From: HN1721 CENTER FOR RURAL AFFAIRS, NEBR
To: INTERNET SUSTAG@BETA.TRICITY.WSU.EDU
cc: INTERNET GHEGYES@NALUSDA.GOV
Subj: CRA Newsletter article
Tom Hodges -- Here is the newsletter feature on the NSACC you asked to put
on your internet discussion group (does it have a name?). Please add us to
the group. Our address is email@example.com
Thanks, Elizabeth Bird
National Sustainable Agriculture Coordinating Council Gives People
Chance to Make A Difference on Farm Policy
If family farming is to survive, family farmers must build new
alliances with nonfarmers in pursuit of agricultural policies that serve
the public good through environmental protection, healthy food and
family farm and rural community revitalization.
The Center has been among the leaders in forming such an alliance
to help shape the 1995 Farm Bill - under the auspices of the National
Sustainable Agriculture Coordinating Council. The Council is sponsoring
a "national dialogue" between sustainable agriculture groups,
environmental groups, progressive farm organizations, animal protection
groups, farmworker groups and others to identify a set of policy
proposals for which they can work together in the 1995 Farm Bill.
We Have Complementary Concerns
This effort is founded on the proposition that broad public
concerns about issues such as environmental protection and food quality
support rather than compete with family farm and sustainable agriculture
objectives. For example:
** Environmental and consumer groups want agriculture to reduce its
reliance on petrochemicals. Reduced reliance on purchased inputs is
also vital to family farm survival. Research by University of Maine
Economist Stewart Smith indicates that a continuation of current trends
- including greater use of capital and purchased inputs to replace
farmers' labor and management - would reduce farmers' share of economic
activity in agriculture to zero by the year 2020 while increasing the
share of the farm input sector and the processing and marketing sectors.
Enabling farmers to use their management skills to reduce purchased
inputs without would help them capture a larger share of the farm
dollar. It would also slow the grow in farm size.
** Many animal protection groups see the growth of huge industrialized
confined livestock systems as the primary threat to farm animal well
being. Stopping their growth is also vital to the future of family
** Consumers want the opportunity to buy foods produced in a sustainable
way. They present a value-added marketing opportunity for farmers to
capture a price premium on food produced to meet that demand.
** Environmental groups want protection of critical wildlife habitat and
erosion-prone acres. Programs to buy such protection provide an income
opportunity for farmers while improving farm prices by reducing
** Farm workers want decent pay and safe working conditions. Requiring
that makes it harder for the large farms that rely on hired labor to
undercut family sized farms.
Family farming needs new allies if it is to have a future. The
number of family farmers and their political influence are falling.
Furthermore, the interest of moderate-sized family farmers have too
often been sacrificed to the interests of large-scale farmers by groups
that ostensibly speak on behalf of agriculture. For example, when cuts
were recently required in farm program spending, the commodity groups
representing program crops opposed measures efforts to close loopholes
in the limitation imposed on payments to big farms. They instead
supported cuts that fell disproportionately on moderate-sized family
Origins of the Council
The origins of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coordinating
Council (NSACC) can be traced back to 1988, when the Center and other
Midwest-based sustainable agriculture, rural, religious, food and
environmental groups formed the Midwest Sustainable Agriculture Working
Group and Coalition.
That group developed proposals to make federal policy more
supportive of sustainable agriculture and family farming, and pressed
for those proposals in the 1990 Farm bill. Washington veteran Ferd
Hoefner provided day-to-day representation, and farmers and grassroots
activists periodically traveled to Washington to participate in the farm
bill debate and work the sustainable agriculture agenda.
That effort resulted in some modest improvements in federal
policy. And the experience also made us recognize that more fundamental
redirection of agricultural policy would require a broader alliance,
more cohesive efforts by like-minded groups, and a more organized
grassroots base of support for farm policy reform.
The potential to broaden political support for sustainable
agriculture was heightened in 1991 with formation of the Southern
Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, followed by formation of other
sustainable agriculture working groups in the Northeast and
Intermountain West. These regional developments naturally lead to
demand for a National Sustainable Agriculture Coordinating Council to
build a cohesive effort around the 1995 Farm Bill.
Composition and Role of the Council
The Council is composed of two representatives of the each of the
regional sustainable agriculture working groups as well as
representatives of organic farmer, general farm, environmental,
consumer, farm worker, religious, animal protection and minority farmer
The Council functions as a planning committee rather than a policy
setting committee. It is sponsoring a series of forums in which diverse
groups can come together to discuss policy options and define common
agendas for the 1995 farm bill. Amy Little was recently hired as the
full-time director of the Council.
The dialogue being fostered by the Council started at the
grassroots - with a series of workshops around the country to obtain
input from farmers and grassroots activists on farm bill options. The
input from those workshops together with that from five "issue
committees" and the regional sustainable agriculture working groups will
provide the basis for a large national conference late this winter at
which the initial outlines of a common agenda for the 1995 farm bill
will take shape.
While the Council is sponsoring this policy setting conference,
participation will reach far beyond Council members to include
representatives of each of the many groups committed to working together
to advance sustainable agriculture in the Farm Bill.
Participating groups will be free to pick and choose which parts
of the resulting agenda they endorse, and the Coordinating Council will
not speak on behalf of the participating organizations. However, the
Council will fill a critical void by coordinating the efforts of
participating organizations to achieve a unified campaign for policy
reform with strong grassroots involvement.
How To Learn More and Get Involved
- For information on the policy options under consideration, write
the Center and ask for the Packet of Policy Option papers for the 1995
Farm Bill (cost $4). We would welcome your comments. They are most
useful prior to February 14.
- If you'd like to get directly involved in the dialogue about
which policy options to pursue, participate in one of the many workshops
being held by the dialogue participants. In Nebraska, workshops are
being sponsored by the Center (see accompanying article). Outside
Nebraska, write to Amy Little, NSACC, 32 North Church St., Goshen NY
10924 to ask about workshops in your area.
- If you'd like to conduct a workshop in your area, we'll provide
the workshop packet. All you have to do is get people to come, lead
them through a discussion of some policy options and get the results to
us by February 14.
- If your are willing to write or call your representative in
Congress on the farm bill, or to help organize others to do the same in
your area, write Chuck Hassebrook at the Center. The Center is in the
process of hiring an organizer to work with people in key congressional
Nebraska Workshops on Sustainable Agriculture and the 1995 Farm Bill
If you are a Nebraskan who would like to have input on the
sustainable agriculture agenda for the 1995 Farm Bill, mark your
calendar for one of three upcoming local workshops:
- Hartington, Nebraska - January 8, 1-4 PM at Gerry Miller Implement;
- Seward Nebraska - January 11, 1-4 PM. at Civic Center, 616 Bradford
- Kearney, Nebraska - February 12, 1-4 PM - Call Kris Thorp for details
at (402) 846-5428.
Workshop participants will evaluate a series of policy options for
the farm bill and propose alternatives.
>From Center for Rural Affairs Newsletter. To get on the Newsletter
mailing list, call (402) 846-5428.