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Will Congress Shortchange Obama’s “Champions of Change?”
This week (July 29), the White House released its list of “Champions of Change” in agriculture, 17 people who “are doing extraordinary things to build the bench for the next generation of farming and ranching.”
And it’s true, several of them are definitely changing the way we eat and farm.
As the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition observed, two of the “champions” have made the transition to organic farming or otherwise made stewardship of the environment a priority.
Happily, there are thousands more who today are producing healthy food in ways that protect land, air and water. From Oregon to Virginia and back west to California, the farmers we’ve gotten to know produce a diverse array of food in ways that are consistent with the needs of the planet.
Exactly why does this new generation of “champions” farm this way?
According to them, it’s family.
They avoid spraying pesticides because they want their children to be able to play and learn on the farm. They treat the land with care and respect because someday, they hope, their children will take the reins of a healthy, productive farm.
To reach their goals they use innovative tools and resources offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that help protect clean water and prevent pollution. When USDA invests in programs that reward good land stewardship, farmers and consumers win.
Unfortunately, many of these farmers face an uphill battle, because Congress continues to “shortchange” these champions by cutting USDA’s conservation programs. In the farm bill President Obama signed into law in February, Congress cut nearly $4 billion from programs that reward good stewardship.
More recently, the House of Representatives proposed millions of dollars in cuts from popular conservation programs – changes that could prevent nearly 20,000 farmers and more than one million acres of land from getting crucial funding. The appropriations bill containing these cuts is, for the time being, stalled in the House.
It’s time for Congress to support our agriculture champions of change, not undermine them.