmers to abusive practices that reduce food quality, animal welfare and worker safety.” (Support Grassley Amendment 969, Rockefeller Amendment 993, Tester Amendment 971, and Enzi Amendments 981 and 982)

 INDUSTRIAL HEMP
 • … legalize industrial hemp.” (Support Wyden Amendment 952)

FOOD SECURITY
• … increase funding for eat-local and farm-to-consumer programs.” (Support Brown Amendment 1088)
 
• … stop attempts to take food assistance from hungry families.” (Oppose Sessions Amendments 946 and 947, Roberts Amendments 949 and 950, Thune Amendment 991, Coburn Amendments 100, 1002, 1005, and 1009, and Vitter Amendment 1056)

CORPORATE WELFARE
 • … place long-overdue limits of $50,000 on crop insurance premium subsidies for America’s wealthiest large-scale farmers.” (Support Shaheen Amendment 926)

WATER CONSERVATION 
• … make sure farmers who get federal money for irrigation aren’t wasting water.” (Support Udall Amendment 1049)


Dec 132010
 

(This blog by Miles Grant, online communications manager for National Wildlife Federation, was first posted Dec. 10 on the NWF website.)

Miles Grant, National Wildlife Federation

Is regular coal not dirty enough for you? Meet liquid coal fuel! Destructive to mine, water-intensive to manufacture, devastating to our climate at every step of the way – liquid coal is one of the world’s dirtiest fuels. Liquid coal production emits twice as much global warming pollution as gasoline & requires at least four gallons of water per gallon of fuel produced.

Today the National Wildlife Federation has learned the Senate version of tax legislation includes subsidies for liquid coal fuels. Section 704 of the Senate tax bill as written right now would extend the Alternative Fuel Tax Credit to liquid coal, giving a 50-cent tax credit for each gallon of liquid coal sold or used in a fuel mixture. While many senators have fought to include important clean energy provisions in the the tax package, the National Wildlife Federation strongly opposes expanding alternative fuel tax credits to cover dirty liquid coal.

Why? For starters, the provision could cost taxpayers $400 million per plant, every year. That’s on top of the subsidy coal already receives by not having to pay for its pollution – today in America, polluters can dump as much carbon pollution as they want into our atmosphere free of charge.

The carbon-intensive process of turning coal into liquid fuel is only part of the equation. The liquid coal is then burned by the vehicle, where it emits even more carbon pollution than traditional gasoline, along with plenty of other pollutants to the air in our communities. And of course there are all the ecological risks linked to coal mining – habitat loss, ground water contamination & mountaintop removal.

Mountaintop removal coal mining in West Virginia (via Flickr’s iLoveMountains.org)

Why does the coal industry need these huge subsidies? The coal business is in the black these days (no pun intended). Peabody Energy, the largest private-sector coal company in the world, just reported its profits doubled the last quarter to $224 million in just those three months.

But while coal-fired electrical power is incredibly profitable, producing dirty liquid coal fuels is phenomenally expensive. Liquid coal facilities cost as much as $6 billion for a single plant.

The bottom line is, liquid coal can’t stand on its own two legs. It needs massive subsidies from Congress AND it needs to be able to treat our atmosphere like an open sewer. If both of those things aren’t true, liquid coal simply can’t compete with cleaner energy sources.