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Farm and Food Policy

Food Insecurity in Rural America

3-17-16 Banner

Food insecurity has become a leading health care issue in the United States. This is due to two central reasons. First, the magnitude of the problem remains staggering. Despite the end of the Great Recession in 2009, food insecurity rates remain far above the levels pre-recession. In 2014, 15.4% of...

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U.S. agriculture and energy sectors: A complex love affair

8-28-15 Banner

For most of the last century, the relationship between the nation’s agricultural and energy sectors has been relatively straightforward—farmers used electricity, diesel fuel and natural gas (much of it in the form of nitrogen fertilizer) to run their operations, and the U.S. energy sector provided it to them.

However, over the...

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What non-farmers should know about genetically modified organisms

8-14-15 Banner

U.S. crop farmers who raise genetically modified (GM) crops such as corn, soybeans, or cotton, choose to do so because this technology makes sense for their financial bottom line. These seeds help them reduce pesticide and/or herbicide costs. In general, U.S farmers have had good yield experience with these seeds because...

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Evolution of U.S. farmers markets--from Roosevelt to Obama

6-18-15 Banner

The modern concept of a farmers market, where local farmers regularly gather to sell their fresh produce directly to consumers, dates back several decades.

One of the earliest such outlets was the Los Angeles Farmers Market established in 1934—and still operates today. It is nestled in downtown Los Angeles between the...

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Food aid helps keep girls in school in developing countries

6-1-15 Banner

Although the vast majority of farm operators in the United States are men—70% of operators, 87% of principal operators as reported in the 2012 Census of Agriculture—that is not the case elsewhere in the world. Within the developing world, women make up about 43% of the agricultural labor force, with...

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A new era for U.S. agricultural trade with Cuba

4-23-15 Banner

For decades, U.S. farm groups have pushed for better access to agricultural markets in Cuba. Thanks to President Obama’s initiative announced last December, such an opportunity now seems achievable. His Administration has since taken steps that will make such transactions easier, though full normalization will require Congressional action.

Aside from Canada...

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Faces of modern agriculture in the United States

3-18-15 Banner

Today, March 18, the U.S. agricultural community is observing the 42nd annual National Ag Day, celebrating the abundance provided by American agriculture.

For many Americans living in urban or suburban communities, their image of farming has been frozen in time, hearkening back to the dour farm couple portrayed in Grant Woods’...

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TPP prospects excite U.S. farm groups

2-27-15 Banner

When the George W. Bush administration first proposed that the United States join the P-5 trade negotiations—later dubbed the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)—back in 2008, most U.S. farm groups greeted that announcement with a yawn.

As initially configured, the proposed TPP partners consisted either of countries with which the United States...

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A Tale of Two Cities

2-18-15 Banner

The Des Moines Water Works Board of Trustees voted on Jan. 8, 2015, to issue an intent to sue counties in the Des Moines river and Raccoon river watersheds because of high nitrate levels. The goal of the possible suit is to force Sac, Buena Vista, and Calhoun counties to...

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Food safety in the new Congress

2-13-15 Banner

Food safety issues may not be the main entrée on Congress’ plate this year, but a handful of issues may be addressed. Here are a few of things the Consumer Federation of America will be watching this year.

Food safety funding: The one issue that will certainly be addressed by...

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Farm policy in the 114th Congress

1-20-15 Banner

With the convening of the 114th U.S. Congress, the Republican Party controls both the House and Senate for the first time since 2006. Unlike 2006, today’s GOP Congressional power will be pitted against a Democratic president in the White House. That means any potential agricultural policy changes will have to...

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A new paradigm for U.S. farm programs

11-21-14 Banner

Congress has been providing financial support to crop farmers for more than 80 years in farm bills. Over that time, there has been a consistent policy feature you could always find in these farm bills. Crop farmers preferred to have a suite of policy instruments in their tool kit that...

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Consequences of proposed restrictions on SNAP benefits

6-2-14 Banner

Food insecurity is one of the leading public health issues in the United States. Despite the end of the Great Recession, the nation’s food insecurity rate remains at very high levels. In 2012, almost 50 million Americans lived in food insecure households. The existence of food insecurity is a problem...

