Henry A. Wallace Institute Agricultural Policy Project

Farm Foundation joined the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to cosponsor the Agriculture Policy Project of the Henry A. Wallace Center for Agricultural & Environmental Policy at Winrock International. The project sought grass-roots input into agricultural and environmental policy in the debate over the 2002 farm bill. The project targeted smaller farmers, farmers interested in organic and other alternative production systems and others with interests in the relationship between agricultural production and environmental quality. Farm Foundation sponsored project planning and the involvement of agricultural economists to help set the project parameters.

The final set of recommendations, Making Changes: Turning Local Visions into National Solutions were published in May 2001 and distributed to key private and public decision makers. The publication is available here.

The project involved 350 farmers, livestock producers, business people, and civic leaders and resulted in 95 recommendations for improving U.S. farm and rural development policies. The recommendations focus on changes that promote a sustainable food and agricultural system, including programs to enhance agricultural marketing, strengthen farmland protection, and address water and air quality.

The project started with a diverse group of people who took part in 12 local, three regional, and one national policy visioning sessions. These participants identified agriculture or economic development problems facing their communities. Nine national policy analysts then examined the work of the 16 policy sessions, and developed national-level food and agricultural policy recommendations that directly responded to the concerns and ideas of the participants.

The project’s report was presented to Congress and the Administration for consideration in the upcoming Farm Bill debate and other longer-term efforts for developing policies for food and agricultural systems, and economic development in rural areas.

The nine national policy analysts who worked with the project’s local participants were: Ken Clayton, Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA; Dave Freshwater, University of Kentucky; Janie Hipp, Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Ferd Hoefner, Sustainable Agriculture Coalition; Chris Novak, American Soybean Association; Tom Simpson, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Maryland; Ann Sorensen, American Farmland Trust; Rick Welsh, Clarkson University; and Irene Winkler, Pilgrim RC&D Area Council.

Members of the project’s Advisory Council are Keith Jones, National Organic Program, USDA; Mark Lipson, Organic Farming Research Foundation, Santa Cruz, CA; Pam Mavrolas, Helena, MT; Bill Northey, Innovative Farms, Spirit Lake, IA; Thomas Payne, University of Missouri; Ronald Rowers, University of Missouri; Ann Robinson, Des Moines, IA; Barbara Rusmore, Artemisia Associates, Bozeman, MT; Steve Stevenson, University of Wisconsin; Marty Strange, Randolph, VT; Hollis Watkins, Southern Echo, Jackson, MS; and Kent Yeager, Indiana Farm Bureau, Indianapolis, IN.

Making Changes presents the project participants’ 95 recommendations in nine issue areas. The highlights of those recommendations are:

1.  Federal agricultural policy explicitly supporting small and diversified farms: Develop a new Small Farm Title for the 2002 Farm Bill that increases federal support for small-scale and diversified farms.

2. Market access in the face of consolidation and vertical integration: Encourage the U.S. Department of Justice to pay more attention to agriculture sector mergers and broaden its focus on the impact of mergers to include producers. Strengthen the Agricultural Fair Practices Act to prohibit confidentiality clauses and to require processors to bargain in good faith with producer groups.

3. Alternative marketing channels: Broaden the use and authority of existing programs to support the development of marketing and processing cooperatives to benefit small-scale farmers. Strengthen programs that support direct marketing of food and other agricultural products. Study the effect of new and existing laws and regulations on small-scale processors and marketers.

4. Research and cooperative extension: Develop a new Agricultural Community Revitalization and Enterprise Program to provide grants for expanding economic opportunities and revitalizing agricultural communities. Improve requirements for stakeholder input into land-grant institution research agendas. Earmark a portion of research funding for multi-disciplinary applied research.

5.  Economic and rural development: Strengthen the nation’s rural development infrastructure to include agriculture. Provide adequate support and improved coordination and information services for loans to small farms and businesses. Enhance the integration of USDA and Small Business Administration programs to assist farmers and agricultural businesses.

6.  Special populations of farmers and farmers in “pockets of poverty”: Form and support a White House Commission on Rural Poverty to address the causes and effects of “pockets of poverty.” Strengthen the USDA Office of Outreach.

7. Young, beginning, and retiring farmers and ranchers: Remove barriers to new farm entry by modifying existing USDA credit programs to meet the needs of beginning farmers and ranchers. Develop USDA education, outreach, and research programs to assist beginning farmers, and improve assistance to retiring farmers and ranchers.

8.  Farmland preservation and sprawl management: Strengthen and broaden the USDA Farmland Protection Program.Implement a partnership between USDA and EPA to address farmland protection and sprawl management. Support the National Spatial Data Infrastructure. Implement policies that link farmland protection, natural resource, and agricultural economic development programs in areas where farmland is threatened.

9.  Water and air quality: Develop farm and watershed management plans for nutrients and include nutrients and ammonia deposition in plans and management standards. Develop a Yield Reserve Program. Implement research to refine monitoring and measuring of agricultural air quality emissions and increased local monitoring. Coordinate regulation of air and water pollution, and review USDA’s and EPA’s current coordination on agro-environmental problems.


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