Tag Archives: Policy

Many Wins for Maine Farmers in the 2018 Farm Bill

After several months of negotiations, the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee just released a final version of the bill that includes many of MFT’s priorities to better support farmers and farmland protection in Maine. Both the Senate (87-13) and the House ( 369 Y, 47 N, 17 NV) voted to pass the bill.

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Here is how MFT’s priorities for Maine farms fared in the final bill:

1. Maintain both the Senate and House farm bills’ increases in funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) to support the placement of agricultural easements in Maine that protect farmland and make land more affordable for the next generation of farmers.

  • Good: The final bill increases funding for ACEP to $450m/year.

2. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increase in funding for the development of local and regional food economies through the establishment of the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP).

  • Good: the final bill combines the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) and the Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG) with a new public-private partnership provision, creating LAMP, and provides the program with $50 million per year in mandatory funding.
    • This funding includes $17.5 million per year in mandatory funding for VAPG, $23.5 million per year in mandatory funding for FMLFPP, and $5 million per year for the public-private partnership provision.

3. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increase in funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), which provides competitive grants to academic institutions, state extension services, producer groups, and community organizations to support and train new farmers and ranchers.

4. Reduce funding cuts to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) so that farmers have the necessary support to address natural resources concerns on their property while keeping their land in production.

  • Mixed: the final bill increases funding for EQIP and CSP for the 5-year cycle of this farm bill (2019-2023), but includes major funding cuts for these working lands programs over the long term, particularly for CSP.

5. Maintain the Senate and House farm bills’ increase in funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Program to increase access to local fresh fruits and vegetables for SNAP recipients, and expand markets for farmers.

  • Good: the final bill reauthorizes FINI and provides it with $250 million in funding over 5 years.

6. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s Buy-Protect-Sell provision so that lands trusts can act quickly using ACEP-ALE dollars to protect vulnerable farmland and then sell the land to a farmer.

  • Good: the final bill contains a Buy-Protect-Sell provision.

7. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increase in funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), which supports research projects that address the most critical challenges facing organic farmers.

  • Good: the final bill increases OREI funding to $50 million per year in permanent baseline funding by 2023, providing a total of $395 million in funding over 10 years.

8. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increases in funding levels for Farm Service Agency (FSA) direct and guaranteed loans.

  • Good: the final bill increases funding to $3 billion for FSA direct loans and $7 billion for FSA guaranteed loans for 2019-2023.

 

Many of these important provisions are taken from legislation that was sponsored by Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Maine Senator Susan Collins. We are very grateful to all of Maine’s congressional delegation for their efforts to create a farm bill that works for Maine agriculture, and to all of you who shared your voices with your delegates!

While much of this Farm Bill is a step in a positive direction, there are many challenges ahead. You can help shape the future for farming by making a gift to support our work in Maine! Give here.

Calling all farmers: We need your knowledge and ideas to shape the future of agriculture in Maine!

Calling all farmers:

We need your knowledge and ideas to shape the future of agriculture in Maine!

How can state government and other service and education providers better support YOU?

Please help us develop an assessment of farmer needs and priorities to inform program development, state government, and service and education providers supporting farmers and Maine’s agricultural economy.

Attend an upcoming work session to share your thoughts about what you need to strengthen your farm business and grow Maine agriculture.

 

WHEN & WHERE

Sessions will be held at the following Cooperative Extension Offices:

 

Locally-sourced refreshments provided.

*RSVP’s are appreciated! maineagneeds@gmail.com*

 

At the Agricultural Trades Show

Maine Agricultural Trades Show, Jan. 16, 5-6pm and Jan. 17, 10-11:30am, 76 Community Dr., Augusta

Remote Option

Webinar, Nov 27, 7-8pm – must RSVP for link to join.

 

Can’t attend a session? Visit sites.google.com/view/maineagneeds or email

maineagneeds@gmail.com for more information about a webinar and online survey.

