Senator warns of farm-size conflict in farm bill negotiations
At the same time that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called for more attention to small and midsize farmers, who see limited revenue from agriculture, a key Southern senator cautioned on Thursday against “a small farm versus big farm conflict” in writing the new farm bill. Large-scale operators collect the lion’s share of U.S. farm subsidies at present because payments are tied to production volume.
USDA spending falls as White House envisions transformational farm bill
Agriculture Department spending would fall 14 percent in the new fiscal year, due almost entirely to reduced SNAP benefits with the end of the pandemic, said the White House on Thursday. It proposed relatively modest initiatives at the USDA for fiscal 2024, such as offering free school meals to more poor children, while seeing golden potential in the new farm bill for broad-scale change.
NFU: Address climate change, create permanent disaster program in farm bill
Congress should give farm-state lawmakers additional funding for writing the new farm bill, said the National Farmers Union, the second-largest U.S. farm group, following its annual meeting. The NFU said the 2023 farm bill should address climate change through such steps as crop insurance discounts for farmers who plant cover crops or employ other practices that increase resiliency or decrease risk.
Protect climate funds in farm bill, say advocates
Some 644 environmental, farm, religious, wildlife and recreation groups urged the leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture committees on Monday to protect the $20 billion earmarked last summer for climate-smart agriculture from farm-bill raids. "This is the largest investment in agriculture conservation and rural communities in decades and farmers, ranchers and foresters across the country are depending on these resources," said the groups in a letter.
Farm bill should broaden climate mitigation, land stewardship, says FACA
When Congress writes the new farm bill, it should include incentives for farmers to adopt cover crops and purchase so-called precision agriculture equipment that more efficiently uses fertilizers and pesticides, said the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance on Wednesday.
Report offers options, from modest to controversial, to boost climate resilience in ag
The USDA has taken steps to encourage climate resilience in the farm sector, “but the department could do more,” said the Government Accountability Office on Thursday. In a report, it listed 13 options. Some were relatively modest, such as prioritizing climate resilience as part of conservation planning. Others were sure to be controversial, such as requiring farmers to adopt climate-resilient practices if they want premium subsidies on crop insurance.
Strengthen the farm safety net and rely less on bailouts, say farm-state senators
The government has spent nearly $70 billion on disaster, trade war, and pandemic relief since the 2018 farm bill was enacted, a huge amount that shows the need for a strong farm safety net that’s written into law rather than on the fly, said farm-state senators on Thursday. They called for a stronger and expanded crop insurance program as the first line of support for farmers and ranchers against uncertain weather, volatile commodity markets, and rising production expenses.
McCarthy foes include two aggies
Reps. Mary Miller of Illinois and Andy Harris of Maryland were part of the Republican bloc voting repeatedly against elevating Kevin McCarthy to House Speaker. Harris was the senior Republican on the House Appropriations subcommittee in charge of USDA and FDA spending, and Miller served on the House Agriculture Committee in the past session of Congress.
Critic of Biden climate program will head House Agriculture Committee
With a farm bill fight brewing over President Biden’s climate agenda, House Republican leaders named Pennsylvania Rep. Glenn Thompson chair of the House Agriculture Committee on Thursday. Thompson, who wants to expand farm supports, has accused the administration of acting as “a lone wolf” in setting up its $3.5 billion proposal to develop climate-smart commodities.
Spending on climate-smart projects hard to track, says UCS
Meat, dairy, and livestock are likely to get a larger share of the funding than other commodities in the USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program, though it’s hard to track spending on the pilot projects, said a Union of Concerned Scientists blog on Thursday.
With cover crops, the hype far outpaces the science
Cover crops have gained elite status as a way for farmers to fight climate change. But a closer look at the growing body of research raises questions about their ability to lower agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Lawmakers grumble about being left in the dark on USDA climate-smart projects
The Biden administration bypassed lawmakers when it tripled the size of its climate-smart commodities initiative and may face congressional investigations and stricter limits on USDA spending as a consequence, said two farm policy consultants on Wednesday. “I think there will be an attempt to interject the Congress into the CCC process because of what’s happened,” said Colin Peterson, former chair of the House Agriculture Committee.
Report: USDA conservation programs need to focus more on climate change mitigation
Farmers received billions of dollars from two of the largest federal agricultural conservation programs between 2017 and 2020, but only a small proportion of the money funded practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, according to a new report from the Environmental Working Group.
How a broken village became a model for ending India’s farmer suicide crisis
In the 1980s, "Hiware Bazar, a village tucked deep inside the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Back then, the hamlet was a crime-ridden backwater, desperately poor and largely abandoned by government agencies," writes Puja Changoiwala in FERN's latest story, published with Grist.
Flood of applications for climate-smart funding
More than 350 groups proposed climate-smart pilot projects to help farmers develop a market for sustainably produced commodities, said the Agriculture Department on Tuesday. The large-scale projects, with budgets of up to $100 million, would draw on $1 billion in targeted USDA funding.
Premature to talk about next steps on climate change — Vilsack
The USDA will seek maximum impact from the $1 billion that it will put into climate-smart pilot projects, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday, but he demurred at discussing next steps for agriculture in mitigating global warming. "We'll see where the applications take us," he told the North American Agricultural Journalists meeting.
Reward ‘early innovators’ of climate-smart farming, report says
The government and private sector will have roles in maintaining the progress made by the pioneers of climate-smart agriculture, said a group of experts working through the AGree farm-policy initiative on Tuesday. They recommended lower crop insurance premiums for farmers who use practices that reduce agricultural risk, bank lending policies that recognize the benefits of conservation practices, expansion of USDA stewardship programs, and inclusion of "early innovators" in the supply chain sustainability programs of food and beverage companies.
Cover crops get premium treatment again
For the second year in a row, farmers who plant cover crops are eligible for a premium benefit of $5 an acre on most crop insurance policies, said the USDA’s Risk Management Agency on Thursday.