FARM BILL: SOME GOOD, SOME BAD FOR CALIFORNIA

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June 20, 2012 (Washington, D.C.)The U.S. Senate is taking up the Farm Bill, which will set the nation's food policy for the next five years. The legislation's title - the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 - includes the word "reform," although some California farmers question the amount of reform it contains.

Dave Runsten, policy director for the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, supports eliminating direct payments to farmers who may or may not plant crops. He adds that the bill shifts much of that money into federally subsidized crop insurance. 


"We would like to have some limits on how that insurance program is structured. We'd like to have people have to conform to the types of environmental rules that they used to have to conform to, and also cap the amount of money."

Runsten says the amount of money for specialty crops increases in the Farm Bill, which he says is an advantage for the Golden State. However, he thinks it's unfair that the bill cuts smaller programs that are important to California and the environment.

"Things that help people install biodiversity on their farms, buy drip irrigation equipment, or help clean up dairy waste. A variety of things that are important in California, where we're trying to comply with environmental requirements."

Last year, taxpayers subsidized farmers' insurance premiums and private insurers' costs to a tune of almost $9 billion - an amount that's expected to grow in the years ahead. Runsten says several senators want to amend the bill to ensure real reform, such as limiting crop insurance so that the nation's wealthiest farmers won't receive unlimited subsidies, and restoring basic conservation requirements for crop insurance.

More information is online at caff.org.


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