2007 Farm Bill - Will Fairness, Health, and Common Sense Prevail?
WCVI TAKES THE LEAD IN ASSURING THAT MINORITY FARMERS GET THEIR FAIR SHARE
The U.S. Congress is presently cobbling together a complex mosaic of competing goals commonly referred to as the Farm Bill. The bill may include - among a host of other things - income support for farmers and ranchers, conservation incentives and money for the preservation of rural communities.
The William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI) and its ad hoc coalition allies (e.g. Environmental Defense, the Environmental Working Group, the Rural Coalition, Oxfam, Bread for the World, and Taxpayers for Common Sense) have worked since 2005 to assure that Latino and other socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers and farm workers fully participate in the current review of federal farm policy. The goal is to allow fair access to programs that will help them catch up with other farmers who for years have had access to the benefits and services provided by the U.S. government. WCVI is also working diligently to hold the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) accountable for the provision of equal access to socially disadvantaged farmers. Finally, WCVI's and allies are working to reduce wasteful "corporate welfare" payments to already affluent farmers.
Lastly, issues such as our environment and natural resources, alternative energy sources including food for fuel, and how these affect us, have not in the past been associated with Latino and other socially disadvantaged farmers. However, these issues do have a tremendous impact on our diverse communities. In the end, our country's natural resources belong to all of us; food for fuel may soon leave even more people hungry, here and abroad; and obesity in our communities is near epidemic proportions."
The 2007 Farm Bill offers Latinos the opportunity to access programs and monies available to our communities. The William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI) will launch a six state effort aimed at educating state and local governments, community organizations and the media on the importance of the 2007 federal farm policy review and reform process. The six states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Texas.
Congressmen Joe Baca (D-California) and Ron Kind (D-Wisconsin) have taken the lead to assure that fairer, greener, and healthier policies are considered by Congress this year through their bills, the NOURISH Act (HR 2401) and The Healthy Farms, Food and Fuels Act of 2007 (HR 1551), respectively.
Historically Shut Out
Historically, Latino and other minority farmers and ranchers have been subject to longstanding discrimination by the U.S.D.A. And previous Farm Bills have proven to be unfriendly to Latino farmers and ranchers, the fastest growing sector of agricultural owners and operators in the nation, increasing by over 40,000 (or close to a 50% growth) from 1992 - 2002. Our farmers run operations, which produce cattle, fresh fruit and vegetables and a diversity of products not covered by federal agricultural programs. As a result, approximately 90 percent of Latino farmers and ranchers do not benefit from the commodity program payments, which consume half of all spending in the Farm Bill budget. Latino farmworkers who labor under the hot sun to produce much of the food we eat, have been and continue to be subject to unfair wages and unsafe and unhealthy working conditions.
Over the years, federal agriculture programs and policies have had an adverse impact on the health and nutrition of Latinos. The result is disheartening: 20 percent of Latinos face food insecurity each year resulting in problems dealing with their health and well-being. It is another important reason why access to affordable, nutritious foods is a high priority in the 2007 Farm Bill debate and WCVI is at the forefront of this fight.
U.S. Rep. Joe Baca Takes the Lead
In May of this year Congressman Joe Baca from California introduced legislation known as the NOURISH Act (HR 2401). The legislation would redress the historic exclusion of Latino/socially disadvantaged farmers
and farm workers from federal agricultural programs, as well as make healthier existing Farm bill nutrition and food stamp programs. Through "NOURISH" Rep. Baca proposes:
Anti hunger and nutritional assistance programs
To improve opportunities for Latino and other socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers
To improve working and living conditions for farm workers in this country
To protect and assist migrant and seasonal farm workers
To secure USDA loans for socially disadvantaged farmers
A guarantee of fair contracts for crops
For the complete text of the NOURISH Act, you can click here:
Healthy Farms, Foods and Fuels
Aiming to take federal farm policy in a new direction by enabling and rewarding more farmers and ranchers to help meet the nation's energy, health and conservation challenge, Rep. Ron Kind from Wisconsin introduced "The Healthy Farms, Foods and Fuels Act of 2007". Congressman Kind would like to see this act become an important factor in this year's Farm Bill since he believes it would provide consumers with greater access to healthy foods and double conservation spending to provide cleaner air, water and wildlife habitat, while helping to stabilize global warming over the life of the bill.
The Healthy Farms, Food and Fuels Act (HR 1551) also proposes to:
Increase from $200 million to $2 billion annual loan guarantees for renewable energy development on farms.
Expand programs that provide local, healthy food choices to our school children and dramatically expand coupon programs that allow elderly and low income Americans to shop at farmer's markets.
Increase incentives by $3 billion a year for farmers and ranchers to protect drinking water supplies and make other environmental improvements.
Provide funding to restore nearly 3 million acres of wetlands.
Provide funding to protect 6 million acres of farm and ranch land from sprawl.
During the 2002 Farm Bill reauthorization process Rep. Kind just fell short in an effort to shift commodity payments to conservation programs. In 2007, Kind has also introduced a new bill (FARM 21) that phases out commodity payments and replaces them with what are known as Risk Management Accounts (RMA). The plan is for FARM 21 to reinvest the savings from this phase-out into conservation, nutrition and rural development.
