2007 Farm Bill

NESAWG organizes Northeast stakeholders to participate in public policy development. We bring a Northeast voice to federal policy, and ensure Northeast farmers and others make optimal use of federal programs. The Farm Bill User Guide (below) is an interactive online reference about the 2007 Farm Bill. It focuses on the programs and policies that are particularly relevant to the Northeast.

The U.S. Farm Bill is about you! It is the primary food and agricultural policy tool of the Federal government. It impacts our region’s food supply and quality, our farms, and our communities. Use this online guide to learn about the Farm Bill and — more importantly — to help you shape its implementation and benefit from its programs!



What is the Farm Bill?

The Farm Bill is a complex federal law that periodically reauthorizes permanent legislation passed in the 1930s and ‘40s. Initially, the Farm Bill was concerned with farm production, soil conservation and income support. The periodic reauthorization allows U.S. farm and food programs and policies to be adjusted to reflect current needs and conditions. Now, the Farm Bill also addresses broad conservation objectives, food assistance, nutrition programs, trade, marketing, research and education, agricultural credit, food safety, forestry, rural development and energy. To many of us, the 2008 Farm Bill is a mix of good and bad. While the controversial farm support programs remained essentially unchanged, the new law contains many provisions and programs that are good for our region.

The Farm Bill is divided into Titles. In the 2008 law there are fifteen Titles:
I. Commodity Programs
II. Conservation
III. Trade
IV. Nutrition Programs
V. Credit
VI. Rural Development
VII. Research and Related Matters
VIII. Forestry
IX. Energy
X. Horticulture and Organic Agriculture
XI. Livestock
XII. Crop Insurance
XIII. Commodity Futures
XIV. Miscellaneous
XV. Trade and Taxes

Within each Title, there are dozens – sometimes hundreds – of provisions. Some amend previous language, while others create brand new programs. Not every program and provision is equally important to the Northeast region. For this Northeast Users’ Guide, we highlighted those that are most relevant to our farmers, eaters and advocates.

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What’s good about the Farm Bill for the Northeast?

A lot! Despite some fundamental flaws with this major piece of federal legislation, the 2008 Farm Bill has more to offer Northeast farmers, families and food system advocates than any previous farm bill. Consider that over the next five years the Farm Bill sets aside:

• Over $2 billion for nutrition and food safety net programs such as promoting fresh fruits and vegetables in school lunch and food assistance programs
• Over $1.8 billion for farm viability and agriculture-related economic development such as grant and loan programs for farm and food enterprises, local agriculture, organic agriculture, and specialty crop support which includes programs for fruits, vegetables, and horticultural crops
• Over $11.5 billion for conservation and farmland protection such as the Farmland Protection Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program
• Over $1 billion for regionally appropriate farm energy production such as using cellulose, grass, and wood as renewable energy sources
• Over $75 million for beginning farmer support such as the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program which offers competitive grants for beginning farmer programming

This Northeast User Guide features dozens of Farm Bill programs and provisions that respond to Northeast priorities. Find out about them all here.

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Why care about the Farm Bill now?

It’s not over! Many groups and citizens fought hard to pass the bill. But our work is not over. After a bill is made into law, it must be implemented. This means developing rules and regulations, securing funding for programs, and then using and evaluating them. The public policy process is never done. There are crucial opportunities for groups and citizens to influence and benefit from Farm Bill implementation – or we could lose out. We must provide input, apply for grant and cost-share programs, advocate for annual appropriations and conduct outreach to make sure that farmers, community groups, consumers, and conservationists benefit from its programs and policies.


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What can you do?

Plenty! The purpose of this Guide is to help Northeast groups and citizens take action in Farm Bill implementation. Here’s how it works.

First, search the User Guide to find out about the programs and provisions that are important to the Northeast. With each, you’ll see actions you or your group can take. These include:

1. Provide input: Help shape rules (e.g., guidelines for grant applications or rules that USDA must follow when administering Farm Bill provisions) by submitting comments and testimony and participating in USDA-hosted stakeholder input sessions. You can provide input as an individual or through a group or organization.

2. Spread the word: This is so important. Do outreach to make sure your neighbors, group, or constituents know about funds, services and other opportunities so that they can take advantage of them.

3. Apply for grant funding: Many Farm Bill programs have funds that farmers, community groups, and others can apply for through competitive grant programs. Look for these announcements on the USDA website, the Federal Register (www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/). Build appropriate collaborations and submit proposals.

4. Apply for program funds or services: There are ample opportunities to benefit from Farm Bill programs, such as cost-share for farmers for conservation activities, food stamps for families, loans for beginning farmers and infrastructure grants for economic development groups.

5. Help secure annual appropriations: Many programs are authorized in the Farm Bill, but without mandatory funding. This means that unless Congress appropriates funds for it, the program exists only on paper. The appropriations process is an annual ritual. Many advocacy groups work together to organize appropriations campaigns—connect with them through their websites, list serves, or newsletters to make your voice heard!

6. Work with state agencies (agriculture, health, conservation): Some Farm Bill programs are implemented through state departments. Groups and citizens can help their states shape priorities and direct dollars.

Next, find out which actions are “front burner” -- and take action! This Farm Bill work is not static. There are timeframes and deadlines, announcements and alerts. Stay in touch with what’s going on in two places:


  • NE-FOOD list serve. The list serve will post announcements for actions – comment periods for USDA rulemaking, action alerts by advocacy groups, and so on. You can post your announcement or take steps urged by others’ postings. You’ll also find an up-to-the minute selection of action in the list serve’s monthly newsletter, Potluck. To subscribe to this lively, go-to list for Northeasterners, visit: https://elist.tufts.edu/wws/subscribe/nefood

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Why focus on the Northeast?

