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Farm Bill 2007: What it means for Marin - Part I

With plans for the 2007 Farm Bill in the works, we need to look at issues that surround California agriculture, particularly those that will affect agriculture in Marin. The University of California Agriculture Issues Center has prepared a set of Farm Bill briefing papers covering key issues relating to California, and explaining topics such as organic agriculture, nutrition issues, and California dairy issues. 

With organic production and consumption rising here in Marin, it is important to understand what the 2007 Farm Bill proposes for organic agriculture. It mentions organic agriculture in the Conservation Title under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, in the Trade Title under the Market Access Program, and in the Research Title.

In the USDA's proposal, the total funding for organic agriculture is $61 million. A majority of this money ($50 million and/or $5 million over a ten-year period) is an increase in the organic program to pay part of the costs of organic certification, with an increased maximum of $750 per recipient. There is also $10 million in mandatory research funding in organic agriculture to focus on environmental and conservation impacts of organic agriculture and seed development. The remaining $1 million will go towards market and production data collection and publication.  These areas are not new ideas, but rather continued or expanded upon from the funding of the 2002 Farm Bill. 

Seeing as how the organic community was so pleased with the ideas concerning organic agriculture in the 2002 Farm Bill, they are now working to expand the funding in areas introduced in the last Farm Bill. Organic research groups are seeking funding for research specifically on organic agriculture. The Organic Farming Research Foun-dation has requested an increase in the USDA's Agriculture Research Service's research, an increase in information for organic growers that is to be developed by USDA's Inte-grated Pest Management Centers, and the formation of a National Research Initiative to study organic plant and animal breeding. The Organic Trade Association also supports the idea of increased funding for organic research, data collection, and incentives payments, as well as the idea that all organic growers be exempted from the commodity program assessments, not just growers who are 100 percent organic.

Another area of the 2007 Farm Bill that is of great concern to Marin agriculture is the dairy portion. With milk being the largest commodity produced here, the policies set forth in the Farm Bill will have an impact on milk and milk producers. The dairy industry has a strong interest in the 2007 Farm Bill in the Nutrition title, with concentration in school milk programs, the Women, Infants, and Children programs (WIC), and provisions related to nutrition information and education. These programs play a key role in stimulating the demand for milk and market in the future. 

Due to the strict environmental standards that California dairy producers face, the Conservation title has very important potential consequences as well. The Farm Bill conservation programs can help dairy farmers meet the standards using cost sharing and programs that pay for producers to develop environmentally friendly practices. In the Energy title, it explains how California dairy farms are major users of feed grains, oilseeds, silage, and hay. Seeing as how these prices have risen a great deal in 2007 due to the increased ethanol demand, a Farm Bill that focuses on increasing the use of agricultural feedstocks for fuel will make the feed prices climb even higher and severely affect the dairy industry.

This material is available in greater depth at www.aic.ucdavis.edu under the Research section, titled Farm Bill 2007.  - Anne Kehoe