Farm Bill 2018 -- Where Are We Going Post-Midterms?

by Laurie Ristino | November 16, 2018

The midterm elections are over, and most of the races have been decided. The outcome will have consequences for a wide variety of policies and legislation, including the 2018 Farm Bill. So what's the status of the bill? What are its prospects for passage during what remains of the 115th Congress? And how will the current and near-future political landscape impact the legislation's conservation provisions?

To answer these questions and more, I moderated a recent Center for Progressive Reform webinar with Ferd Hoefner of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Caroline Kitchens of the R Street Institute, and Alix Murdoch of American Forests. While we all agreed that it's encouraging that the House and Senate conference committee is still working on the legislation, the discouraging news is that much remains to be resolved in the jam-packed lame-duck session.

Some of the major differences between the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill involve its conservation title. Designed to help America's farmers prevent erosion, protect wetlands and endangered species, and integrate conservation best practices in their day-to-day operations, the conservation title has suffered from inadequate resources for years, most notably after Congress slashed funding in the 2014 Farm Bill.

While both the House and Senate versions shuffle money among various conservation programs, the House bill does a lot more damage by eliminating a major conservation program, the Conservation Stewardship ...

This Year's Farm Bill Has Huge Environmental Implications

by Laurie Ristino | July 23, 2018
Scott Pruitt's narcissistic reign as EPA Administrator consumed advocates' collective energies, and rightfully so. It was a drama that recently ended – not via Trump tweet, but by old-fashioned resignation. Alas, this victory's potential downside is that the new guy at EPA, Andrew Wheeler, may be more effective at dismantling environmental protections than Pruitt was because Wheeler actually understands how bureaucracy works. Then, of course, came the orchestrated events surrounding Justice Kennedy's retirement and President Trump's pick to fill the ...

Connecting the Dots: Rob Verchick and Laurie Ristino Talk Food Security and Climate Change

by Matt Shudtz | May 15, 2018
CPR President Rob Verchick recently sat down to talk with one of our newest Member Scholars, Professor Laurie Ristino of Vermont Law School, about the connections between climate change, food security, and policymaking tools like the Farm Bill that could be better used to promote sustainable agricultural practices. We’re excited to share an audio recording of that conversation here as a “soft launch” of a new product at CPR – our “Connect the Dots” podcast. It’s a work in progress. Our ...

Recipe: Turning the House's Lemon of a Farm Bill into Lemonade

by Laurie Ristino | April 25, 2018
Last week, the House Agriculture Committee passed a pock-marked, micro-legislated Farm Bill along strict party lines. It's a shameful goody bag of legislative delights for a few that comes at the expense of the majority of the American people.  Some lowlights: The bill holds our hungriest Americans hostage by conditioning SNAP benefits (food stamps) on job training (what kind of country withholds food from its citizens?); reduces conservation dollars that are critically needed given the pitiful state of soil health ...

Is the Farm "Safety Net" Safe?

by Laurie Ristino | February 08, 2018
This blog post is part of a series on the 2018 Farm Bill. Since the 1930s, Congress has tried to formulate an effective farm “safety net,” oscillating among different schemes in order to protect farmers from the severe economic impacts of the Depression and the Dust Bowl. What started as a New Deal emergency intervention has become an entrenched legislative ritual. Indeed, this perennial Farm Bill debate remains a relic of 20th century policy. It’s designed to perpetuate, not to innovate. The ...

Farm Bill 2018: Down Payment on an Effective Conservation Title

by Laurie Ristino | January 17, 2018
This blog post is the first in a forthcoming series on the 2018 Farm Bill. As Congress begins the complex task of crafting the next Farm Bill, much is at stake – from conservation to "food stamps" to rural economies. This blog post is the first in a series addressing important policy considerations with an eye toward making the Farm Bill more effective, rather than backsliding on these and other important issues. President Obama once referred to the current (2014) ...

Going dark on the farm: Farm Bill could cloak big ag in even more secrecy

by Anne Havemann | January 14, 2014
As congressional negotiators reconcile the House- and Senate-passed Farm Bills, they are considering two provisions that would cut off access to information about federally subsidized farm programs and threaten public health and safety. The Farm Bill will provide farmers with billions of dollars in federal subsidies, crop insurance, conservation payments, and other grants.  The vast majority of the farms that qualify for these federal dollars are incorporated businesses that turn a profit by working the land.  Yet, by conjuring up ...

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