The Ohio Farmers Union, Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, and Ohio Environmental Council are teaming up to urge bold changes to federal agriculture policy.
Their goal is to reform the Federal Farm Bill with a fiscally sound plan to:
Grow America's agricultural production.
Sustain the basic nutritional needs of the millions of Americans who continue to struggle to put food on the table during the Great Recession.
Nurture America's emerging sector of organic and sustainable agriculture producers.
Conserve America's precious soil and water resources.
Eight decades following its creation, the Federal Farm Bill has changed dramatically, as has the face of American agriculture, says the group. Today, only 2% of Americans actively farm, but their amazing productivity is reliant upon a complex global system of finite supply inputs and an energy-intensive, world-wide distribution network.
The coalition wants Congress and the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction-the so-called "Super Committee"-to refocus federal agriculture policy and funding toward four basic objectives:
Retarget federal farm support toward an efficient safety net for family farmers, rather than multi-national agribusinesses and processors. Corporate agribusinesses have grown to control a larger share of the food dollar than do family farmers. This has led to a dramatic reduction in the farmer's share of the food dollar and precipitated a major exodus of families farming enterprises. Congress can reform this by strengthening the competition title of the Farm Bill, and by enacting rule changes such as the new proposed GIPSA rule (Grain Inspectors Packers and Stockyards Act).
Broaden and strengthen basic nutrition programs to meet this basic and growing need. As the Great Recession continues to eat away at the ability of millions of Americans to put food on their table, emergency food providers are witnessing ever increasing demand. Compounding the issue of hunger in America is the lack of full-scale grocers, creating food deserts in many U.S. cities. Congress can address this by assuring sufficient funding to Nutrition programs during these extraordinarily challenging times.
Focus more on sustainable agricultural practices, including organic produce, meat, and dairy products. By extending risk management eligibility to organic farmers, America could expand the number of farmers on the land, while more efficiently recycling nutrients and preserve and protect traditional rural communities and limited natural resources.
Refocus on delivering more effective soil and water conservation to the American landscape. Dust storms have reappeared in the Southwest and many waterways are impaired by nutrient and sediment pollution from farm runoff. Linking conservation compliance to federal crop insurance programs will foster stewardship while protecting farmers.
Roger Wise of the Ohio Farmers' Union says, "We are at a time in our history when agriculture is at a crossroads. Will we continue down the path of a vertically integrated corporate production that threatens our rural communities and food safety, or will we do all we can to assure family farmers are the source for our food, fiber, and fuel in a sustainable way?"
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, Executive Director of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks continues, "We urge Senator Portman and members of the Super Committee to reject the U.S. House Agriculture Committee's recommendations to cut nutrition assistance programs as part of deficit reduction. At a time when a record one in six Ohioans are facing hunger and millions of workers have lost their jobs, their homes, and have seen their families' economic security slip away, any cuts to these vital programs would be devastating and should be rejected. Hungry Americans cannot wait while Congress debates."
"We urge the Congress to protect the policies and programs essential to the growing local and organic farming sector" said MacKenzie Bailey from the Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association, "by supporting conservation and organic funding some of the financial burden of small family farms will be lifted and sustainable agriculture practices will be incentivized, helping to improve public health, protect our environment and strengthen local and regional economies.Finally, Joe Logan, Director of Agricultural Programs for the Ohio Environmental Council, states, "As Congress and the Super Committee consider how to manage the federal budget deficit, while 'promoting the general welfare' and 'preserving the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity,' we urge Senator Portman to consider options from outside the DC lobbying community. Fiscally and environmentally sound reforms are available to improve the economy, bolster agriculture, and conserve our soil and water resources."