the irresistible fleet of bicycles

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usda press release: organic markets are growing, 2014 farm bill funding helps access these markets

USDA organic

In today’s press release, the USDA has announced new figures that show the organic industry continues to grow domestically and internationally. Certified organic farms and businesses in the United States have witnessed a 245% increase since 2002 while consumer demand continues to increase exponentially. To help producers further access these markets, the 2014 farm bill has included provisions to support the organic community, including:

  • $20 million annually for organic research, agricultural extension programs and education.
  • $5 million to fund data collection on organic agriculture for policy reform.
  • Expanded options for organic crop insurance
  • Expanded exemptions for organic producers who are paying into commodity “check off” programs, and authority for the USDA to consider an application for the organic sector to establish its own check off.
  • Improved enforcement authority for the National Organic Program to conduct investigations.
  • $5 million for a technology upgrade of the National Organic Program to provide up-to-date information about certified organic operations across the supply chain.
  • $11.5 million annually for certification cost-share assistance, which reimburses the costs of annual certification for organic farmers and livestock producers by covering 75% of certification costs, up to $750/year.

For more information,  check out the USDA Organic Resources Page

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great context-setting events


Part IV begins next week. Screen shot 2014-03-19 at 6.17.02 PM

Our policy workshop webinar series investigates four broad themes in food and agriculture policy. Part I explores linkages between theory and practice in food justice; Part II, a legal framework for the new food movement; Part III part examines GMOs and intellectual property; and Part IV, the farm bill and the future of farming.

To join the webinar mailing list for updates and registration information, please contact Susanne Stahl at More information is available at

The Farm Bill and the Future of Farming
Kari Hamerschlag, Senior Analyst, Environmental Working Group Wednesday, March 26, 2014 | 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM EDT

Martha Noble, Vice-Chair, Agricultural Management Committee of the American Bar Association’s Section on Environment, Energy, and Resources Thursday, April 3, 2014 | 12:00 – 1:00 PM EDT

Ariane Lotti, Assistant Policy Director, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Wednesday, April 16, 2014 | 12:00 – 1:00 PM EDT

Sarah Carlson, Midwest Cover Crop Research Coordinator, Practical Farmers of Iowa Tuesday, April 22, 2014 | 12:00 – 1:00 PM EDT

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mainstream on farm bill


Farm Bill Reflects Shifting American Menu and a Senator’s Persistent Tilling
By Jennifer Steinhauer, MARCH 8, 2014

WASHINGTON — The farm bill signed by President Obama last month was at first glance the usual boon for soybean growers, catfish farmers and their ilk. But closer examination reveals that the nation’s agriculture policy is increasingly more whole grain than white bread.

Within the bill is a significant shift in the types of farmers who are now benefiting from taxpayer dollars, reflecting a decade of changing eating habits and cultural dispositions among American consumers. Organic farmers, fruit growers and hemp producers all did well in the new bill. An emphasis on locally grown, healthful foods appeals to a broad base of their constituents, members of both major parties said.

read the full article HERE

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are you joining the beyond the farm bill conversation?

via The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.  And visit Beyond the Farm

Screen shot 2014-02-25 at 11.29.22 AM
Register for the National Network meeting and help build food and ag policies that work.

March 24–25, 2014
The Marquette Hotel, Minneapolis

Next month, innovative experts and organizations will come together for a two day, collaborative meeting to build the “blueprint” for food and agriculture policies that are fair, healthy, and sustainable on all levels. Continue reading

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rural perspectives on the farm bill


Farm Bill out of touch with Rural Americans

by The Center for Rural Affairs, 26 July 2013

The US House of Representatives’ farm bill is out of touch with rural America in its disregard for protecting the small town and rural way of life. If and when a conference committee meets to produce a final farm bill, it should incorporate the Senate’s rural development provisions.

Last month, I reported on our bipartisan poll of rural voters in the Southeast, Midwest, and Great Plains. Nearly 9-in-10 rural Americans say the rural and small town way of life is worth fighting for and protecting; but 7-in-10 worry it is dying. Three-fourths blame politicians for ignoring problems of rural and small town America.

They have a point. Our 2007 study found USDA invested only half as much in rural development programs to serve millions of people in the 20 rural counties suffering the worst population decline in each of 13 leading farm states, as it spent just to subsidize the 20 largest farms in each of those states. It’s not getting better. Real federal investment in helping small towns and rural entrepreneurs has fallen by half over the last decade.