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New CDC data show little progress in reducing foodborne illness

5-16-14 Banner

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its annual report on the incidence of foodborne illness in the United States. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much good news in the CDC’s report. In fact, the report shows that we’ve made very little progress in reducing foodborne illness in...

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The debate over international food aid reform

4-29-14 Banner

The U.S. government has been providing humanitarian assistance in the form of food in a systematic way since the passage of the Agricultural Trade Development Assistance Act (also known as PL-480) in 1954.

The main program now operated under that legislation, the Title II “Food for Peace” program, has functioned in...

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New storage facilities one tool to manage water needs in future droughts

4-4-14 Banner

With much of the West blanketed by moderate to severe drought conditions, there has been much recent interest expressed for the need for additional water storage facilities. The call for more water storage only makes sense when one considers the paradigm shift of more conservative water operations, coupled with the...

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Cracking the code for development of water quality markets

4-1-14 Banner

Water quality markets are perhaps the holy grail of environmental policy. It could be the silver bullet that would bring conservatives and liberals together to address water quality problems throughout the United States.

The thought is that if we were able to apply the efficiency of market-based environmental policy to the...

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Mother Nature and regulatory drought in California

3-18-14 Banner

As the beginning of the irrigation season approaches, a large area of the West is blanketed by moderate to severe drought. There are pockets of extreme to exceptional drought centered in north-central Nevada, Idaho’s Snake River Valley, parts of Colorado and New Mexico, and California’s Central Valley. Despite a few...

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Changes in local food systems policy in 2014 Farm Bill

3-17-14 Banner

On Feb. 7, 2014, President Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014, ending one of the longest farm bill debates in U.S. history. Within its nearly 1,000 pages are included numerous provisions that should serve to strengthen local food systems, both on the supply side and on the demand side.


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FSMA proposals a good start but changes needed to better protect consumers

2-14-14 Banner

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has now released all seven of the major proposals required under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)—preventive controls for human food, produce safety, the foreign supplier verification program, third-party certification, preventive controls for animal feed, sanitary transportation, and intentional adulteration.

The comment...

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Addressing salmonella illnesses requires strong action

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In October, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a public health alert to consumers warning that an outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg had been sickening consumers since March. 

FSIS linked the illnesses to raw chicken products produced by Foster Farms at three facilities in California. The outbreak...

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Infrastructure should not present roadblocks to global market

12-20-13 Banner

By the year 2050, it is projected that we will need to have doubled the world’s food supply to meet the expected demand. This will require breadbaskets of the world to participate and share in the challenge. The current roadmap to meeting the necessary goals contains solutions, including the use...

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Opportunity to craft workable policy

12-17-13 Banner

Born in conflict—enacted by Congress in 1972 over President Nixon’s veto—the Clean Water Act (CWA) has served for more than four decades as the foundation for protecting water quality in the United States. The Act’s jurisdiction is far reaching, inviting the scrutiny of every sector. The statute itself may have...

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Options and consequences for RFS alternatives

12-13-13 Banner

In its proposal for 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requirements, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) significantly reduced the proposed levels from those contained in the original legislation (Table 1).  

The RFS is divided into categories for cellulosic, biodiesel, other advanced, and conventional...

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What African governments can learn from U.S. agricultural history

12-10-13 Banner

As 2013 draws to a close, U.S. farming has much to be thankful for—even without a new farm bill. USDA has just forecast that net farm income this year will reach $131 billion, 15% above last year, and the highest level in 40 years. In 2013 we will...

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Proposed policy changes pose major threat to wetlands and waterfowl populations

12-02-13 Banner

The Farm Bill Conference Committee is working to reconcile the House- and Senate-passed bills into the final 2013 Farm Bill. The fate of conservation compliance is to be decided in these discussions—and with it, the future of small wetlands and waterfowl populations. 

For nearly 30 years, basic wetland and soil conservation...

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The value of a viable energy future

11-15-13 Banner

The Chicago Tribune recently published an editorial “Crop Politics”, in which the author suggests eliminating the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) and subsidies for biofuels and renewable energy. 

I wonder if the author understands the history of energy subsidies in the United States.  The graph below, which is from Nancy Pfund,...

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The Day After Food Day

10-18-13 Banner

On the eve of Food Day Mark Bittman articulated an alternative vision for the future of agriculture in his essay, How to Feed the World. This was Bittman at his best, laying out his case that our current food and agricultural system is broken and must be transformed...

