Posted on | May 17, 2013 | No Comments
For many of us, going to the grocery store is another box to check off on our weekly to-do list, but for an increasingly larger portion of consumers, the typical grocery store is unable to provide the desired quality of products they desire. For me, I began to look into available alternatives to my weekly grocery store trip after I was consistently disappointed by the quality of the produce offered. As a consumer, joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program offers assurance that the food I purchase has been produced with responsible production methods, if I do my homework and research the farms in my area that offer a CSA. Of course, not everyone seeking to invest in local agriculture and wanting to consume more local produce should go the CSA route. While offering an opportunity to get to know a local farmer and regularly receive a box of high-quality produce, CSAs involve the purchase of a “share” of a farm’s operation and may come with more risk and partnership than some consumers, or farms, want to deal with.
In owning a share of a particular farm, the consumer and farmer are sharing in both the bounty (in the form of a weekly box of produce and various other products) and the risks that come with farming. This kind of business model is popular among consumers who want to know where their food comes from, but also feel like they are supporting their local farmer. This commitment and personal touch comes from an up-front investment in a farm and often allows CSA purchasers to visit the farm to become more educated on how their food is grown. Some consumers are not ready for such a commitment, particularly during a year where the harvest may not be as desirable, and so might want to consider shopping at a farmers market instead.
CSAs are not just vegetables. Some have options for shareholders to receive eggs, meat, cheese, baked goods, or even cut flowers. Some farmers will combine their CSAs in order to offer a wider variety of products to consumers. For those farmers who choose to operate a CSA, they should keep in mind the benefits, but also the challenges that come with such a model. Because a CSA is often about getting to know more about agricultural production for the consumer, farmers should be willing interact on a personal level with individual consumers, as well as to do the work that comes with signing contracts with each consumer. Of course, the opportunity to market products early and have set buyers who pre-pay is an advantage in regards to cash flow that should not be overlooked.
The CSA model can be tailored to the concerns of unique locations, such as how long the CSA will last, how much and what kinds of products will be delivered, and what happens to unclaimed boxes if a consumer goes out of town or does not show. There can also be arrangements made for supplemental purchases, such as extra produce or items from different producers, like eggs, dairy, fruits, or meat. Knowing how much produce will be in a CSA delivery is vital for consumers to continue their investment –the most common reason for not renewing is feeling guilty about not using all of the vegetables, according to the USDA. If you are a consumer considering a CSA, make sure you have the time to cook, the desire to try potentially new foods, and have a plan if you find yourself with excess food on your hands (a neighbor to share with, perhaps).
The demand for high-quality, local, and ultra-fresh food is increasing so much that many areas have waiting lists for CSAs. Exposing adults and kids alike to new foods, especially that they can feel some sort of ownership of and even see produced during a farm visit, can be a fun, educational opportunity as well as a great way to invest in the local community financially and personally.
- For more information, check out these resources
- SNAP benefits and CSAs
- USDA selected books and reports on CSAs http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/csa/csafarmer.shtml
- USDA-compiled list of organizations and website for CSAs http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/csa/csaorgs.shtml
- Brief flier on different types of CSAs and how to start one http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/CDP-TN20.PDF
- SNAP benefits and CSAs
Posted on | May 16, 2013 | No Comments
This week saw a flurry of farm bill activity, with both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees marking up their drafts of the 2013 Farm Bill.
On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry met to consider its bill, which included a number of NFU priorities. S. 954, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, was similar to the version passed by the committee last year save for one major change, a commodity title that includes protection from long-term price collapse. This change, which NFU has long supported, was likely included at the request of the new ranking member of the committee, Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. Unfortunately, the reference prices included in the bill were set so low that they would not provide any meaningful assistance; however, their inclusion alone is a positive step and provides a starting point for further negotiation with the House. Additionally, the manager’s amendment to the bill released just before the markup included an amendment proposed by Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley, Iowa, John Thune, S.D., Pat Roberts, Kan., and Mike Johanns, Neb., to set the reference prices for all covered commodities except rice and peanuts at 55 percent of the simple average price, as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture. NFU strongly opposed this amendment, as it both treats some commodities differently than others and erodes the price protection’s effectiveness, and will be working to remove it as the bill moves through the legislative process.
