- Farm Bill Created to Ensure Food Supply, Rural Vitality
- Drafting of Farm Bill Is Complicated Process
- Family Farmers Organize Against Odds in 1995 Farm Bill
- Family Farmers Join Farm Bill Network
FARM BILL CREATED TO ENSURE FOOD
SUPPLY, RURAL VITALITY
The federal government began drafting agricultural legislation, now
known as the farm bill, in 1933 to preserve rural economies and to
ensure that adequate food supplies were available for all U.S.
Since the end of World War II, however, when approximately 5
million farmers harvested an average of 210 acres, the U.S. farm
sector has been characterized by declining numbers of farmers
working on fewer, larger farms. Only 2 million producers, largely
dependent on chemical and machinery inputs, now each plant and
harvest an average of 473 acres. Overall, rural economies have
either shrunk or disappeared, farmland has eroded and the quality
of America's food supply has come in to question.
Family farmers are in the best position to renew the original
economic goals of the federal farm policies of the 1930's and 1940's
and to improve upon them by fulfilling today's environmental and
safe food objectives through a positive 1995 farm bill.
DRAFTING OF FARM BILL IS COMPLICATED PROCESS
Every five years the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1949 is
amended by Congress. Federal lawmakers and the administration
continue to play the most powerful roles in agricultural
Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture is responsible for much
of agricultural policy development, WORLD PERSPECTIVES notes
"other agencies and departments in the Executive Branch interested
in budget, credit, international relations, trade, shipping and
environmental issues," all participate in the formulation of U.S. farm
Once drafted, the multiyear farm legislation must gain Congressional
approval before the administration begins implementation.
Implementation of U.S. farm law is an ongoing process guided by
yearly budget acts.
The Clinton administration began preparing for the 1995 farm bill
last May by setting up a task force to hold public hearings and by
establishing committees to draft legislation. The USDA is
reportedly hoping to formulate a consensus of administrative goals
before Congress begins crafting its own version of the farm bill.
Congressional committees are expected to begin work this winter on
the farm bill. Furthermore, family farmers, agribusiness
representatives and a host of other organizations have begun
formulating policies of their own that fulfill some very different
FAMILY FARMERS ORGANIZE AGAINST ODDS IN 1995 FARM BILL
Family farmers face a number of economic and political obstacles to
winning sustainable agricultural policies in the 1995 farm bill.
Among farmers' most formidable challenges are the following:
Budgetary Constraints. Federal budget cuts are expected to fall
heavily on the Agriculture Department and consequently family
farmers. A compromise spending bill that cleared the House last
month will cut fiscal year 1995 agriculture spending by a total of
$2.6 billion for 71 percent of USDA programs. Minnesota
Representatives Collin Peterson and David Minge say the federal
budget cuts will exacerbate the already poor income situation faced
by farmers. "Things aren't working really well with the amount of
money we have now, so I don't know how we'll make things work
with less money," Peterson said in a recent interview.
Urban Congress. Only 50 out of 435 members of the House of
Representatives come from districts that generate 10 percent or
more of their income from agriculture. More than a third of those
members have never voted on a farm bill, and with elections this
November there could be more newcomers. Even on the House
Agriculture Committee, three-fifths of the members arrived after the
1990 farm bill. As a result, family farmers will be challenged to
effectively communicate their goals to this year's largely urban
Espy Resignation. Earlier this year, farm interests and agricultural
media predicted the Clinton administration would lead efforts on
1995 farm bill drafting. However, the recent resignation
announcement of Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy could make it
difficult for the administration to take a strong lead in crafting farm
bill policy. Espy has pledged to make the 1995 farm bill his top
priority before stepping down December 31, but observers warn that
legal investigations may slow progress for Espy. Espy's successor has
not been selected, which complicates producers' attempts to ensure
that the 1995 farm bill is farmer friendly.
In order to overcome these and other obstacles, family farmers have
joined together with consumers, environmentalists and a host of
other constituencies to form the Campaign for Sustainable
FAMILY FARMERS JOIN FARM BILL NETWORK
The Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture is a network of hundreds
of organizations preparing a comprehensive package of sustainable
farm policies to address the priorities of America's agriculture
producers, food consumers and land and water conservationists.
FARM AID has signed on to the Campaign to secure policies that:
-Increase net farm income to help family farmers stay on the land;
-Promote rural economic marketing and value-added opportunities;
-Support stewardship of the land and its resources;
-Combine economic viability with environmental soundness and
-Ensure a safe and abundant food supply produced under safe
working conditions with attention to fair pay and humane treatment
-Provide consumers with adequate information to make informed
-Maximize social, environmental and economic benefits from limited
public funds committed to food and agricultural programs.
The Campaign has begun drafting 1995 farm bill policy options that
raise commodity loan rates, target commodity programs to family-
sized farms, close payment limitation loopholes, and authorize green
support programs which provide direct payments and other benefits
to farmers for adopting farming practices which ensure safe food
production and long-term preservation of food and water supplies.
In the next two editions of FARM AID NEWS, FARM AID will discuss
these and other mutual policy goals sought by farmers, consumers
and environmentalists for the 1995 farm bill.
Sources: Donn Reimund, David Harrington, "Trends in Farm Numbers,
Sizes and Ownership of Farms," ERS, May, 1993; U.S. Agricultural
Policy Guide, WORLD PERSPECTIVES, 1994/95; "Next Farm Bill Comes
to Inexperienced, Suburban Congress," AP, August 27, 1994; "A
Clinton Farm Bill," WASHINGTON POST, August 30, 1994; THE
KIPLINGER LETTER, September 2, 1994; David Hendee, "Midwest
Governors Draft Proposals for Farm Bill," OMAHA WORLD HERALD,
August 23, 1994; Robert Greene, "Espy Says Farm Bill a Priority in
His Final Months at Agriculture," AP, October 4, 1994; "Farms Must
Adopt Sustainable Methods," MINNESOTA DAILY, October 7, 1994;
Gary Gunderson, "Lawmakers See Fewer Farm Subsidies," AGRINEWS,
May 26, 1994; "Hunger," NATIONAL IMPACT, No. 7, February, 1977;
"Reform Commodity Programs to Support Family Farms and the
Environment," CAMPAIGN FOR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE, 1994.
1995 Farm Bill Review. Produced by the Institute for Agriculture
and Trade Policy twice each month. $35.00/ six months. Contact:
IATP, 1313 5th St. SE, Suite 303, Minneapolis, MN 55414-1546.
(612) 379-5980. Fax: (612) 379-5982. E-mail: email@example.com.
"Trends in Numbers, Sizes and Ownership of Farms," Economic
Research Service, May 1993. Free. Contact: Donn Reimund, (202)
219-0522 or David Harrington (202) 219-0520.
Information packet about the Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture.
Free. Contact: Amy Little, Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture, 32
North Church St., Goshen, New York 10924. (914) 294-0633.
We welcome comments and suggestions: contact Harry Smith at
FARM AID, (617) 354-2922. We encourage the reproduction of
FARM AID NEWS. Produced by The Institute for Agriculture and
Trade Policy (IATP) for FARM AID. Editors: Gigi DiGiacomo and
Harry Smith. For information on other agriculture bulletins, contact
IATP: (612) 379-5980.