Proposed improvements to the Farm Bill
October 15, 2007
In deliberating the 2007 Farm Bill, please support the following measures. They are important to our 38,000 members and all the many farmers and ranchers we work with.
Add a Competition Title
Many of our farmers’ most pressing problems — lack of credit, the cost of credit, attracting young farmers, overproduction, soil and water conservation, and the high cost of our farm program — could be solved when farmers get a fair price for their products.
Concentration and consolidation in the food industry have created an environment that enables discrimination and price manipulation. To restore fair and transparent markets and encourage competition, please support the following measures.
Create a Special Counsel for Agricultural Competition within USDA to streamline and improve enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921, as proposed by Sen. Harkin’s Livestock Title.
Amendments that ban packer ownership of livestock (S. 305), ensure fairness standards and bargaining rights for farmers (S. 622), and reform captive supply agreements (S. 1017) are needed to restore competition and reduce unfair practices.
Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL)
The COOL provision must specify that meat must be born, raised and slaughtered in the United States to qualify for a U.S. COOL label.
Foreign, imported meat that’s merely “processed” here in the United States — which means as little as a salt water rinse or being ground into hamburger — must not be allowed to bear a U.S. country of origin label.
Support the commodity program proposed by Senators R. Durbin and S. Brown Instead of the current program that ties payments to the price of crops, this program bases payments on a farmer’s loss of revenue.
Limit subsidies to $250,000 per farm household. Prohibit subsidies for farm households with incomes exceeding $500,000.
Sustainable, organic agriculture
Ensure mandatory $3.1 million funding to complete USDA implementation of the Organic Food Production Act (OFPA). Current funding allows for only 9 USDA staff to manage the entire program. Funding is needed to ensure enforcement of USDA rules and to provide the international oversight mandated by law.
Organic Certification Cost Share — $25 million over five years to mitigate the annual cost of organic certification. Reauthorize and update the current program to help defray increased costs and funding needs for the fastest growing sector of the food industry.
Organic Research — Provide $15 million in mandatory funding, reflecting the market share of organic food. About 3 percent of the total U.S. retail food market is organic, but the current share of USDA dollars for organic research is only 0.6 percent.
Organic Conversion Program — Appropriate $50 million a year with half going to technical assistance for organic farmers. Full funding will help farmers offset the increased cost of converting to organic practices for certification.
Conservation Security Program — Restore full funding. Since Congress authorized this program in 2002 to reward farmers for conservation practices, appropriations have been severely curtailed. Ensure changes to make it easier for organic producers to participate.
Rural Cooperative Development Grant program
Increase funding for these competitive grants, provided by Section 301 B (e), provide direct marketing programs for producers in remote and economically depressed areas, allowing family businesses to survive where otherwise they could not.
Farm worker social justice
Require air monitoring in fields and processing facilities where pesticides are applied to measure exposure levels and ensure they do not exceed public health standards.
Set standards and limits on use of labor contractors, which hire out temporary workers and do not provide benefits. States license labor contractors, but officials agree the contract system makes it hard to enforce labor laws, such as minimum wage, mandatory overtime and breaks.
Community Food Projects need $30 million in mandatory money. Also provide ample funding for the Farm-to-School program, and the Food Stamp and WIC programs, so essential to food security.
Make permanent the current estate tax exemption, $4 million per couple.
This exemption would protect virtually all farm estates from tax, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Eliminating the estate tax altogether would be a tax cut for the excessively wealthy.
Thank you for considering our views as you debate this very important bill.
Chief Executive Officer