For the complete text of The Healthy Farms, Food and Fuels Act, you can click here: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=110_cong_bills&docid=f:h1551ih.txt.pdf
A review of current federal farm policy, which outlines provisions on items such as commodity programs, trade, conservation and food stamps, is before the U.S. Congress this summer and fall. Through Farm Bill legislation tens of billions of dollars will be budgeted and later spent on agriculture, the food we eat (including school lunch programs for our children), and our abundant but endangered natural resources. Historically, Latinos/socially disadvantaged farmers have been outside the Farm policy process. The results were little participation in government programs, and an unfair distribution of resources and money available, which would help to put our farmers on par with other better, established, traditional ones.
The disparity is most visible in the farm subsidy programs. A recent Los Angeles Times editorial, when addressing the subsidies issue, said it best:
Conservatives don't like them because they're a waste of taxpayer money and interfere with free trade. Consumers don't like them because they inflate food prices. Anti-poverty activists don't like them because they encourage American farmers to overproduce certain crops and dump them on the world market, putting farmers in poor countries out of business. Even most U.S. farmers don't like the current system because its benefits are distributed so unevenly: The top 20% of recipients collect 84% of crop payments, and roughly two-thirds of American farmers don't get any subsidies at all.
The majority of the 2/3 mentioned in the LA Times editorial are Latino and other socially disadvantaged farmers. And the farmers put out of business in poor countries are our brothers, sisters, cousins and family members trying to toil the land where we came from.
To learn about WCVI's efforts please contact Alvaro Fernandez at 305-308-6079, Matt Garcia at 210-922-3118 or Ruben Villarreal at 323-363-1863 or you may visit wcvi.org. For more information on the 2007 federal farm policy review and reform process contact your U.S. Representative at the U.S. House of Representatives at (202) 224-3121.
WCVI has joined the Alliance for Sensible Agriculture Policies to ensure equitable, cost-efficient, and environmental-minded farm bill reform. This diverse alliance, which includes a number of organizations, leaders, and experts from across the political spectrum, seeks to reform the current U.S. farm policy, which will expire in 2007. This reform will benefit not only farmers and ranchers, but consumers and taxpayers as well. An unprecedented combination of factors such as inequitable subsidy programs, budget deficits, trade disputes, and pressure from abroad have come together in a common moment in time to propel the need for this reform. The existing farm bill has neglected to meet a variety of social, economic, political, environmental, nutritional, international, moral and ethical needs, urging a transformation of the current ailing policy.
At present only a few corporate farmers receive hundreds of millions of dollars from subsidy programs, hurting small farms and potentially driving them out of business. Under the present bill only 10% of American farms receive 70% of all subsidies, and this 10% that receives the most subsides are among the nations largest corporate growers. What’s more, the structure of the present farm bill limits most subsidies to growers of feed grains, cotton, and rice, excluding most farmers and ranchers.
Latinos and other ethnic minorities also experience marginalization. Oftentimes deemed ineligible, despite the fact they are the fastest-growing group of farmers in the U.S, Latino farmers seldom reap the benefits of these programs. Also, of great concern are the adverse affects of air and water pollution on minority farmers in agricultural regions. Furthermore, U.S. farm policy encourages practices that undercut subsistence farmers in developing countries, increasing migration from these lands, and consequently thwarting their development.
WCVI, in its research and advocacy, will find the most equitable policy reform, offering our communities a more fair, less distorted market; better opportunities; cleaner air and water supply; protection of wildlife habitats; and an overall better quality of life, at home and abroad.
Alliance for Sensible Agriculture Policies
ASAP is a diverse alliance working to develop policy reforms that provide more benefits to the nation and its farmers by rewarding stewardship, expanding markets at home and abroad, and encouraging entrepreneurial innovation.
For more information on ASAP member organizations visit their websites:
American Farmland Trust
Environmental Working Group
Friends of the Earth
Taxpayers for Common Sense
IN THE NEWS
For news stories regarding this issue, click on the following links:
Letter of support from Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina
Farm and Food Policy Reform Amendment Provides at Least $3 Million More for Most Hispanic Members than Extending Farm Bill, Analysis Shows
Fairness in Farm and Food Policy amendment to Farm Bill ACTION ALERT
Lower limit on subsidies could spread the wealth
Cut back farm subsidies,
they’re not ‘saving’ family operations –
they’re actually contributing to their demise.
REP. BACA INTRODUCES AGRICULTURAL LEGISLATION
Letter of Support from WCVI President Antonio Gonzalez to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for the NOURISH Act of 2007
Federal Farm Policy Letter From Antonio Gonzalez
WCVI Calls on Congress to End the Status Quo and Support Real Reform of the Farm Bill
2002 Farm Bill
Many of the USDA’s programs, such as crop subsidies and support and conservation programs, fall under the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 or “farm bill.” New legislation will be enacted prior to the farm bill's expiration in 2007.
Read the 2002 farm bill:
GARCIA v. JOHANNS
Guadalupe L. Garcia Jr. v. Michael Johanns is a class action lawsuit, which was filed on December 12, 2000. The lawsuit seeks remedy for years of overt discrimination against Hispanic farmers and ranchers who have consistently been denied access to USDA loan programs and farm benefit programs.
Learn more about the case:
2006 WCVI REFORMING US FARM POLICY NEWSLETTER