Farmers & Ranchers Expect Change in U.S. Farm Policy, Want to Help Shape New Policies; Some Welcome Change if Real Needs of Agriculture Addressed; American Farmland Trust Completes 8 Farmer Forums to Guide Development of New Farm Policy Options
WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 -- As Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns continues his farm bill listening tour this week, American Farmland Trust (AFT) today released the findings from eight geographically diffuse forums of its own that show farmers and ranchers nationally anticipate and indeed may welcome major agriculture policy change. (See summary of results at www.farmland.org/policy2/2007FarmBill/)
The producers said globalization, federal deficits, World Trade Organization negotiations, and changing consumer demands are creating an environment for change. Although they expressed considerable anxiety, the producers hoped change would bring new policies that reduce distortions, expand conservation and help rural communities, enhance food and energy security as well as improve nutrition.
Specifically, if reform proceeds, they would like a new farm bill to:
-- Furnish a better safety net to help all farmers manage risk;
-- Reward farmers for providing environmental benefits;
-- Nurture entrepreneurship and the development of new markets;
-- Help farmers transition and adjust to global market changes;
-- Expand support for regional food systems; and,
-- Shift payments to support such national priorities as energy, nutrition, food security, and rural development.
To realize these goals, the farmers and ranchers recommended such measures as improved crop insurance, block grants for regional flexibility, consolidated conservation programs, expanded Conservation Security Program, revenue-based risk insurance and farmer savings accounts. AFT says the forum results will help the organization and its partners develop a blueprint for farm bill reform that will be released early next year.
AFT President Ralph Grossi welcomed the findings, saying most individual farmers and ranchers understand that federal farm policy needs to be more market-oriented. As one farmer put it, “We’d rather get our check from the marketplace than the mailbox.”
“We found a strong recognition that change is coming and with it a real opportunity to make fundamental reform in the nation’s agricultural policy,” observed Grossi “Where there may have been reluctance in the past, we now find many farmers and ranchers informed, engaged, and supportive of change in farm programs.”
Some 280 farmers, ranchers, agricultural leaders, and policy experts from across the country took part in AFT’s forums, which were completed from February through June 2005 and intended to gather insights into how farmers view current programs and what changes they would make.
Participants ranged from an apple grower in Michigan to an African American farmer raising cotton in the Mississippi delta to corn and soybean growers from the Midwest to cattle ranchers in the Rockies and walnut and rice farmers in California.
Producers attending the four research groups came from states represented by USDA Agricultural Economic Research Service (ERS) resources regions: Heartland, Northern Crescent, Fruitful Rim and Southern Seaboard. Remaining forums consisted of African American farmers from the South, Western ranchers, and producers from California and the Mid-Atlantic states, none of whom are very well served by current farm policies. All were asked to assess their individual needs, consider what’s good and bad about existing farm policy and suggest policy options. Complaints about current farm policy far outnumbered plaudits.
AFT worked with more than 30 agriculture and conservation organizations to invite farmers, ranchers and policy experts to the forums. USDA’s ERS participated and facilitated three of the meetings. The agendas of the meetings varied slightly to reflect regional and crop-related differences. Producers involved in the four research groups have agreed to meet twice a year over the next 24 months to consider options and help develop policies that serve the needs of producers within their unique geographic regions.
AFT, the country’s leading farmland conservation organization, is directing a campaign to improve federal farm policy by redirecting agricultural spending from commodity production to conservation. The group is working with a broad group of stakeholders to strengthen the future of American agriculture and vastly increase the public benefit from federal farm policies.
American Farmland Trust is a national nonprofit organization working with communities and individuals to protect the best land, plan for growth with agriculture in mind and keep the land healthy. As the leading advocate for farm and ranch land conservation, AFT has ensured that more than a million acres stays bountiful and productive. AFT’s national office is located in Washington, D.C. Phone number is 202-331-7300. For more information, visit http://www.farmland.org.
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