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The Latest on the Farm Bill

UPDATE: The split farm bill was passed by the House of Representatives. The vote, 216-208, was right down party lines; no Democrats voted for it. From our friends at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition: “If it was merely a face-saving effort following the defeat of the new farm bill a few weeks ago – with no intent to move the entire process forward – then today’s vote was quite simply a travesty.  If instead the House intends to immediately enter into conference with the Senate on a comprehensive farm bill and proceed to a final vote later this summer on a comprehensive bill, then this is a step forward – despite the bill’s very serious flaws and despite the deeply flawed process that produced it.  We urge an immediate start to conference, with a goal of producing a final, comprehensive bill, including nutrition, that can be passed and sent to the President for his signature later this summer.”

Good news first

On June 20, the U.S. Senate passed the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act, aka the farm bill by a vote of 64-35.

While the bill includes historic commodity payment limit reforms and renewed investments in a variety of sustainable farm and food programs, the Senate cut $3.7 billion in conservation programs on working farms and ranches.

These were programs that many of our small farmers have used in the past to stay profitable doing times of drought and to install erosion controls on their farms.

Shoutouts to U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss who added on a successful amendment that reinstated a program and funding on soil and wetland conservation.

Now for the kinda bad news
All eyes now turn to the House of Representatives. That body failed to pass the Farm Bill on June 20. It was defeated primarily because it would have cut $21 billion from the SNAP program, formerly known as the food stamp program.

Here’s some inside scoop. Georgia Organics has met with the two Georgia congressman who serve on the agriculture committee, one a Democrat, the other a Republican.

One told us that the Farm Bill is now in the hands of the leaders of the House of Representatives, mostly “folks who’ve never even stepped foot on farm.”

This might explain why House leaders want to split the Farm Bill into two bills – one for nutrition, including the food stamp or SNAP program, and one for everything else. Separating nutrition and agriculture would hurt both farmers, who grow nutritious food, and the community that needs nutritious food.

We hear the Farm Bill is now moving fast.

Please, please call your Congressional representative and ask him or her to support Georgia’s hardworking farmers who grow organically, and to support Georgians who deserve access to nutritious food through the SNAP program. Call now. Then, ask your friends to call.

FIND YOUR REPRESENTATIVE HERE

A Good Sign
Before the whole darn thing was shot down, a great looking amendment that would limit commodity payments and close eligibility loopholes in commodity programs passed by a vote of 230-194. It was the first time that an amendment to include commodity payment limit reform in a farm bill was adopted by the full House. Plus, the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill includes these same reforms. This gets our hopes up.

Also Gets our Hopes Up:
Georgia’s elected representatives! They may not agree on everything, but they have taken stances to help our farmers and protect our wallets.

  • Senator Saxby Chambliss added on a successful amendment to the Farm Bill that reinstated a program and funding on soil and wetland conservation.
  • Rep. Austin Scott took the house floor to promote the Farmer’s Market Promotion Program, which has helped Georgia Organics attract almost 4,000 Georgians to farmers market for the first time, and has generated $14,000 in sales for our farmers.
  • Rep. David Scott took to the house floor to stir up enough votes to defeat an amendment that would have raised the U.S. government’s bulk commodity price from 32 cent a gallon to 50 cents a gallon.

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