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Senate Farm Bill Mark-Up

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Statement of Craig Cox, Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources of the Environmental Working Group, on the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012:

“A farm bill that cuts programs for the hungry and the environment to help finance a new entitlement program and unlimited insurance subsidies for the largest and most profitable farm operations should not be called a ‘reform’ bill.

“A real reform bill would have ended direct payments, rejected new farm entitlements and made important reforms to crop insurance subsidies that are slated to cost $90 billion over the next 10 years. Modest reforms to these heavily subsidized insurance programs, such as payment limits, could provide significant savings and eliminate the need to cut conservation and anti-hunger programs, as well as allowing for additional investments to support healthy diets and access to local food.

“Fortunately, the Senate Agriculture Committee took an important step to limit insurance subsidies for farmers who plow up grasslands in order to grow crops. The combination of high prices and unlimited insurance subsidies has placed unprecedented pressure on our land, water and wildlife. We hope the full Senate will take additional steps to ensure that farmers who receive these insurance subsidies commit to protect soil health and wetlands.

“We also applaud provisions of the bill that support healthy diets, expand links between local farmers and consumers and help new farmers.

"In particular, we thank Senator Debbie Stabenow for her efforts to expand incentives that encourage low income consumers to purchase more fruits and vegetables and increase access to local foods at farmers’ markets. But for the leadership of Chairwoman Stabenow, the bill produced today by the Senate Agriculture Committee could have been far worse.

“We look forward to working with Senator Stabenow and other senators to strengthen conservation and nutrition provisions of the bill and to place reasonable limits on insurance subsidies for farm businesses.”

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-       Chuck Hassebrook, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs, says in an interview with the Public News Service that the Senate farm bill “continues to favor mega-farms by paying most of the crop insurance premiums even in record profit years.”

-       The corn ethanol lobby continues to wrongly frame its fuel as environmentally friendly. The truth is that fencerow-to-fencerow cultivation of chemical-intensive corn to make ethanol has led to degraded water and soil and destruction of wildlife habitat. And processing corn into fuel has its own environmental hazards. This week the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that 13 of the state’s 21 corn ethanol plants have been caught polluting the air or waterways, and sometimes both, and fined a total of $5.1 million.

-       And the Associated Press reports that in Iowa, a “Muscatine plant that manufactures corn-based products emits so much pollution that it has damaged homes, cars and property across the city, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.”

-       Mother Jones’ Tom Philpott looks at the impact that climate change will have on America’s corn crop.

-       The Organic Trade Association says in a news release that, “Driven by consumer choice, the U.S. organic industry grew by 9.5 percent overall in 2011 to reach $31.5 billion in sales.”

Tweet of the day:

? @PaulAtPAN Is that it? Crop duster fined only $32k for (brain toxin) pesticide drift on 29 kids http://bit.ly/I2utTI

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