Stay updated at facebook.com/maineagneeds

 

This effort is being coordinated by: AGCOM, CEI, Cooperative Extension, MFT, Maine Food Strategy, MOFGA, and Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society

Congress Must Pass a Full Extension of the Current Farm Bill until a New Farm Bill is Enacted

Farmers and communities across Maine and the rest of the country have been waiting on Congress to pass a new farm bill. This bill is the vehicle that provides funding for farmland protection and access, development of local and regional food economies, agricultural research, rural economic development, beginning farmers, and more. More information about MFT’s priorities for the 2018 farm bill can be found HERE.

Unfortunately, the wait continues. Congress did not pass the 2018 farm bill before the current law expired on September 30th. They must now pass an extension of the current law until a new farm bill can be enacted.

But until that happens, nearly 20 of the programs that Maine farmers and others rely on to grow our agricultural economy and protect important farm resources will either cease to operate or have their funding frozen. These programs include:

Please contact Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, Congressman Bruce Poliquin, Senator Susan Collins, and Senator Angus King and tell them we need a full extension of the current farm bill to keep vital services working.

Don’t let Congress leave farmers and their communities behind!

Policy teach-in at the Common Ground Country Fair

On Saturday, September 22nd, MFT’s Policy and Research Director, Ellen Stern Griswold, participated in a policy teach-in at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA)’s Common Ground Country Fair. The policy roundtable, which MFT co-sponsored with MFOGA, focused on the policy changes needed to better support agriculture in Maine and to grow the agricultural economy.

During the roundtable, Ellen discussed the process that has been underway for the last year to create an Initial Agriculture Policy Platform, as well as the outreach effort that is being planned to farmers and other agriculture stakeholders to get feedback on the Platform and to refine the document before sharing it with the next state administration. This outreach effort will include facilitated in-person meetings across the state, webinars, and online and paper surveys.

Other roundtable participants included Penny Jordan of Jordan’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth and President of the Maine Farm Bureau, who discussed the policy changes that are needed to enhance farmer profitability; Ben Whalen, co-owner of Bumbleroot Organic Farm in Windham and a member of the Southern Maine Young Farmers Coalition, who discussed the challenges and opportunities facing the next generation of farmers in Maine; and Jim Gerritsen of Wood Prairie Family Farm in Bridgewater and President of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, who discussed the federal policy changes that are needed to better support family farmers in Maine. Heather Spalding, MOFGA’s Deputy Director, moderated the discussion.

Join the MFT Policy List to receive updates about our policy work and action alerts about how

you can help shape food and agriculture policy.

Our Priorities for the Final Farm Bill

Time is running out for Congress to pass a new farm bill. The current farm bill, which was passed in 2014, expires on September 30, 2018. Both the House and the Senate have passed their own versions of a new farm bill. A conference committee, which includes leadership from both Agriculture Committees as well as other House and Senate members, has been formed to work out the differences between the two bills. If the conference committee is unable to produce a reconciled bill by the September 30th deadline, an extension of the current farm bill will need to be obtained to ensure that programs vital to farmers in Maine and across the country continue to operate while the new farm bill is negotiated.

Both the House and Senate farm bills contain important funding increases for the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program (FINI), as described below. Overall, though, the bipartisan Senate bill does more for agriculture in Maine by protecting important farm resources, helping Maine farmers grow their businesses, and supporting the next generation of farmers. In contrast, the partisan House bill guts programs that are vital to farmers and rural communities in Maine and eliminates critical funding for conservation programs. More specific information about the House and Senate bills can be found HERE and HERE.

As the conference committee works to reconcile these two bills, MFT has reached out to our congressional delegation and urged them to work with the conference committee to ensure that the following priorities are included in the final bill:

1. Maintain both the Senate and House farm bills’ increases in funding for ACEP-ALE to support the placement of agricultural easements in Maine that protect farmland and make land more affordable for the next generation of farmers.

  • Senate farm bill: authorizes $400 million/year in FY19-21; $425 million in FY22; and $450 million/year by FY23.
  • House farm bill: authorizes $500 million/year in funding.

2. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increase in funding for the development of local and regional food economies through the establishment of the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP).

  • Senate farm bill:combines the Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG) with the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) and a regional public-private partnership to support and encourage investment in regional food economies, and provides $60 million/year in mandatory funding.
  • House farm bill: does not create a combined program and does not provide any mandatory funding for VAPG or FMLFPP.

3. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increase in funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), which provides competitive grants to academic institutions, state extension services, producer groups, and community organizations to support and train new farmers and ranchers.

4. Reduce funding cuts to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) so that farmers have the necessary support to address natural resources concerns on their property while keeping their land in production.

  • Senate farm bill: reduces funding for EQIP and CSP by $2.5 billion over 10 years, but maintains overall funding levels for the Conservation Title.
  • House farm bill: eliminates CSP, cuts total funding for the Conservation Title by $1 billion, and reduces funding for working lands conservation programs by $5 billion over 10 years.

5. Maintain the Senate and House farm bills’ increase in funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program to increase access to local fresh fruits and vegetables for SNAP recipients, and expand markets for farmers.

  • Senate farm bill: reauthorizes the program and provides $50 million per year in mandatory permanent baseline funding.
  • House farm bill:reauthorizes the program and provides $275 million over 5 years in permanent baseline funding.

6. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s Buy-Protect-Sell provision so that lands trusts can act quickly using ACEP-ALE dollars to protect vulnerable farmland and then sell the land to a farmer.

  • Senate farm bill: contains a Buy-Protect-Sell provision.
  • House farm bill:does not contain a Buy-Protect-Sell provision.

7. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increase in funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), which supports research projects that address the most critical challenges facing organic farmers.

  • Senate farm bill: increases funding to $50 million/year in permanent baseline funding by 2022.
  • House farm bill:increases funding to $30 million/year in mandatory funding.

8. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increases in funding levels for Farm Service Agency (FSA) direct and guaranteed loans.

  • Senate farm bill: increases funding to at least $2 billion for direct loans and $4 billion for guaranteed loans.
  • House farm bill:does not increase funding.

 

Many of these important provisions are taken from legislation that was sponsored by Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Maine Senator Susan Collins. We urge you to reach out to all of Maine’s congressional delegation, including Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, Congressman Bruce Poliquin, Senator Susan Collins, and Senator Angus King, and let them know why these programs are important to you and to farmers generally in Maine.

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

Andrew Marshall joins MFT as the next Wang Food and Farming Fellow

Andrew Marshall of Montville, Maine has been selected by MFT to serve as its next Wang Food and Farming Fellow.

As a Fellow, Marshall will work for a year at the Trust conducting research activities to inform an understanding of best practices in farmland reclamation, as well as investigating varied, innovative strategies for protecting farmland from development. In this role, he will also serve as a resource for research that supports the overall effectiveness of MFT’s programs, with a particular focus on working to enhance opportunities for farmer engagement in designing research activities and priorities.

Marshall received his BA from Bowdoin College and earned his MA from the University of Santa Cruz.  Since then, Marshall has taught sustainable agriculture courses as adjunct faculty at Unity College, Kennebec Valley Community College, and he continues to teach at Colby College. In addition, Marshall has worked most recently for Land for Good as their Education and Field Director, and prior to that, as the Education Programs Director at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. Meanwhile, Marshall and his family have operated Dorelenna Farm since 2007, where they raise mixed vegetables and chickens for many local markets and restaurants.

Marshall has also served on numerous boards and committees related to agriculture and conservation over the years, including the Wellspring Council and Conservation Committee,  Waldo County Extension Association, and Northeast On-Farm Mentors Network.

MFT created the Fellowship in honor of David and Cecile Wang. The Wangs have provided critical support and trusted guidance to MFT over many years. The Wangs also have a long history of supporting organizational innovation, including their pivotal role in supporting the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which has effectively advocated for fair wages and better working conditions for farmworkers over the past two decades.

Marshall’s appointment follows Ellen Stern Griswold, JD, LL.M. of Portland, Maine who was MFT’s inaugural Wang Food and Farming Fellow, and now serves as the organization’s Policy and Research Director.

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

PITCH IN for policy & advocacy

This is a big year for agricultural policy in Maine. In just four months, Mainers will be heading back to the polls to elect our next governor – a governor who will have a significant impact on agriculture in Maine. This year Congress is also drafting the farm bill, the federal government’s primary food and ag legislation that is passed about every five years. While MFT has always worked to keep our finger on the pulse on the policies that affect Maine farms, we are doubling our efforts this year and charting a bold new course for agricultural policy both within the gubernatorial campaign and in Congress.

