Updates from DC: Victories on Conservation, Action Needed Today on Loans, GMO's, and Meat


Thank you all so much for making calls over the past week regarding the Senate vote on funding farmer programs!  We have some news to report, and one more thing to ask of you, so read on:

A Senate Ag Committee meeting

A Senate Agriculture hearing

The proposed Continuing Resolution (the government’s 6-month budget plan) that was announced on Monday did indeed fix the funding problem for the Conservation Stewardship Program and for two other programs, the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program (so congrats to all you callers for that victory!).  It did not include funding for other beginning farmer programs, but that’s ok for now (we’ve got other options, so the fight’s not over yet).

However, the big news is that two provisions were included that are throwing the game in favor of the big meat factories and biotech giants.  Additionally, the direct farm ownership loan (a crucial program to help new farmers acquire land) is getting its budget slashed in this Senate proposal.  More on both of those below:

Specifically, the two riders (these are provisions that are tagged on to the main bill) do this:

  • The first overrides the protections that ranchers have under the GIPSA laws (which help balance power between small ranches and farms and the giant purchasing companies that dictate prices),
  • and the second undercuts judicial review for biotechnology, by allowing the USDA to permit continued planting of a genetically engineered crop even after a court has ruled that further studies need to be done for that crop.  (How scary is that?!)

And now the farm ownership loans: A lot of people don’t know about this program, but they should.  The government makes loans to beginning farmers who otherwise can’t get a bank loan to purchase farmland.  Even last month’s House budget bill, which certainly was not friendly to beginning farmers, increased this program’s budget to $500,000 (from $200,000).  The Senate version went the opposite direction and slashed its budget!

So what can we do?

Will you make a call?

The message is simple:

Please vote for two amendments to the Continuing Resolution introduced by Senator Jon Tester of Montana that protect family farmers from abuses by the meat industry and support review of biotechnology products. These two amendments will stand up for family farmers, ensure that independent producers have a fair chance in the livestock market, and ensure that courts can review biotechnology products.

Additionally, please support raising the budget for the Direct Farm Ownership Loan, which beginning farmers urgently need, to match that of the House bill.

Please call your Senators using the Capitol switchboard: (202) 224-3121 and ask for their office (or use this phone directory.)

Well, today (Thursday) Senator Jon Tester of Montana is going to introduce two amendments – one for each of the awful provisions – that removes them from the Continuing Resolution.  (Thank you Senator Tester!)

Your Senator needs to hear from you (and your friends and colleagues!) TODAY, that they must vote for both Tester amendments in the Continuing Resolution, and put the livelihoods of independent producers and the health of our communities first – NOT the profits of large corporations. 

Further, they should fight for the direct farm ownership loan program, which a countless number of future farmers are going to rely on!

Thank you all!  We will keep you up-to-date about what’s happening next!

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