Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 24, 2007
For More Information Contact:
Alvaro Fernandez: 305-308-6079
Patricia Gonzales: 210-922-3118
Matthew Garcia: 210-922-3118
Ruben Villarreal: 323-363-1863
 

WCVI Calls on Congress to End the Status Quo and Support Real Reform of the Farm Bill

Citing disappointment and disapproval with the House Agricultural Committee’s version of the 2007 Farm Bill, the William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI) calls on the U.S. Congress to end the status quo and enact the Family Farm Reform Amendment before the full House this week. The Amendment, being proposed by U.S. Representatives Ron Kind and Jeff Flake, will modernize the farm safety net, institute fiscally responsible reforms and reallocate the savings to programs that will help more farmers and regions of the country by increasing resource conservation, providing more resources for nutrition and better food choices and ensuring more equity for socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers and farm workers.

Over the past two years, WCVI has been working to expand national and regional collaboration to deepen understanding about common sense agriculture reforms, including outreach and education to specialty crop producers, farm workers, Latino and other minority leaders, hunger and nutrition networks, and conservative groups. Although Latino farmers and ranchers are the fastest growing sector of agricultural owners and operators in the nation most do not benefit from the commodity program payments, which consume half of all farm spending. Commodity subsidies also distort trade and displace farmers and ranchers in developing countries in Africa and Latin America.

"Unfortunately, commodity payments to the largest and richest farms continue to be the staple of food and farm policy," said Antonio Gonzalez, WCVI president. He added, "The Family Farm Reform Amendment will constitute true farm bill reform, something that Latino and other minority farmers and ranchers deserve. It is time that our farmers and ranchers were treated as equals."

Under the Kind/Flake proposal special attention will be paid to conservation, nutrition, specialty crops and healthy foods, among other things. Further, market distortion would be reduced thereby ensuring fair opportunities for minority farmers in the U.S. and for farmers in developing countries who are often impoverished. It will also provide consumers with healthier and more affordable food choices.

WCVI, a leading national Latino policy and research think tank, has been working on this year's version of the Farm Bill with aims of reforming this legislation which governs and finances agricultural, food and nutrition, and conservation programs in the U.S. for the next five years. Together with numerous other national organizations seeking reform, WCVI seeks changes in this year's Farm Bill. The Family Farm Reform Amendment includes key reform such as: 

  • A Fair and Modern Safety Net for Production Agriculture. –The amendment replaces depression-era price guarantees with a modern revenue-based safety net developed by USDA experts that better protects family farmers from declines in crop prices and crop yields. Savings: $1 billion over five years.
     
  • Support Working Family Farmers -- The amendment denies subsidies to large commercial farmers with average annual adjusted gross income greater than $500,000 and limit annual subsidies to $250,000 per person.
     
  • Reform Crop Insurance – The amendment reforms our government-subsidized crop insurance program to fairly share the costs and risks of this program with crop insurance agents and companies. Savings: $2 billion over five years.
     
  • Gradually Reduce Automatic Direct Payments -- The amendment gradually reduces direct payments, which were created to wean farmers off subsidies in 1996 but which have become an entitlement program that will cost more than $26 billion over five years. Limited resource farmers would be exempted from cuts, and modest incentives would encourage farmers to invest payments in rainy day accounts. Savings: at least $7 billion over five years.

And major new mandatory investments:

  • Increase Domestic Hunger Assistance – The amendment increases hunger assistance by at least $5.4 billion over five years for domestic hunger assistance programs to feed more deserving people, especially hungry children and seniors.
     
  • Reward Stewardship – The amendment increases voluntary stewardship incentives by $3 billion over five years above the Committee's proposal, including more funds to share the cost of clean water and wildlife habitat and for the preservation of open spaces.
     
  • Promote Healthy Food Choices – The amendment increases the Agriculture Committee’s investment by $1.2 billion over five years to fund healthy food choices, including more fresh fruits and vegetables for school children and more farmers markets. Support Our Fruit and Vegetable Producers – To fairly address the needs of all producers, the amendment expands programs to more equitably support our fruit and vegetable producers by $1 billion above the Committee’s investment over five years, including research and grant programs.
     
  • Support Our Minority Farmers – The amendment provides $500 million over five years above the Committee’s proposal and makes overdue changes which will make USDA programs more accessible to minority farmers who have been historically underserved by federal farm programs.
     
  • Boost Rural Prosperity – The amendment will boost rural prosperity by providing $200 million more than the Committee invests over five years in grants and loans for the development of new rural enterprises.

William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI) founded in 1985 is a 501(c)(3) tax-deductible organization whose mission is to increase Latino participation in America's democratic process. WCVI has a longstanding policy of educating Latino and non-Latino leaders, the public, and the media on issues of importance to the U.S. Latino community, as well as relevant demographic, economic, political trends and characteristics within the Latino community. For more information, see www.wcvi.org.

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