As federal legislation, the Farm Bill impacts every region in the country. Regions are different, and a one-size-fits-all approach does not adequately address the unique characteristics of each region. Regionalism is a framework that addresses regional characteristics and needs, emphasizes flexibility and equity, and fosters regional solutions.

Historically, the Northeast has gotten the short end of federal farm policy. Yet, our agriculture makes vital contributions at local, state, regional and national levels. Moreover, the Northeast -- Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia – is a leader in farm-direct marketing, farmers’ markets, local and community-based food movements, rural-urban connections, and specialty crops. We deserve a farm bill that responds to our priorities.


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What are the farm bill programs that address our priorities?


In the two years leading up to the passage of this Farm Bill, Northeast farm and food system advocates – from state agencies to regional groups and local grassroots organizations -- collaborated to identify ten priorities for the Northeast.

Each priority below links to a list of Farm Bill programs and provisions. Click here for their descriptions, along with action steps you can take.

Farm Viability and Economic Development

1. Foster economic and regional market development.

2. Provide appropriate safety net and risk management tools for Northeast farmers.

3. Support the Northeast dairy industry.

4. Provide incentives for regionally appropriate farm energy production and efficiency.


5. Significantly increase funding for working lands conservation programs.

6. Provide appropriate conservation program flexibility to address national, state, and local resource concerns and priorities.

7. Provide more technical assistance with greater flexibility in how it can be used.

Food and Nutrition
8. Assure food security for all Northeast citizens.
9. Promote access to fresh, local and culturally appropriate foods.
10. Encourage and promote programs that reflect national health goals and nutrition guidelines.

In addition to these ten priority areas, there are other Farm Bill programs and provisions that are important to the Northeast. You will find them listed here.

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Farm Bill Resources


Here are links to some of the many organizations and networks working on federal farm and food policy. If you would like to add your group to this list, please contact us.

General Farm Bill Resources
• Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, http://www.nesawg.org/
• Northeast Food and Farm Network, http://www.nefood.org/
• USDA 2008 Farm Bill Side-by-Side, http://www.ers.usda.gov/FarmBill/2008/
• National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Grassroots Guide to the 2008 Farm Bill, http://sustainableagriculturecoalition.org/publications/grassrootsguide/
• USDA Farm Bill Page, http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/farmbill2008?navid=FARMBILL2008
• USDA (site for all its agencies and offices that implement Farm Bill programs and funding), http://www.usda.gov/
• US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, http://agriculture.senate.gov/
• US House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture, http://agriculture.house.gov/inside/FarmBill.html

Applying for Grants and Commenting on Rules and Appropriations
• Grants.Gov, http://www.grants.gov/
• Federal Register, http://www.gpoaccess.gov/

National and Regional Organizations Working on farm and food policy
• National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, http://sustainableagriculturecoalition.org/
• Community Food Security Coalition, http://www.foodsecurity.org/
• Rural Advancement Foundation International, http://www.rafiusa.org/
• Northeast Midwest Institute, http://www.nemw.org/
• Organic Farming Research Foundation, http://ofrf.org/
• National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, www.nasda.org
• National Organic Coalition, http://www.nationalorganiccoalition.org/
• Northeast Organic Dairy Producers, http://www.nodpa.com/
• Farmers’ Legal Action Group, http://www.flaginc.org/
• Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, http://www.competitiveagriculture.org/
• Rural Coalition, http://www.ruralco.org/
• National Family Farm Coalition, www.nffc.net
• Northeast States Association for Agricultural Stewardship, http://www.csgeast.org/content.asp?pageID=23
• CATA (Farmworker Support Committee), www.cata-farmworkers.org
• American Farmland Trust, http://www.farmland.org/
• Environmental Defense Fund, http://www.edf.org/
• Northern Forest Alliance, http://www.northernforestalliance.org/
• Wilderness Society, http://wilderness.org/
• National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, www.nasda.org
• National Organic Coalition, http://www.nationalorganiccoalition.org/
• Chesapeake Bay Foundation, www.cbf.org
• Northeast Organic Farming Association , www.nofa.org
• Food Research and Action Center, http://frac.org/
• Northeast Midwest Institute, http://www.nemw.org/
• United Fresh Produce Association, http://www.unitedfresh.org/



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The Northeast User Guide to the 2008 Farm Bill is an online publication of the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG). Its lead authors and designers are: Larry Dixon, consultant; Roger Doiron, NESAWG Regional Organizer; and Kathy Ruhf, NESAWG Coordinator. As a companion to the User Guide, NESAWG is producing a Farm Bill presentation in several formats.

This Farm Bill User Guide would not have been possible without the valuable input and advice from the following collaborators whom NESAWG gratefully acknowledges and appreciates: Sara Cawthon; Becky Ceartas, Rural Advancement Foundation International; Bruce Clendenning, Northern Forest Alliance; Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust; Fern Gale Estrow, Food Systems Network NYC; Alan Hance, Chesapeake Bay Trust; Annette Higby, National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture; Ferd Hoefner, Zach Baker and Aimee Witteman, Sustainable Agriculture Coalition; Liana Hoodes, National Organic Action Plan; Alan Hunt, Northeast Midwest Institute; Marge Kilkelly, Northeast States Association for Agricultural Stewardship; Margaret Krome, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute; Tracy Lerman, Organic Farming Research Foundation; Britt Lundgren, Environmental Defense Fund; Richard Mandelbaum, CATA; and Jeremy B. Sheaffer, The Wilderness Society.

This project was supported in part with funding from the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, the Lawson Valentine Foundation and the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.



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