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Policy Plate BLOG

Your daily serving of food and farm policy.

The Latest from Policy Plate

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


In a rare bit of good news for Americans concerned about the quality of their water, a district court judge in Polk County, Iowa, has denied an industrial agriculture lobby’s efforts to raise legal objections to the state’s clean water provisions. The Iowa Environmental Council has the scoop: Legal challenges to new clean water protections in Iowa raised by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and other groups are “without merit” and should not move on to trial, a judge in the Iowa District Court for Polk County ruled Friday.

Monday, April 9, 2012

In these tough budget times, taxpayers are subsidizing profitable farm businesses while 12.7 million people remain unemployed. And the press is taking note.  The Argus Leader, citing the Mitchell Technical Institute, reports the average net farm profit in South Dakota is $120,000.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A variety of links to recent articles. Including: Food Fight author Dan Imhoff has come up with four ways the federal farm bill has contradicted itself over the years. The glaring conflicts, he says, include: subsidizing what the federal government doesn’t want people to eat, paying farmers to pollute, encouraging farmers to overplant and plow land, and farming corn for fuel.

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ron Hays of the Radio Oklahoma Network reports on candid comments by Mark Lange, President and CEO of the National Cotton Council of America, on the hurdles in the way of crafting a new farm bill. An excerpt: “The commodity groups themselves have made it a little difficult on Congress because the commodity groups aren’t giving the Congress a unified voice."

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

In a new study reported in the April issue of the journal Nature Geoscience, scientists from the University of California-Berkley have found that fertilizer use is responsible for a huge increase in potent green house gases. From UC Berkley’s News Center: University of California, Berkeley, chemists have found a smoking gun proving that increased fertilizer use over the past 50 years is responsible for a dramatic rise in atmospheric nitrous oxide, which is a major greenhouse gas contributing to global climate change.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Scott Faber, Environmental Working Group vice-president for government affairs, penned an op-ed in today’s Washington Times that asserts that with record profits, farmers shouldn’t be reaping larger subsidies. Some excerpts: More and more farm payments are being delivered as premium subsidies for farm insurance policies. As more farm businesses purchased government-subsidized insurance, the cost to taxpayers has exploded: from $2.4 billion in 2001 to nearly $9 billion in 2011.

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Monday, April 2, 2012

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch weighed in on the 2012 farm bill debate in an editorial headlined, New farm bill has growers lining up at the trough.

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Former Agriculture Secretaries Dan Glickman and Ann Veneman have sent a letter to House and Senate leaders urging them to renew the 25-year conservation compact between taxpayers and farmers, DTN’s Chris Clayton reported (subscription required).

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Senate Agriculture Committee leaders are planning to draft their version of a 2012 farm bill by the end of April, a legislative aide told The Hagstrom Report. We hope they produce a proposal that produces a fair, equitable and fiscally responsible safety net for working farms and ranches, protects clean water and the environment, and increases affordability of and access to healthy food.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A coalition of environmental groups including the Gulf Restoration Network, Prairie Rivers Network and the Iowa Environmental Council are suing the federal Environmental Protection Agency to force it to set state water quality standards and tighten pollution limits on wastewater treatment plants.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

More than 1 million Americans are now on record demanding mandatory labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods so that consumers will know what they’re buying. The Just Label It campaign has submitted the signatures on a petition calling on the Food and Drug Administration to require labeling. Today (Tuesday) is the deadline for the FDA to respond.

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Monday, March 26, 2012


The Argus Leader of Sioux Falls, S.D  reported this morning that Sens. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa.) are making legislative efforts to curb government subsidies distributed inequitably to highly profitable mega farms. An excerpt: Sen. Tim Johnson’s bill to limit federal farm subsidy payments might be the prelude to a far more ambitious effort to impose similar caps on the popular federal crop and revenue insurance programs.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The most troubling news this week was a report from Stephanie Paige Obgurn of High Country News, which took a comprehensive look at the alarming conversion of native prairie grassland to intensive row cropping (subscription required).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Senators Tim Johnson (D-SoDak.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) continue their quest to steer farm program money into the hands of struggling ranchers and farmers who actually need government support. Yesterday they introduced new legislation to place hard caps on farm subsidy payments and close loopholes.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Yesterday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, proposed to cut $30 billion from federal farm subsidy programs, targeting the discredited direct payment program that sends checks out every year regardless of need.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The chairman of the House Budget Committee Chairman, Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), is proposing to cut $5 billion a year from the farm subsidies commonly referred to as “direct payments” and an additional $30 billion over 10 years from the heavily subsidized federal crop insurance programs.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Marin Independent Journal has published an in-depth interview with Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook about the upcoming farm  bill.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

The Environment Working Group today released startling new research showing that companies owned by foreign insurance companies are paid billions in tax dollars through the U.S. crop insurance program. Most of the testimony from farm groups in yesterday’s Senate farm bill hearing centered on the heavily subsidized crop insurance program.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

The highlight of the Senate Agriculture committee’s hearing on farm subsidies and crop insurance was when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked  Michael Scuse, the Acting Undersecretary For Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture whether he considered people who participate in only two farming-related conference calls per year to be actively-engaged farmers.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Yesterday the Congressional Budget Office released its estimates of farm bill program spending over the next ten years. The Hagstrom Report, a by-subscription news service, caught up with Jim Miller, a top aide to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who said the rising cost of crop insurance – $11 billion over ten years  –was due to “both to the value of crops and timing shifts stemming from decisions made in the 2008 farm bill.”

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