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ESA paradigm puts Central Valley farms and ranchers at risk

10-15-13 Banner

Last week, I testified before the U.S. House of Representative’s Endangered Species Act (ESA) Working Group on how the performance of the ESA, its impact to Western farmers and ranchers, and options to improve and modernize this 40-year old law.

The House of Representatives, whose members represent a broad geographic range,...

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Foodies and Aggies play on tribal bonds

10-10-13 Banner

Chipotle's Scarecrow video on You Tube continues to draw attention and controversy, a measure of the power of its imagery and message.  I have counted at least a dozen articles in outlets ranging from the Wall Street Journal and Forbes, to USA Today, Mother Jones and Civil Eats....

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Risk management programs front and center in farm bill debate

10-4-13 Banner

Agricultural risk management and policy issues are front and center in the current farm bill debate. Historically, the policy environment has focused on direct payment programs and other income support measures. But, in a time of record-high farm incomes these policy options are difficult to defend. Risk management programs, such...

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Are low-income children at greater risk of foodborne illness?

9-20-13 Banner

Much attention is rightly paid to assuring that children are provided with sufficient food and adequate nutrition. The safety of that food should be just as important because children are one of the groups most at risk for getting sick from foodborne illness. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)...

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A focus on farm versus food policy overlooks the breadth of the farm bill

9-3-13 Banner

As the summer recess for Congress winds down, interest groups and political pundits will be winding up the rhetoric on the farm bill debate. A comprehensive farm bill went down to defeat in June in the House of Representatives and a “farm-only” farm bill excluding the nutrition title passed the...

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New England confronts GMOs

Banner 8-20-13

When you think of New England you don’t normally think about agriculture, and for good reason. Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island rank 47th, 48th and 49th in the country in farm production, just barely ahead of Alaska. Yet the nation’s agricultural eyes are now turned to New England because...

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EPA makes drastic changes in management of renewable fuel standard

Banner 8-13-13

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has become controversial this year because, for the first time, it will be difficult to meet the required RFS levels. The oil industry and other lobby groups have argued that the RFS should be scrapped, while the pro-biofuels lobby argued that it is working...

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Lessons from a failed farm bill vote

7-11-13 Banner

While the U.S. House of Representatives was able to pass a farm bill July 11th, the June 20th failure of the farm bill was probably not a particular surprise to anyone who took the time to really look at it. The real question is: Did those of us in agriculture—that part...

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Canada's COOL reaction to USDA proposals

6-28-13 Banner

Canada’s frustration with the U.S. country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) regulations has been ongoing since the rules were announced in September 2008. While the battle over COOL might be classified as a Canada-U.S. trade dispute, it is important to recognize that many, if not most, farmers, meat processors and industry groups in the...

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Time for a new era of dialogue

6-20-13 Banner

As the president of a non-advocacy organization, my focus is on informing the debate with comprehensive, objective information, rather than shaping the political landscape. I rarely watch Congressional debates and votes. Yesterday was an exception, as I watched the last hours of the House farm bill debate streaming from CSPAN...

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Farm Bill progress, but still hurdles ahead

5-21-13 Banner

Earlier this year, it was hard to be optimistic about any progress in Congress on the farm bill. Fiscal cliff legislation on New Year’s Day extended the current farm bill through September, buying time for more delays. And, there was so much on the legislative agenda—from budget sequestration to appropriations...

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Conservation Compliance: Controversial or Much Ado About Nothing?

5-17-13 Banner

Earlier this month, 31 commodity, crop insurance and conservation organizations reached an agreement described in letters to the Senate and House Agriculture Committees as “a good compromise position supporting linking conservation compliance with crop insurance premium assistance and opposing means testing, payment limitations or premium subsidy reductions for the crop...

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Must farm bills be five-year bills?

Banner 5-15-13

The House and Senate Agriculture Committees are marking up 2013 farm bills this week. Both are five-year bills covering crop and fiscal years 2014 through 2018. That these are five-year bills should not surprise anyone--after all, many media reports tell us that a farm bill is a five-year bill. But...

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Economic Impacts of Irrigated Agriculture


It’s clear the drought that has encompassed much of the United States in the past year has had a very real impact on consumers, who are already keeping a tight hold on their pocketbooks. People are actually starting to think about where their food comes from now.

