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Policy Plate BLOG

Your daily serving of food and farm policy.

The Latest from Policy Plate

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Now that Senate floor action on the 2012 farm bill is looking likely in early June, food policy reformers are weighing in. Grist’s Food Editor, Twlight Greenway, quotes Steph Larsen at Nebraska’s Center for Rural Affairs on the need for urgency on the part of good food advocates: "Say it’s 6 p.m. on election night, or the top of the eighth inning. Of all the moments to walk away, is that the one to pick??"

Monday, May 21, 2012


David Rogers reports in Politico on moves by Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) to smooth over the animosities between regional commodity groups dueling over the committee’s farm bill. Some excerpts: Having just taken over the Agriculture Committee in this Congress, Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan, is hemmed in herself by entrenched Midwest Corn Belt interests who see the farm bill’s new subsidy structure as payback after years of Southern dominance.

Key Issues: 
Friday, May 18, 2012


E&E’s Amanda Peterka reports (subscription required) on the sad state of reform efforts in the farm bill hearings held this week by the House Agriculture Committee: The new farm bill is unlikely to return to a policy from the late 1980s and early 1990s that required farmers to abide by certain conservation requirements in order to receive crop insurance subsidies from the government.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Progressive Farmer editor Chris Clayton reports on the ongoing House Agriculture Committee hearings on the farm bill. After Wednesday’s session on farm subsidy programs, he notes that, “Farm Bill Austerity Not Quite Taking Hold.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Witnesses at a House agriculture subcommittee hearing today had various ideas for replacing the discredited “direct payment” farm subsidy system. They ranged from raising crop price guarantees to beefing up revenue and crop insurance programs, and all could cost billions more than current farm programs. Lawmakers shouldn’t swallow these proposals as “reform.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Tri-State Neighbor, which covers agriculture in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota, reports that the Izaak Walton League of America convened a conservation forum for South Dakota ag officials, producers and conservationists.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Baylen Linnekin, writing in the libertarian-leaning Reason Magazine, makes “The Case Against Taxpayer-Funded Crop Insurance.”

Key Issues: 
Friday, May 11, 2012

The Los Angeles Times describes the Senate Agriculture Committee’s proposal to subsidize deductibles on crop insurance under the farm bill as “a deal most businesses would relish.”

Thursday, May 10, 2012

EWG president Ken Cook issued a ringing call to the good food movement to take a stand on the farm bill in a post this morning titled, “I Call the Vote: A Farm Bill Litmus Test for the Food Movement.”

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

National Wildlife Federation’s Lara Bryant, coordinator of the organization’s agriculture program, had a pointed op-ed in yesterday’s Memphis Commercial Appeal on why federal crop insurance should require good conservation practices by farmers.

Key Issues: 
Tuesday, May 8, 2012

While the farm country press continues to scoff at the Senate farm bill’s illusionary “reform” measures, fiscal conservatives are noticing the bill’s burden on taxpayers. Phil Kerpen, president of American Commitment, writes on the foxnews.com site, “It’s time for Republicans to stand up for the free market, including agriculture.”

Key Issues: 
Monday, May 7, 2012

Media in the heart of farm country continue to heap scorn on the Senate Agriculture Committee’s proposed farm bill. The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s editorial board had this to say today in piece titled, “Congress Should Rein in Crop Insurance:” The bill slashes at least $23 billion from some farm subsidies and other programs, meaning lawmakers are living up to their pledge to stop making direct payments to farmers for crops they don't grow.

Friday, May 4, 2012


From the heart of Corn Country, the Des Moines Register editorial board weighed in today on the badly flawed Senate farm bill.  An excerpt: "The Senate bill would also eliminate the link between crop subsidies and compliance with conservation programs that protect against soil erosion and field runoff that fouls rivers and lakes and contributes to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico."

Thursday, May 3, 2012


The Bloomberg News editorial board published a humdinger of an editorial today criticizing the Senate Agriculture committee’s farm bill. An excerpt: "In place of fixed payments the committee added a new subsidy in the form of expanded crop insurance. Why this was needed is hard to fathom, because existing crop-insurance programs will cost taxpayers as much as $90 billion in the coming decade, according to the Congressional Research Service."

Key Issues: 
Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Two newspapers in farm country editorialized on the Senate Agriculture Committee’s farm bill today. First, an excerpt from The Wisconsin State Journal’s “Better farm bill not good enough:” "But more scrutiny is needed of expanded insurance subsidies. Many growers already get heavily subsidized crop insurance. Now they could be protected against modest declines in yield or prices."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Kari Hamerschlag, senior food and agriculture analyst at the Environmental Working Group  breaks down just how bad the Senate Agriculture Committee version of the farm bill is for the good food movement.  Hamerschlag writes: "The farm bill draft released by the Senate Agriculture Committee last week (April 20) falls far short of providing farm and food policies Americans want."

Monday, April 30, 2012

Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook and senior food and agriculture analyst Kari Hamerschlag penned an op-ed in Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle: "If you believe the government ought to play an aggressive role in the nation's economic life, admit it: You're a liberal. But you're probably not as liberal as the average Republican member of the House Agriculture Committee."

Friday, April 27, 2012


Senate Agriculture Committee leaders are calling the 2012 farm bill proposal 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 doesn’t deserve to be called any kind of “reform.”

Key Issues: 
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."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Environmental Working Group released maps that highlight how expanding crop production is driving the loss of prairie grasslands and wetlands, particularly in the “prairie pothole” region of North and South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa.  The maps were compiled using data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.