June 25, 2010
On June 23rd, 11 farmers from around the country flew to Washington D.C. to have their voices heard.
NSAC hosted the Budget and Appropriations “Fly-In” at a critical juncture as the USDA prepares it’s budget proposals for the Fiscal Year 2012 and Congress starts work to finalize 2011 agricultural appropriations. The farmers and NSAC staff spent the morning with officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the afternoon in individual meetings with their Congressional representatives as they expressed funding requests for indispensable sustainable agriculture programs. Read a direct account from Steve Warshawer from Mesa Top Farm in New Mexico.
These top officials from the USDA carved out their morning to meet with farmers:
Participating farmers expressed their needs for conservation technical assistance and investment in research for transitioning to organic production in addition to their appreciation for ongoing funding opportunities such as the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) grant program and Value-Added Producer Grants and hoped-for new opportunities via the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Account program. They also spoke to the utility of the Conservation Stewardship Program and other mandatory farm bill conservation programs.
“These programs offer more than capital or incentives, they are a vote of confidence in your farm,” said Amy Courtney a fruit & vegetable farmer from Santa Cruz County, California.
Although authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, funding for most rural development, marketing, and research programs require annual appropriations to get started and to remain available. Click here to read more about the appropriations process. This “fly-in” allowed farmers to tell USDA officials and their Congressional representatives what programs to prioritize and to give specific budget recommendations. To read NSAC’s 2011 appropriations priorities, click here.
In the afternoon meetings on the Hill, farmers emphasized funding for the same programs in the context of the upcoming appropriations bill for 2011. For instance, Margaret Smith, an organic crop and livestock farmer from Ash Grove Farm in Iowa, explained to Senator Harkin’s (D-IA) staff how cost-share CSP funding helped her purchase fencing to transition to a more sustainable rotational grazing livestock system. She also emphasized the importance of investment in organic production research systems, for sustainable and conventional agriculture alike.
Farmers in this year’s budget and appropriations fly-in hailed from GA, PA, CT, WI, IA, KS, and CA. Co-sponsors of the event included Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, Organic Farming Research Foundation, Center for Rural Affairs, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Fay-Penn Economic Development Council, and California Farmlink.
House and Senate Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittees may be working on their funding bills for FY 2011 in the near future. You can stay on top of agricultural funding issues by signing up for NSAC action alerts.