Over the past eight months, MFT, along with farmers and several Maine-based organizations, have been working together to create an Agriculture Policy Platform to help inform Maine’s 2018 gubernatorial race. The Platform outlines the policy objectives that the next administration should endorse to promote a more economically viable, environmentally conscious, resilient, and equitable agricultural system in Maine.

The Platform aims to spark discussion with and among gubernatorial candidates, to increase attention to food and agriculture issues during the 2018 campaign, and to inform the next administration’s strategies for supporting farmers and ensuring a robust future for agriculture in our state. We will be helping to organize a robust outreach effort to obtain in-person and online feedback on the Platform from farmers and other agricultural stakeholders across the state. Following that effort, a more detailed Platform will be made available to guide the next state administration.

On the federal level, we have also been reaching out to Maine’s members of Congress to advocate for farm bill policies that help to protect farmland in Maine, keep farmers economically viable, grow the local and regional food economies, help farmers steward the natural resources on their property, and support the next generation of farmers. We partnered with several organizations to provide a farm bill advocacy training for farmers so that they can share with members of Congress the importance of different farm bill programs for their businesses.    

If you recognize the enormous economic potential of Maine agriculture, and want strong leadership and understanding from our next governor and a farm bill that works for Maine agriculture, we’d love your support!  

Sign up here for updates on how to get involved! Help us continue to advocate for Maine’s farmers & working landscapes.

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

The 2018 Farm Bill is Rejected in the House

On Friday, May 18, 2018, a draft of the farm bill was rejected on the floor of the House of Representatives by a vote of 198-213, with all Democrats and 30 Republicans voting against it. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and others are trying to obtain enough votes to bring the bill back to the House floor for another vote on June 22nd. Doing so would require reaching a deal with either moderate Republicans or the House Freedom Caucus. These negotiations will involve not only issues related to the farm bill, but also an immigration bill that House Freedom Caucus members are demanding a vote on before consideration of the farm bill. Others are advocating for House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) to restart the process in the House Agriculture Committee, working with Democrats on the Committee this time to produce a bipartisan farm bill that has enough support for passage.

 

MFT believes the best path forward is for the House Agriculture Committee to restart the Committee process and produce a bipartisan farm bill that does not contain some of the devastating cuts to working lands conservation programs and business development programs that support Maine farmers in their efforts to be good stewards of their land and to grow their businesses. Although the draft farm bill contains some important funding increases for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program (FINI), it also contains some provisions that are very problematic for Maine farmers. These provisions include:

 

  • Decreased funding for working lands conservation programs by nearly $5 billion over 10 years, including eliminating the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP);
  • Allowing 100% forested lands to be eligible for ACEP, thereby decreasing the easement funding available for working farms;
  • No mandatory funding for the Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP), the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP), and the Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG), all of which are important to the business development of Maine farmers; and
  • Elimination of the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP).

 

More information on the specifics of the House farm bill can be found HERE.

 

The Senate Agriculture Committee is continuing to work on a bipartisan basis to produce its version of the 2018 farm bill. Although the specific timeline is not clear, the Committee will likely release its bill in the coming weeks. The current farm bill expires on September 30, 2018. If a 2018 bill is not passed by both the House and Senate by September, a bill to extend the current farm bill for some period of time will need to be passed in order for all programs included in the last farm bill to continue to be funded in the interim before the next one is passed.

 

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill is a Mixed Bag for Maine Farmers

On Thursday, April 12th, the House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX) introduced his draft of the 2018 Farm Bill, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2). On Wednesday, April 18th, the Committee voted the bill out of Committee on a strictly party-line vote (26-20). The full House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill in May. This bill is very much a mixed bag for farmers in Maine. Although it contains some important provisions for farmland conservation, beginning farmers, food access, and organic research, it either eliminates mandatory funding, does not increase funding, or makes problematic administrative changes to many programs that are vital to Maine farmers.

