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Weekly Update – December 12, 2008

December 15, 2008


THIS WEEK

SAC Members Meet in Memphis! This week SAC members and staff congregated at the St. Columba Retreat Center outside of Memphis to strategize our work with the new Obama Administration, set priorities for the FY 2010 appropriations campaign, and consider future legislative and grassroots advocacy work on new issues such as climate change, food safety, and child nutrition. Those gathered spent part of the first day discussing SAC’s policy recommendations to the Obama Transition Team which SAC will be delivering before the end of the year. On Monday, SAC’s Policy Director Ferd Hoefner was invited to present conservation policy recommendations at a meeting with the Transition Team – see this news article regarding Ferd and others’ participation in that meeting.

SAC was also pleased to be joined by members of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group’s board of directors for the meeting. On Wednesday afternoon, SAC and SSAWG hosted a joint afternoon presentation and discussion with special guests from the national leadership for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) program and the southern leadership for the SARE program.

House Member Musical Chairs: Committee appointments were in the news this week. On Wednesday, Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) was named Ranking Member on the House Agriculture Committee. Lucas was previously the top Republican on the subcommittee that handles conservation, energy, credit and research. Leaving the Agriculture Committee will be Bob Etheridge (D-NC), current Chair of the subcommittee for commodity programs and crop insurance. Etheridge won a coveted seat on the House Ways and Means Committee. His exit possibly opens up a subcommittee chair for Rep. David Scott or Jim Marshall, both Georgia Democrats. Also leaving Agriculture is Rep. John Salazar (D-CO), recently mentioned as a possible candidate for USDA Secretary in the Obama Administration. Salazar won a prized seat on the Appropriations Committee. Joining Salazar as one of the two new members on Appropriations will be Lincoln Davis (D-TN). Rep. Zach Space (D-OH) nabbed a seat on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, but has not yet found out if he will need to relinquish his seat on Agriculture or not.

USDA NEWS

RFP Announced for FSMIP: On Tuesday, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service announced the availability of approximately $1.3 million dollars (subject to final appropriations action by Congress) in competitive grant funds for FY 2009 for the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP). FSMIP funds will be awarded to a wide range of research projects that aim to help market, transport and distribute U.S. food and agricultural products domestically and internationally. Eligible applicants include State departments of agriculture, State agricultural experiment stations and other appropriate State Agencies. Applicants are encouraged to involve industry groups, academia, community-based organizations and other stakeholders in the proposal development and research process. Several SAC groups have had involvement with FSMIP projects in previous years. Proposals are due before February 11, 2009. For more information, please visit the FSMIP website.

Farm Bill Credit Rule Finalized: On Monday, USDA’s Farm Service Agency published a final rule on farm bill credit program changes in the Federal Register. The rule enacts the SAC-instigated improvements to the Down Payment Loan Program and increases to the maximum loan size for direct loans, as well as the change to FSA inventory rules championed by the Rural Coalition and the Diversity Initiative on behalf of minority farmers. These rules changes, which are all in order, went forward without the usual public notice and comment, under the “public interest” exemption. The changes actually became effective automatically with the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill.

WTO NEWS

No Doha Deal before the New Year: To the delight of U.S. agriculture lawmakers, an attempt to try and tie a bow on the Doha round of global trade talks before the end of the year was rejected by the WTO Director-General on Friday. The latest draft negotiating texts were released last weekend raising the possibility that a meeting to reach a final agreement would be called before the New Year, but concern over the high risk of failure led the WTO Director-General to hold off on calling a meeting. U.S. agriculture and manufacturing sectors opposed the latest draft negotiating texts, arguing that other countries still have not made enough concessions on lowering trade barriers. Senator Grassley (R-IA), Senator Harkin (D-IA), and Senator Baucus (D-MT) commented on the decision to hold off on a final agreement noting that any proposal that did not satisfactorily address U.S. agricultural concerns would also face an uphill battle in Congress.

DULY NOTED

New EQIP Report Finds Industrialized Livestock Disproportionately Benefit: A new report written by Elanor Starmer for the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment concludes that between 2003 and 2007, 1,000 industrial hog and dairy operations captured at least $35 million per year in funding from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The report, Industrial Livestock at the Taxpayer Trough: How Large Hog and Dairy Operations are Subsidized by the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, acknowledges that a complete analysis of EQIP can only be done when information about the exact size and use of EQIP contracts is made publicly available. Still, the new report cites data that shows a disproportionate amount of EQIP funding goes to industrial livestock operations because of changes in the 2002 Farm Bill that made highly-polluting livestock operations priorities for funding. For a press release and link to the full study visit the Iowa CCI website.

RAFI Appoints New Executive Director: SAC member group Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) announced that Linda Shaw has been appointed as the new Executive Director. Shaw, who is a consultant and former Senior Community Development Officer with Wachovia Bank, has worked extensively in rural economic development and nonprofit administration. She will hold the position, which was vacated by retiring Executive Director, Betty Bailey, starting January 5, 2009.

Rodale Calls for an Organic Green Revolution: A paper released this week by the Rodale Institute argues for a paradigm shift in the way we grow, buy, and eat our food to meet the food security and environmental challenges we currently face. The Rodale Institute, pointing out the shortfalls of the Green Revolution in meeting these challenges and recent research documenting the promises of organic agriculture, advocates for organic farming systems to be at the center of this shift.


Categories: General Interest


One response to “Weekly Update – December 12, 2008”

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