The 2012 Farm Bill and Russ Libby

I got the Summer edition of The Maine Organic Farmer and Gardener in the mail this week.  (The one with my article about Maine Sea Salt in it, check it out.)   The arrival of the paper got me thinking about MOFGA and especially about Russ Libby.   Russ, the executive director of MOFGA, has had some health issues this year and we were all very concerned about him.  And, on a totally selfish note, we need him to continue doing the outstanding work that he does for organic farming in the state.  I had heard, however, that he looked really vigorous and healthy when he testified before congress on the 2012 Farm Bill at the beginning of this month.  So I Googled the YouTube of his testimony and he does look better then the last time I saw him.  I hope he is feeling well, also.

 I realized, watching his testimony, that I had not written nearly enough about the new Farm Bill.  So here is a post on the real politics of agriculture, the 2012 Farm Bill now making it’s way slowly through Congress.

 This  article gives a good over view of the main points in the Bill.  Here’s the highlights with my comments in bold:

 *New farmers:  “average age of the American grower eclipsing the 60-year mark, a shortage of new, youthful growers is threatening the long-term economic success of agriculture. This Farm Bill intends to remedy that situation by green-lighting loans and matching-fund programs for beginning growers, while also reauthorizing all Farm Service Agency loan levels through 2017. Cost incentives for beginning growers in crop insurance are also offered”  Remember “No Farms, No Food.”

 *Water conservation:   “ensure agriculture will always have access to its most prolific crop input. The Water, Waste Disposal, and Wastewater Facility Grants and Loan programs provide grants, loans or loan guarantees for projects that support the development, storage, treatment, purification or distribution of water. The Farm Bill sets out to refocus this program by prioritizing funding for rural communities with populations less than 5,500.”  Most prolific crop input (translation) things don’t grow without water, period.

 *Renewable energy:  “streamlining the Rural Energy for America (REAP) program application process for growers applying for funds for small- to medium-sized projects, the bill hopes to continue helping producers lower their energy bills by installing renewable and energy-efficient systems.”  ‘Nough said.

 *Specialty Crops: (or as Chellie says in her opening remarks “what we in Maine call fruits and vegetables.”) “The National Organic Program and the Organic Research and Extension Initiative are both reauthorized for funding, and the bill directs the Secretary of Agriculture to ‘assess the feasibility of creating an organic promotion program.’”

 *Crop insurance:  “Weather concerns are weighing heavily on growers of late”  Yep, climate change is real folks!

 *Community development:  “the bill places an emphasis on strategic economic and community development by prioritizing applications submitted for funds through Rural Development that support localized approaches to economic and community development.”  Hurrah!  Congress has finally noticed the local food movement.  I have to say that it always amuses me when I read anything about agriculture coming out of government offices and they keep referring to the need to support rural communities.  Well where the hell do they think farms are????   Although urban agriculture is a growing movement (forgive the pun) FARMS ARE IN THE COUNTRY!!!!!

 Anyhow, all in all it seems like a fairly decent piece of legislation.  With more than a passing nod to small organic farmers.   Thanks in very large part to the continuing great work of the Maine Organic Farmer and Gardeners Association and Russ Libby.

So once again WordPress is being a pain.  Here are the links for this post that it won’t let me embed.  (Russ) (Chellie)



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