The House farm bill would make it worse, jeopardizing the continued existence of USDA’s primary rural small business development program – the Rural Microenterprise Development Program. It would receive zero funding, resulting in less financing and business planning assistance for rural small businesses. The House would provide zero funding for the small towns on a long waiting list for USDA loans and grants to make critical upgrades to their water and sewer systems.

Finish this article!

Read more: Partisan Rancor Prevents a Meaningful Farm Bill



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nabhan on the farm bill & climate change

Our Coming Food Crisis
By Gary Paul Nabhan
Published: July 21, 2013 in the New York Times

TUCSON, Ariz. — THIS summer the tiny town of Furnace Creek, Calif., may once again grace the nation’s front pages. Situated in Death Valley, it last made news in 1913, when it set the record for the world’s hottest recorded temperature, at 134 degrees. With the heat wave currently blanketing the Western states, and given that the mercury there has already reached 130 degrees, the news media is awash in speculation that Furnace Creek could soon break its own mark.

Such speculation, though, misses the real concern posed by the heat wave, which covers an area larger than New England. The problem isn’t spiking temperatures, but a new reality in which long stretches of triple-digit days are common — threatening not only the lives of the millions of people who live there, but also a cornerstone of the American food supply.

read the full article HERE

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At close to midnight last night, the House Agriculture Committee voted 36-10 to approve the farm bill. Unfortunately, the bill they passed out of committee lacked key conservation provisions that are priorities of National Wildlife Federation. Unlike the Senate version of the farm bill, this House version does not tie soil and wetland protection provisions, known as conservation compliance, to eligibility for crop insurance premium subsidies. Additionally, it contains only a weak regional Sodsaver provision to protect native prairies that applies to only parts of 5 states in the Northern Great Plains. Finally, we were particularly disappointed that an attempt from Rep. Ann Kuster (D-NH) to increase funding for practices that benefit wildlife on working lands met opposition from both the Chair and Ranking Member of the committee and the amendment had to be withdrawn. Continue reading

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young farmers win in proposed farm bill extension

Key farmer training, cost share and farm business support programs would be extended for one year in House proposal
TIVOLI, NY — The National Young Farmer’s Coalition (NYFC) supports the extension to the 2008 Farm Bill, as filed by the House of Representatives on Saturday.  This last minute measure will provide funding for critical farm programs that lost all funding when the Bill expired in October of this year.
“If passed, the proposed House extension package would be a huge relief for the nation’s farmers and consumers,” says Lindsey Lusher Shute, Director of the Coalition. “Congress is standing up for the programs that are strengthening independent farms and local food systems, including beginning farmer training, organic certification cost share, value added processing and farmers market promotion. These support programs can make or break new farm businesses.”
The House introduced the one-year extension of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 over the weekend and is expected to vote on the extension before the end of the year. The Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the bill can be found here:

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glad to be coalitioning with NFU

NFU and Coalition Urges Congress To Pass New Farm Bill This Year

WASHINGTON (Nov. 13, 2012) – National Farmers Union (NFU) and a wide-sweeping coalition of 235 agriculture organizations sent a letter to Congressional leadership today urging for the passage of a new five-year farm bill to be signed into law by the end of the legislative session.

In a letter addressed to Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, the coalition noted the paramount importance of the legislation. Continue reading

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ACTION TODAY! I called, did you?

Today, the full U.S. Senate is debating the 2012 Farm Bill.
Organic farmers need you to call your Senators TODAY.

It’s an easy call. Let’s make sure our families receive healthy food for many years to come.


Please call both of your Senators: Visit to find your representative’s phone number.

Here’s what we ask our Senators to do:

  • Vote YES on the Merkely Organic Crop Insurance Amendment. This makes crop insurance more accessible for organic farmers.
  • Vote YES on the Brown Beginning Farmer and Rural Development Amendment. Where will we be without future organic farmers?!
  • Vote NO WAY! on the Toomey Organic Certification Cost Share Amendment. This will deny access to organic certification to thousands of organic farmers.

via the Organic Farming Research Foundation

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farm bill infographic

From TakePart: We’ve already pointed out how the Farm Bill currently being debated in Congress is going to have a massive impact on everything that goes on your grocery shelves and dinner plate. But do you know the hidden costs obscured by the bill’s monster $500 billion price tag? And that between 2008 and 2010 the Farm Bill gave 8X more in subsidies to commodity crops than to fruits, nuts and vegetables?  Find out what action consumers can take and check out this new infographic from

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if you haven’t been calling on the farm bill yet,

What’s stopping you? The current draft is up for debate today.

Here are some resources:

Call the senators at the Capitol at (202)224-3121
Senate Ag Committee Members.
Check here for a complete congressional listing including phone numbers.


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