The Road to the 2018 Farm Bill: What is Conference?

The 2018 Farm Bill legislative process is in full swing. But, with such a complicated procedure, it can challenging to follow where any bill stands. So here is your recap: Both the Senate and House Agricultural Committees created an individual 2018 Farm Bill. After a vote from the House and the Senate agriculture committees the bills were sent to the…

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Connecting the Dots: Rob Verchick and Laurie Ristino Talk Food Security and Climate Change

Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) President Rob Verchick recently sat down to talk with me about the connections between climate change, food security, and policymaking tools like the Farm Bill that could be better used to promote sustainable agricultural practices. I’m excited to share an audio recording of that conversation as CPR prepares to “soft launch” their new “Connect the Dots” podcast. It’s a…

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Land Grants and Higher Education

When it comes to building a more food-secure future, we could probably all use some more education. Luckily, House of Representative member David Scott (D-GA) proposed a marker bill earlier this year to fund student scholarships at historically black land grant colleges and universities (H.R. 51). Land-grant colleges and universities were created in the second half of the nineteenth century when Congress gave federal lands to states to fund the establishment of agricultural schools.

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Big Data, Big Questions: The 2018 Farm Bill and the Landscape of Data Privacy, Security, and Ownership

While “farming” may still evoke pastoral images for many Americans, modern agriculture has become increasingly data-driven in the last decade. Since Monsanto’s approximately $1-billion acquisition of The Climate Corporation in 2013, ag data has generated both significant investment and debate. In 2016, investments in precision agriculture technologies totaled $405 million, even after declining 39% from the previous year. The rise of big data in agriculture has pushed questions about data privacy, security, and ownership to the forefront of discussion among farmers, commentators, and policymakers.

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Young Farmers, Student Loans, and the 2018 Farm Bill

It is not news that the number of farmers in the United States has been dwindling, with the consolidation of small family farms into highly industrialized mega businesses, as well as the exodus from rural America into the cities. It also may not surprise readers of this blog that the average age of the American farmer is currently 58 years old and increasing. The last USDA agriculture census indicated there are three times as many farmers over the age of 65 as farmers under the age of 35, while some more recent estimates put the ratio as high as 6 to 1. As these farmers begin to retire, leaders in the agriculture sector have expressed concern about the future of food and farming in America.

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EQIP: Subsidies for Big Ag in the Farm Bill’s Conservation Title

When we talk about the farm bill, often commodities, insurance, and nutrition programs take center stage. These programs are politically contentious and together they comprise over 93 percent of spending in the 2014 Farm Bill, so it makes sense that they are widely covered. However, the lack of attention to other titles can allow misuse to go unnoticed. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), a part of the farm bill’s conservation title, is a perfect example of how well-intentioned programs can be subverted by powerful agriculture companies in the absence of public pressure.

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