Posted on | February 11, 2014 | 1 Comment
A fable of six blind men and an elephant originated centuries ago somewhere on the Indian continent. In it the blind men try to identify an elephant by touching only one part. According to the fable each man came to a different conclusion as to what the elephant was. The parable illustrates that though opinions may vary, there’s some truth to be found in all of them.
That’s the way it is for conservation, too.
Farmers conserve resources for different reasons. Some of us do it to save money or because we feel yields are better. Others do it to protect water, soil, plant nutrients, or prevent more carbon from entering the atmosphere.
And some of us conserve simply because it seems like the right thing to do.
I no-tilled corn into soybean stubble for the first time in 1986. Two years prior I had purchased a new planter with double disk openers. Early that spring on a whim, I lowered the planter into some unworked corn stalks. Later when I pulled in to till the field for soybeans I saw eight perfect rows of seedling corn.
I knew if the corn I planted into corn stalks would grow, corn following soybeans would work for sure.
Then, based on my corn experience, I was sure I could get a good stand of no-till soybeans. In a couple of more years I decided to try no-till soybeans following corn because it would save both time and money. To make it even better there were new contact herbicides that worked well against problem weeds and grasses.
Not every field I planted was perfect, but sometimes my conventionally planted fields ran into trouble too. With no-till I noticed less soil drying before seeds could germinate and less crusting after heavy rains.
Back then, like a blind man with an elephant, I could only detect parts of the whole.
Today, with more mouths to feed, more of the world under intensive cultivation, and more fossil fuels consumed than ever before, we can see the elephant in the room.
That’s because the sum of the parts equals survival on a fragile planet.
Its easier now than ever before to be a no-tiller. New machinery, like my current planter with on-the-go infinitely adjustable air down pressure and almost-clog-proof row cleaners makes good plant stands a cinch. Just one pass over the field compared to as many as three or four with conventional tillage means less compaction leading to still more tillage and even more compaction. And I’m returning less carbon to the atmosphere, not only because I’m sequestering it in years of accumulated crop residue, but because I’m burning one fifth the diesel fuel to raise the crop.
But there are more parts to the conservation elephant. There’s strip till, strip cropping, filter strips, cover crops, tree planting and wind breaks, to name a few.
The more parts you see, the better it looks.
Posted on | February 7, 2014 | No Comments
Today, after years of congressional delay, President Obama signed into law a comprehensive, bipartisan, five-year farm bill that provides an adequate safety net in times of need, aids the hungry, protects the environment, creates jobs, keeps Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) intact and helps bolster rural economies.
The signing of the Agriculture Act of 2014 is a huge victory for rural America. Family farmers and ranchers have always been willing to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work that is needed to feed, fuel and clothe our nation and our world. It is only fitting that this legislation inspired one of the most unproductive Congresses in history to do the hard work necessary to come together and pass bipartisan omnibus legislation. You made your voice heard, and our policymakers listened! Thank you for every one of your phone calls and emails to your members of Congress, and for your travel to town hall meetings and perhaps even to Washington, D.C., to talk about this critical legislation.
Soon the U.S. Department of Agriculture will begin to implement the farm bill’s directives, and Farmers Union will once again be at the table to ensure these programs provide a truly effective safety net for family farmers, ranchers and the less fortunate.
Watch the president sign the 2014 Farm Bill:
Read more about the legislation:
Posted on | February 7, 2014 | No Comments
by Arika Trim, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Communications
Read the original post at www.blogs.usda.gov.
Today, Secretary Vilsack joined the President in Michigan to sign the 2014 Farm Bill, an accomplishment that would not have been possible without your engagement. Last year we began the #MyFarmBill campaign in an effort to share with all Americans the need for a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill to keep up momentum in American agriculture. Today that bill was signed and we are able to move forward to do work that grows the rural economy and creates jobs.
The new Farm Bill will allow the proud men and women who feed millions around the world to invest confidently in the future. While no legislation is perfect, this bill is a strong investment in American agriculture and supports the continued global leadership of our farmers and ranchers. Click here to take a look at how your voices were included in the 2014 Farm Bill.
Posted on | February 7, 2014 | No Comments
Read the original post at agpolicy.org.
As we write this column, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the 2014 Farm Bill. By the time you read this, hopefully the Senate will have agreed and sent the legislation on to the president for his signature.
The path to this piece of legislation began in 2011 on a note of optimism, followed by the failure of the Supercommittee to come to agreement on deficit reduction targets even though the ag committees had submitted a budget that met the targets. The consequence of this failure was the sequestration-dictated, across-the-board cuts to all programs followed by an early January 2013 extension of the 2008 Farm Bill, which had expired at the end of September 2012.