The bill also included $800 million of mandatory funding for renewable energy programs, boosted to $900 million by an amendment offered by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., as well as an NFU-supported provision to require farmers to comply with a conservation plan in order to receive crop insurance premium subsidies. Conservation compliance is currently required in order to receive payments under all other commodity programs, and is a common-sense way to ensure farmers are providing basic environmental protections in exchange for all forms of risk management assistance.
During the markup, several amendments were considered and withdrawn, perhaps to be worked out behind-the-scenes with committee leadership or to be brought up during floor consideration, such as an NFU-supported Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., amendment to remove the “cash in advance” requirement for trade with Cuba, a Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., amendment to restore the mark’s $4 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), an NFU-opposed Sen. Johanns amendment to eliminate Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements, an NFU-supported Sen. Roberts amendment to eliminate duplicative pesticide registration requirements for farmers, and an NFU-supported Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., amendment to raise the payment limitation under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program’s (EQIP) Organic Initiative from $20,000 to $300,000 like all other EQIP grants. The committee also adopted an amendment offered by Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., allowing organic producers and handlers to petition the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to form an organic checkoff program.
On Wednesday, the House Committee on Agriculture followed suit and marked up its version of the legislation, H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, in a session that extended into the late hours of the day. Like the Senate version, the House bill includes a commodity title with two forms of risk protection, one program based on revenue and one based on price. However, the House version includes higher reference prices that are fixed, which are preferable to the Senate’s lower, averaged prices. The bill does not include two of NFU’s priorities, conservation compliance or mandatory funding for the energy title.
The markup brought a mix of positive and damaging amendments. The committee rejected, 20-26, an NFU-opposed amendment offered by Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and David Scott, D-Ga., to eliminate the supply management provision from the new margin protection dairy program included in the mark. This provision would have been disastrous for the dairy industry, as it would have allowed unchecked overproduction and resulted in price collapse. Unfortunately, the committee adopted an NFU-opposed amendment by Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., not only preventing the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration from doing any further work on farmer-friendly provisions stemming from the 2008 Farm Bill, but also from enforcing any Packers and Stockyards Act provisions. A Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., amendment to allow USDA to consider establishing an organic checkoff program, passed on a 29-17 vote.
A number of NFU-supported amendments were also offered and withdrawn for further work, including a Rep. Costa amendment restoring the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, a Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., amendment to restore mandatory funding to the National Organic Program, a Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., amendment to allow Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) funds to be used for the installation of flex pumps, and a Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., amendment to provide $800 million of mandatory funding for the energy title, as in the Senate bill. An NFU-opposed amendment by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., to prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption, was also withdrawn, as was an NFU-opposed amendment by Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., to repeal COOL.
Next, the Senate moves its bill to the floor, with possible consideration as soon as Monday. House leadership has indicated they intend to bring the bill to the floor in June. The current one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill expires on Sept. 30, 2013.
For more information on the farm bill, visit the following links or www.NFU.org/farmbill:
- Side-by-side comparison of current law, the Senate bill and the House bill
- Comparison of reference prices in the current law, the Senate bill and the House bill
- NFU’s summary of the Senate bill (does not reflect changes made during the committee markup)
- NFU’s summary of the House bill (does not reflect changes made during the committee markup)
- Senate Agriculture Committee’s farm bill page
- House Agriculture Committee’s farm bill page
Posted on | May 10, 2013 | No Comments
One day after the release of the Senate Agriculture Committee initial draft of the farm bill, the House Agriculture Committee issued its draft, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2013. Although only about half as long, the bill contains significant reforms from the 2008 Farm Bill and several differences from the legislation that passed the House Agriculture Committee last summer.
In the commodity title, the two farm safety net programs first proposed in 2012 remain – Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Revenue Loss Coverage (RLC). PLC protects against long-term price collapses by instituting target prices that will provide meaningful support in tough times. The price levels in PLC are more balanced and generally higher than the Senate bill’s Adverse Market Payments (AMP) program. RLC offers assistance when county revenue levels drop below 85 percent down to 75 percent, similar to the Senate’s Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program. Farmers must make a one-time decision whether to participate in PLC or RLC. Livestock disaster programs are part of the bill. No payment limits are applied to any of these Title I programs.
