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Policy Plate BLOG

Your daily serving of food and farm policy.

The Latest from Policy Plate

Friday, April 20, 2012


Craig Cox, Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Environmental Working Group, offered this initial take on the just released Senate Agriculture Committee’s 2012 farm bill. “The 2012 farm bill should do more to support family farmers, protect the environment, promote healthy diets and support working families. Unfortunately, the bill produced today by the Senate Agriculture Committee will do more harm than good. It needlessly sacrifices conservation and feeding assistance programs to finance unlimited insurance subsidies and a new entitlement program for highly profitable farm businesses.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

EWG and other environmental groups sent lawmakers a letter today (April 19) opposing the Domestic Fuels Protection Act of 2012 (H.R. 4345) and its companion, the Domestic Fuels Act of 2012 (S. 2264). The bill would provide a broad exemption from legal liability to fuel producers, engine manufacturers and retailers of virtually all transportation fuels and fuel additives – including gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol, or E15.

Key Issues: 
Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Environmental Working Group released a report (PDF) today (April 18) that shows that an EWG proposal to reform the costly federal crop insurance program through the 2012 farm bill could save taxpayers up to $18.5 billion over 10 years while delivering a reliable safety net to American farmers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A coalition of environmental and conservation groups sent a letter (PDF) yesterday (April 16) urging the leadership and ranking members of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees to include the conservation compact between farmers and taxpayers in new farm subsidy programs.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Environmental Working Group released its 2012 farm bill platform today. We believe that Congress should enact farm and food policy legislation that: provides producers with an effective safety net at a lower cost to taxpayers; creates new markets for farm products; invests in conservation and nutrition programs that benefit all farmers and consumers; promotes greater consumption of fruits and vegetables; and meets the nation’s deficit reduction goals.

Friday, April 13, 2012


Environmental Working Group’s new report Troubled Waters has laid out three ways the 2012 federal farm bill can protect drinking water from farm chemicals run-off.  Congress should:

  • End direct payments, reduce farm insurance subsidies and block any new entitlement programs that encourage all-out production and hurt the environment.
  • Renew the conservation compact that requires farmers receiving taxpayer-funded support to carry out basic conservation practices.
  • Provide adequate funding for conservation programs in order to reward farmers who take steps to protect water.
Thursday, April 12, 2012

The New York Times’ Ron Nixon has a report out on a just released Government Accountability Office study of federally subsidized crop insurance. An excerpt: The crop insurance subsidy, according to the G.A.O. report, ballooned to $7.3 billion last year from $951 million in 2000, or about $1.2 billion adjusted for inflation. A Congressional Budget Office study cited in the report estimates that the premium subsidy will cost $39 billion from 2012 to 2016, about $7.8 billion a year.

Key Issues: 
Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New York Times editorial board member Verlyn Klinkenborg writes about “ The Folly of Big Agriculture” at Yale 360. An excerpt: In its short, shameless history, big agriculture has had only one big idea: uniformity. The obvious example is corn. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts that American farmers — big farmers — will plant 94 million acres of corn this year. That’s the equivalent of planting corn on every inch of Montana.

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.

Key Issues: 
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."

Key Issues: 
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.

Key Issues: 
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.

Key Issues: 
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.

Key Issues: 
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.

Key Issues: 
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.

Key Issues: 
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.

Key Issues: 
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.