In 2013, the Senate passed a farm bill that was rejected by the House. Instead the House adopted separate nutrition and agricultural bills. On the last Monday of January 2014, nearly 4 months after the farm bill extension expired, the conference committee reported out the bill that was quickly adopted by the House.
What follows is a look at a couple of the components of the 2014 Farm Bill that were very contentious.
One of the big battles was over the nutrition title and the determination of elements in the Republican Party to make significant cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which had grown significantly in the wake of the great recession. The strategy was two-fold: cut SNAP benefits and separate SNAP from the farm bill in order to break up the coalition between what were perceived as urban interests (SNAP) and rural interests (the commodity and conservation programs). It was thought that this division would make it easier to make larger cuts to each program than would be possible if they remained in a single bill.
The bill that was adopted by the Senate in 2013 contained 4 billion in cuts to SNAP. While the FY 2013 “Ryan Budget” called for $134 billion in cuts, the House version of the nutrition program contained $39.5 billion in cuts to SNAP. The conference committee compromised on cuts of $8.7 billion, the number that was agreed to by the House and is now before the Senate.
Under Congressional Budget Office (CBO) cost projections, the nutrition program will cost $756 billion over the next 10 years. This amounts to 79 percent of 2014 Farm Bill projected spending.
In recent weeks, the Dairy Program garnered significant attention when Speaker of the House John Boehner announced his opposition to what he described as a “Soviet-style dairy program.” The issue came up because of differences between the House and Senate versions of the dairy program.
Both programs provided for margin insurance, but the Senate wording provided for a stabilization program—incentives for reduced projection if the supply of milk got too large and the margin between the price of milk and the cost of feed fell, triggering large insurance payments — while the House wording had no stabilization program. It was the stabilization provision that Boehner called a “Soviet-style dairy program.”
The concern in the Senate was that without a stabilization program, the cost of providing margin insurance would spiral upward. The compromise reached in the conference committee was the establishment of a milk product purchase program that would be triggered when the margin fell below a specified level for two months. The CBO projected cost of the dairy program including stabilization was $300 million. As a result of Boehner’s objections, the cost of the dairy program with the purchase program will be $1.3 billion, a billion dollars in extra costs just to avoid a modest supply management program.
Another difference between the House and Senate provisions occurs in the commodity safety net that would be triggered if crop prices were to fall. The Senate version provided for variable support program based on a 5-year rolling average of actual season average prices for covered grains and oilseeds. The House version included fixed price protection levels.
In the end, the conference committee compromised by allowing farmers to make a one-time election for the 5-year duration of the 2014 Farm bill. Farmers will be allowed to choose between Agricultural Risk Coverage (the Senate program with variable support levels) and Price Loss Coverage (the House program with fixed support levels) on a crop-by-crop basis.
If prices remain high for the next 5 years, ARC will provide most grain farmers with a superior level of coverage. On the other hand, if prices fall and remain there for a sustained period of time, PLC will provide farmers with the best coverage. For both programs base acres and yields can be updated.
Reference prices for the PLC program are wheat, $5.50/bushel; corn, $3.70/bushel; grain sorghum, $3.95/bushel; barley, $4.95/bushel; oats, $2.40/bushel; long grain rice, $14.00/hundredweight (cwt).; medium grain rice, $14.00/cwt.; soybeans, $8.40/bushel; other oilseeds, $20.15/cwt.; peanuts $535.00/ton; dry peas, $11.00/cwt.; lentils, $19.97/cwt.; small chickpeas, $19.04/cwt.; and large chickpeas, $21.54/cwt.
It is interested to note that in the previous counter-cyclical program, the target price for corn, barley, and grain sorghum were all the same—$2.63 per bushel. Now the reference price for corn is $3.70 while grain sorghum is $3.95, and barley is $4.95. Not coincidentally grain sorghum is important in House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas’ state of Oklahoma, while barley is important to House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson’s northern tier farmers.
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; firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com; http://www.agpolicy.org.
Posted on | February 3, 2014 | No Comments
Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) is once again under attack by those who do not have the interests of our nation’s consumers in mind. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and multinational corporations are making misleading and altogether false statements against this common-sense law, which has been on the books since 2002.
As the Senate prepares to take up the farm bill on Tuesday, these organizations are digging deep in their pockets and using every resource available to undermine the wishes of consumers to defeat the farm bill because of COOL. This is in spite of the historic investments in the livestock industry that this legislation makes: baseline funding for livestock programs so these programs remain a priority in future farm bills; $4 billion for disaster and assistance, retroactive to help ranchers who suffered losses from an Oct. 2013 storm; the majority of the funding in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP); and numerous disease prevention programs.
We hope that consumers, policymakers, and other family farmers and ranchers open their eyes to see what these players are doing to hide information about their food’s origin. Click here to read more about the meatpacking industry’s opposition to COOL.« go back — keep looking »