First Major Ag Bill is 'Green'

Northeast congressional reps climb on environmental bandwagon.

Published on: Sep 18, 2006

Election season must be in the air. The "Healthy Farms, Foods and Fuels Act of 2006" was recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. It's the first major agriculture bill, touted as the forerunner of the next Farm Bill.

Head honkers of U.S. House Agriculture, Science and Energy and Commerce Committees were in the formation of 27 congressional representatives sponsoring the legislation that would double conservation and renewable energy spending over the life of the next Farm Bill. Twelve of the sponsors were from Northeast states.

Farm policy winds changing?

"Expanding conservation incentives will ensure that farm policy helps all farmers and ranchers regardless of how much land they farm, whether they grow traditional or specialty crops, or where they live," says Rep. Ed Case (D-HI), House Ag Committee member.

Under past Farm Bills, the lion's share of federal support for American farmers flows to less than 10% of the nation's producers, according to the sponsors. Farmers in 25 out of 435 congressional districts collected half of all farm spending during the last decade.

Among other things, The Healthy Farms, Foods and Fuels Act, would:
• Increase from $200 million to $2 billion annual loan guarantees for renewable energy development on farms.
• Expand programs that provide local, healthy food choices to our school children and dramatically expand coupon programs that allow elderly and low income Americans to shop at farmer's markets.
• Double incentives to $2 billion a year for farmers and ranchers to protect drinking water supplies and make other environmental improvements.
• Provide funding to restore nearly 3 million acres of wetlands.
• Provide funding to protect 6 million acres of farm and ranch land from sprawl.

"The next farm bill should provide economic and environmental incentives for all farmers, ranchers and small private forest landowners, and should address our nation's energy, health and environmental needs for the 21st century," emphasizes Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., the bill's lead sponsor.

"In the past, most farm spending flowed to large producers of select crops," adds Pearlie Reed, former NRCS Chief and State Conservationist for Maryland and California. "When we renew federal farm and food policies next year, Congress has a chance to ensure that more farm spending is linked to rising levels of environmental stewardship - helping more farmers and the environment."

Stay tuned. This is the first of many farm legislation formations to fly out of Washington, D.C.