 

Funding for Farmland Conservation

Good:

  • Restores $500 million in mandatory funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which provides funding for easements on agricultural land.
  • Makes some administrative changes to ACEP that will make the program easier to use for farmers and conservation organizations.
  • Increases baseline funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which provides funding for conservation activities through public-private partnerships.

Problematic:

  • Cuts funding for working lands conservation programs by nearly $5 billion over 10 years.
  • Eliminates the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which provides farmers with comprehensive support to address natural resources concerns on their property while keeping their land in production. Replaces CSP with Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) stewardship contracts that do not have the core features of CSP and will not have an equal amount of funding.
  • Allows 100% forested land to be eligible for ACEP, diluting the funding available for easements on working farms.

 

Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers

Good:

  • Reauthorizes and continues existing mandatory funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), which provides competitively awarded grants to academic institutions, state extension services, producer groups, and community organizations to support and train new farmers and ranchers.
  • Expands the focus of BFRDP to include food safety training, land access, and succession planning.
  • Includes a new Farmland Tenure, Transition, and Entry Data Initiative to collect important data on farmland ownership, tenure, transition, barriers to entry, profitability and viability of beginning farmers in order to improve policymaking and analysis.
  • Reauthorizes and maintains level funding for the Transition Incentives Program (CRP-TIP) to help facilitate the transition of farmland coming out of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to the next generation of farmers. But it does not make needed administrative changes to improve the effectiveness of the program.

Problematic:

  • Farm Service Agency (FSA) guaranteed operating loan limits are increased without increasing overall program funding, thereby decreasing the opportunity for small-scale and beginning farmers to access loans.
  • No increases to FSA direct farm ownership loan limits.

 

Local and Regional Food Systems and Rural Development

Good:

  • Increases mandatory funding to $275 million over 5 years for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program (FINI), which provides competitive grants to projects that help low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables through incentives.

Problematic:

  • Provides no mandatory funding for the Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP), which is a competitive grant program to help farmers and processors comply with new food safety requirements.
  • Provides no mandatory funding for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP), which is a competitive grant program that funds direct-to-consumer marketing strategies as well as local and regional food business enterprises.
  • Provides no mandatory funding for the Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG), which provides competitively awarded grants to producers to create or develop value-added producer-owned businesses.
  • Eliminates the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP), which helps small and mid-sized organic farm businesses afford annual certification costs.

 

Research

Good:

  • Provides a $10 million increase in mandatory funding for the Organic Agriculture Research & Extension Initiative (OREI), which supports research projects that address the most critical challenges that organic farmers face.

Problematic:

  • Reauthorizes the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE), which provides funding for farmer-driven research, but provides no increases in funding.
  • Reauthorizes the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which provides competitive grants to researchers to solve pressing challenges facing farmers and society, but provides no increases in funding.
  • Reauthorizes the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), which provides competitive grants for regional and multi-state projects that conduct research related to specialty crops, but provides no increases in funding.

 

Although there are many aspects of this bill that need to be improved for the benefit of Maine farmers, the vote by the House Agriculture Committee is just the first step. The full House of Representatives is supposed to vote on the bill in May. We urge you to contact your representative, either Congresswoman Chellie Pingree or Congressman Bruce Poliquin, to make your voice heard about this bill.

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

Garlic Planting

Government Spending Package Contains Important Funding for Maine Farms

On March 23, 2018, the President signed a government spending package (the “omnibus appropriations bill”) to fund federal programs through September 30, 2018. The bill divides up the $2 billion in increased agricultural funding that was obtained through the budget deal reached by Congress in February. This increased funding provides much-needed investment in rural infrastructure, farm conservation, sustainable agriculture research, rural business development, outreach and technical assistance, food safety training, and farm credit programs. Specifically, the omnibus appropriations bill provides the following for agriculture and rural development programs:

 

 

Because the Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations process was so late, the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees in both the House and the Senate are currently receiving appropriations requests for their Fiscal Year 2019 bills. In Maine, we are lucky to have representatives on both of those committees – Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Senator Susan Collins. Now is a great time to reach out to both of them and let them know the importance of having sufficient funding for the programs that are vital to Maine farms.

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.