Crop insurance programs fare very well in the draft, and remain the largest portion of farm safety net spending. The Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX) for cotton growers is included, as are two years’ worth of additional payments for cotton growers transitioning away from direct payments. Reduced crop insurance premium subsidies for beginning farmers and ranchers are included.
The concepts of the Dairy Security Act are part of the bill, with both the margin and stabilization programs intact. There are slight differences between the House and Senate drafts, most notably small differences in the premiums for supplemental margin coverage. The House draft includes provisions to help small farmers by having lower premiums for coverage on a farmer’s first 4 million pounds of milk.
The conservation title remains essentially unchanged and is very similar to the Senate’s version. The bill continues major programs such as Conservation Reserve Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, and Environmental Quality Incentives Program. It also consolidates and streamlines 23 programs into 13. The bill does not, however, include conservation compliance requirements for crop insurance premium subsidies.
The legislation cuts more than $20 billion from the nutrition title, in comparison with the Senate’s $4 billion in cuts, by making a number of eligibility changes.
The Energy Title received zero mandatory funding but reauthorized the most important programs: Rural Energy for America Program, Biomass Crop Assistance Program, Biorefinery Assistance Program, and Biobased Products Program. The bill prohibits funds from going to blender pumps and to feasibility projects for wind systems.
The draft language also includes a study on the economic impact of new Country-of-Origin labeling, which is simply a stalling tactic to potentially end the labeling requirements. No provisions were introduced related to the Packers and Stockyards Act.
The House Agriculture Committee will convene to consider the bill in a markup on Wednesday, May 15 at 10:00 a.m. EDT. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has promised floor time for the bill, but no firm dates have been set.
Posted on | May 10, 2013 | No Comments
The initial draft of the Senate Agriculture Committee Farm Bill, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, was released yesterday morning. Preliminary review of the 1,000-page document shows that the bill is very similar to the legislation that passed the full Senate last year. The farm bill goes from 2014-2018.
In the commodity title, the Agriculture Risk Coverage program is included, which provides protection on a revenue band of 78 to 88 percent of the average. Individuals can make a one-time election to enroll in ARC based on the county or farm average, with 65% payment rates for the farm option and 80% for the county option. In a new program known as Adverse Market Payments (AMP), target prices are established for all commodities and are set at the low levels established by the 2008 Farm Bill – with the exception of rice and peanuts, which are considerably higher. AMP provides relatively weak long-term price protection.
Crop insurance programs remain strong and the largest part of the farm safety net. The Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX) for cotton is included, as is the Supplemental Coverage Option. The draft also guards against cuts to crop insurance during future renegotiations of the Standard Reinsurance Agreement.
Payment limits are part of the bill, including a $50,000 cap for ARC and AMP, limiting benefits only to those actively engaged in farming, and excluding anyone with an adjusted gross income greater than $750,000 from receiving Title I benefits. A provision was included to reduce crop insurance premium subsidy payments by fifteen percent for farmers with an AGI in excess of $750,000.
Dairy provisions are essentially unchanged from the Senate’s 2012 Farm Bill, featuring new stabilization and margin programs that replace the existing Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program and Dairy Product Price Support Program (DPPSP). Provisions to help small farmers by providing lower-priced premium subsidies in the margin program for the first 4 million pounds of milk are included. No mention was made of adding California to the Federal Milk Marketing Order. Livestock disaster programs are also part of the draft bill.
Conservation programs are relatively untouched as compared to the Senate’s 2012 Farm Bill. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage cap will be gradually reduced from 30 million acres to 25 million acres and enrollment in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) will be set at $18 per acre, with a target acreage of 10.34 million acres annually. Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) was extended through 2018 and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) merged into EQIP. Conservation compliance measures will be linked to eligibility for crop insurance premium subsidies and Title I commodity programs.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) remains pretty much unchanged from last year’s bill in both program and funding. Programs that were orphaned in the farm bill extension of January 1, 2013, are authorized.
Energy programs receive $800 million in mandatory funding. Other renewed programs include the renamed Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Program, specialty crop block grants, and value-added producer grants.
Finally, no provisions were included related to country-of-origin labeling, the Packers and Stockyards Act, or egg production standards.
The Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to markup the legislation at 10:00 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, May 14.
Posted on | May 10, 2013 | No Comments
by Daryll E. Ray and Harwood D. Schaffer, Agricultural Policy Analysis Center, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tenn.
Read the original post at agpolicy.org.
During the last week we ran across a number of articles that present different approaches by those in the livestock industry to the animal welfare issue: concealment, obfuscation, engagement.
One of the articles concerned an arrest under the ag gag laws that we discussed in our last column. Some of the ag gag laws make it a crime to record images of an agricultural operation without the consent of the owner. The effect of such laws is to conceal any activities that the public might find objectionable.
According to an April 29, 2013 Salt Lake Tribune article by Jim Dalrymple II, “Amy Meyer was horrified by what she saw at a Draper slaughterhouse, but she didn’t plan on becoming the first person charged with violating the state’s ‘ag gag’ law. Amy Meyer, 25, faces a class B misdemeanor for agricultural operation interference.
“Prosecutors filed the charge in Draper’s justice court Feb. 19 after Meyer reportedly used her cell phone to film the Dale T. Smith and Sons Meat Packing Co. 11 days earlier.” Meyer stated that she made the video from a public right-of-way. After the story received widespread attention, the charges against Meyer were dropped, though they could be re-filed at a later date.
In another take on public concern about animal welfare, Linden Olsen, in a commentary on porkNetwork, wrote, “By carefully choosing the words we use when speaking about our farms and our food products, we can slowly change the perception of our industry and our wholesome pork products to our customers. Best of all, it doesn’t cost a cent” (http://www.porknetwork.com/pork-news/latest/Commentary-by-Linden-Olson-Words-204219211.html.
Olson’s list of words that need changing: “1) confinement barns: environmentally controlled housing; 2) gestation stalls/crates: individual maternity pens; 3) slaughter: harvest; 4) castration: neutering; 5) manure: fertilizer or plant nutrient resource; and 6) hog farmer: pork production specialist.” He doesn’t mention changing any practices that some find offensive.
The American Meat Institute (AMI) championed a different approach; engage the consumer in gaining an understanding of the processes used in meat production. In a report on a speech given by Janet Riley, AMI’s VP for public affairs and professional development at the Animal Agriculture Stakeholders Summit, Drovers CattleNetwork Managing Editor John Maday writes, “Animal-rights activists often say if slaughter houses had glass walls, we’d all be vegetarians. AMI decided to test that theory by launching their ‘Glass Walls Project’ in 2012.
“Noting that public trust in large corporations has plummeted in recent years and that consumers increasingly demand more information about food production, Riley says AMI approached Colorado State University professor and animal-handling expert Temple Grandin, PhD, to record videos of the entire livestock-slaughter process” (http://www.cattlenetwork.com/editorial/john-maday/Glass-walls-at-the-packing-plant-205697131.html).
The result was an “unscripted video tour of a beef-processing plant, narrated by Dr. Grandin. They left it to Grandin to select a representative plant at which to film. AMI tested the initial video with consumer focus groups, not knowing what to expect in terms of reactions. Most of the test viewers were surprised by the safety measures for workers, efficiency of operation and the humane treatment of animals. There were a few points of confusion, which the producers addressed by expanding the explanations in the video, which they released in August 2012” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMqYYXswono).
Given the reception of the Grandin video, AMI plans to release a video of a pork slaughter facility. As Maday writes, “The demand for transparency will continue to intensify, Riley says, adding that packers must show the public how their business works.” At the same time AMI will undoubtedly identify production changes that will resonate well with evolving attitudes towards animal welfare.
In a subsequent article on the Animal Agriculture Stakeholders Summit, Maday reported on a presentation by David Westcott. In his speech, Westcott talked about dialog with consumers and suggested three steps: 1) know who your stakeholders are; 2) ask them what they want; and 3) give it to them.
Daryll E. Ray holds the Blasingame Chair of Excellence in Agricultural Policy, Institute of Agriculture, University of Tennessee, and is the Director of UT’s Agricultural Policy Analysis Center (APAC). Harwood D. Schaffer is a Research Assistant Professor at APAC. (865) 974-7407; Fax: (865) 974-7298; email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.agpolicy.org.