That’s why “ Read Article >

Trade Should Not Trump Consumer Protection


Recently, the United States and the European Union announced plans to begin negotiations of a trade and investment agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This comes on the heels of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a separate trade negotiation with 10 other countries. As discussions about these agreements continue,...

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Options and consequences of GM labeling


Much has been written about the science of genetically-modified (GM) or genetically-engineered (GE) crops, as well as the role of these crops in global food production. Scientists, regulators and many agricultural groups have continually reinforced the position that GE foods are safe and are not substantially different than non-GE foods....

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Another missed opportunity?


As we find ourselves once again on the threshold of a new Farm Bill, the reality of declining public funds in support of agriculture is finally sinking in. There is no talk this time around expanding spending, no surplus to divvy up as in 2002, or a compliant Ways and...

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Livestock Producers and Agricultural Policy


The continuous focus on fiscal cliff issues and farm bill deliberations in Washington has most of the agricultural policy attention focused on pending farm program changes and the role of the federal farm income safety net. Yet, for a large sector of U.S. agriculture, the policy watch is not so...

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Why do CBO cost estimates change?


The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) provides Congress with official cost estimates (aka “scores”) of proposed and enacted legislation. These estimates are important because if the scored costs of a bill are too high or savings too low, the provisions of the bill will have to be changed.

In 2012, the House...

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The changing politics of CAFOs


Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are the heart of poultry, egg, pork and dairy production in the United States.  This successful style of managing animal agriculture has also spread rapidly to the rest of the world.  CAFOs are now especially prevalent in China, Thailand and Vietnam, where consumer demand for...

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Ag and DC: A question of relevance?


If your New Year’s Eve was as exciting as mine, you stayed up to watch the C-SPAN2 coverage of the Senate passing fiscal cliff legislation to address expiring tax policies. When the dust settled, the House of Representatives passed the package on New Year’s Day and the legislation was signed...

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Real culprit is policy failures


When I opened the Sunday New York Times, the first thing I read was Elisabeth Rosenthal’s article on growing biofuel demand and hunger pangs in Guatemala. My interest was heightened, because I know those pangs of hunger are real—my nephew is a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala working...

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Modernizing Our Food Safety System

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January 4, 2013 marked the second anniversary of the signing of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) into law. To mark the occasion, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released two proposed food safety rules, which had been under review at the Office of Management and...

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A Positive Force for Production Agriculture

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I read with interest the “Agriculture in America” supplement in the November 30, 2012 edition of USA Today. It was well done. It made my chest expand a bit with pride. It felt good.

We are blessed in this country. Food is cheap, consuming less than 10% of...

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CHIMPS Are Not Chump Change


Funding cuts in the Agriculture Committees’ mandatory spending programs in the next farm bill or from sequestration have been mainstream news for some time. The same attention has not been given to funding cuts from CHIMPSCHanges In Mandatory Program Spending enacted in an appropriations law. (See below). CHIMPS cutting the...

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The Five "Ds" of a Farm Bill Extension


With each passing day, enacting a new five-year farm bill in 2012 becomes more and more of a challenge. While the best outcome is to get a new five-year farm bill yet this year through regular order, what if that does not happen? What then?

In that situation, it is paramount...

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Policy Risks for Agriculture

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When writing about the current policy outlook for agriculture, the natural focus is to reflect on the prospects for the farm bill—either in the current lame duck session of Congress or when the new Congress convenes in 2013. Last week’s Farm Foundation® Forum addressed the fate of the farm...

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Is Washington Ready to Move Beyond the Status Quo?

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After months and months of campaigning, sometimes harsh critiques, and final pushes from the candidates, the 2012 election is over and the result is … status quo? Washington looks set to remain exactly in the same party control as it now sits: President Obama will reside in the White...

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What the Election Will Mean–or Not–For Agriculture

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Election day is shaping up as not particularly important for American agriculture. The real drama will come after the election, when a lame duck Congress confronts what is called the “fiscal cliff,” namely the threat of a combined $500 billion in federal spending cuts and tax increases, currently set to...

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The views and opinions expressed in AgChllenge2050 blog posts are solely the opinions of the authors, and not those of Farm Foundation, NFP.