The Farm Bill is taking shape. We will continue to report on it in this blog. Marker bills are circulating now and are are seeing the outline of the final bill. Here are some resources to help you understand things as they come along.
There was a listening session on the Farm Bill at Minnesota's Farm Fest on August 2. Here's a link to watch the video of this event:
There will be a second listening session happening on Wednesday, August 16 in La Crosse, Wisconsin, beginning at 1:00 PM CT at the La Crosse Center at 300 Harborview Plaza, La Crosse. Register at this link:
Information from Congress
Congressional Research Service: https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF12047 and
Podcast from Brownstein law firm
For those who prefer to listen rather than read: https://www.bhfs.com/insights/podcasts/an-introduction-to-the-2023-farm-bill
Information from Farm Aid
Farm Bill Primer (history, politics, twelve titles, more): https://www.farmaid.org/issues/farm-policy/farm-bill-101/
Updates on Farm Bill progress: https://www.farmaid.org/issues/farm-policy/the-latest-updates-on-the-2023-farm-bill/
From PASA Sustainable Agriculture
What is a marker bill? https://pasafarming.org/farm-bill-101-whats-a-marker-bill/
Documents from the Mississippi River Network with background
Membership in the Climate Interest Group is open to all LWV members. The CIG has ten teams that are organized around ten topic areas - you can link to these teams from the CIG website. The teams meet monthly by Zoom, sharing information on research and events linked to their topic.
LWV UMRR would welcome members from these groups providing updates on these meetings to UMRR so that we can all benefit from the work of the CIG. If you are interested in being a link between UMRR and these groups, please email us at email@example.com. Thanks!
Our featured presenters are Alicia Vasto from the Iowa Environmental Council speaking on the Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience initiative (MRRRI), Brandt Thorington from the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative on the Safeguarding the Mississippi River Together initiative (SMRT), Lara Bryant from the Natural Resources Defense Council speaking on behalf of the Clean Water For All Coalition on the Farm Bill reauthorization and Kirsten Wallace from the Upper Mississippi River Basin Authority on the notion of an Upper Midwest Compact to protect the waters of the Mississippi from diversion. We have more information on the speakers in this post on the UMRR Blog.
This video was recorded on May 21 at 10:30. This video is presented by the League of Women Voters Upper Mississippi River Region. To learn more about our organization and our work, visit our website at https://www.lwvumrr.org/ .
The answer is that Congress is one piece – an important one – of the solution to the Mississippi’s woes. In the UMRR Annual Meeting, we will have an exciting panel of speakers to talk about bills currently in the US Congress that have the potential to greatly affect our river. We will also explore the idea of a “compact” between river states to protect the river from water diversions. This session will set the stage for the work that LWV UMRR will tackle in the years to come.
Join LWV UMRR for this session on May 21 at 10:30. This meeting will be held in Webinar format on Zoom - pre-registration is required. Click this link to pre-register! You will receive the link to the meeting by return email; we will send reminders in May, including on the 21st. Registration is open until the meeting starts on May 21 at 10:30.
We have a great slate of panelists for this session - representatives from other organizations working for the river and leading work on federal bills and big ideas. We will cover the Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience initiative (MRRRI), the Safeguarding the Mississippi River Together initiative (SMRT), the Farm Bill reauthorization and a big idea - the notion of an Upper Midwest Compact to protect the waters of the Mississippi from diversion. Our speakers represent organizations that are working to protect the Mississippi.
Environmental outcomes of the US Renewable Fuel Standard - the impacts of corn ethanol on carbon levels
On Feb 14, 2022, a group of researchers from the Universities of Wisconsin, Kansas, Kentucky and California published a paper that examines the overall impact of the US Renewable Fuel Standard on carbon in our atmosphere. Here's a link to that article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Based on their analysis, the researchers showed that ethanol from corn and other biofuels actually add to green house gases.
The researchers conclude that when considerations such as land use changes, increased fertilizer use, impacts of ethanol production and more, corn ethanol can actually be increasing green house gases. Corn ethanol is the current cornerstone of renewable fuels.
Corn ethanol was found to be worse for the environment than gasoline in this paper. Researchers from other institutions will add their analyses as they test the hypotheses of this paper. That is how science works, through testing and data, and rigorous discussion based on facts.
Science has become politicized, and it is likely that there will be much bluster and ballyhoo about this research, too. Depending on where you get your news, the interpretation will change. It's good to look at the data that the conclusions are based on and keep an open mind when the research is discussed.
This article, on the Civil Eats website, provides a good summary of the paper for non-scientific audiences from an environmental perspective. Limited reading of the article is allowed before the paywall closes. This article is from one of the authors of the paper, is a statement of findings in his own words on the UC Davis website. It is also a good summary of the findings.
Alan Guebert bio: Alan Guebert was raised on a 720-acre, 100-cow dairy farm in southern Illinois. After graduating the University of Illinois in 1980, he served as an associate editor at Professional Farmers of America in Cedar Falls, Iowa and Successful Farming magazine in Des Moines. Later he spent eight years as a contributing editor for Farm Journal magazine of Philadelphia.
In 1993, Guebert began the Farm and Food File, a weekly newspaper column on farm and food policy and politics. Twenty-eight years and 1 million words later, the Farm and Food File continues to be published weekly in 26 states and two Canadian provinces.
Guebert currently lives in Madison, WI, with his spouse, the lovely Catherine. They have two children and three grandchildren.
Fishers and Farmers' outreach work is helping people connect in their local watersheds around the water they share. F&F programs Online and On-Air are must-see's - click the picture below and take a look at their resources.
You can learn about upcoming radio programs (like the May 15 broadcast of Neighbor to Neighbor with Pam Jahnke, which will focus on the Cedar River and Black Hawk Creek watersheds) and live conversations (like Boots on the Ground, an upcoming interactive conversation on May 20 focused on the Polk County, Iowa, Soil and Water Conservation District), as well as find recordings of past sessions that take you all around the Upper Mississippi.
Fishers and Farmers' website has many excellent resources - take a look today! Thanks to F&F for their work to bring people together and improve soil health and water quality in the Upper Mississippi Basin!
LWV UMRR Advocacy Update - and how you can get involved in comments to the proposed Clean Water Rule
The dual mission of League of Women Voters - to educate voters and advocate on issues - is exemplified in the work of the LWV Upper Mississippi River Region. We provide information on a variety of topics in this blog, through our newsletter, and in the educational meetings we co-sponsor with local Leagues. And we advocate, through taking and advocating for positions on key issues. This post provides an update on work we are doing in three areas; the Farm Bill, the Clean Water Rule and Foxconn.
Farm Bill: The conference committee report, which reconciles the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, was released early today. The Senate has already approved it, and a vote is expected in the House tomorrow. Here's a link to a summary of the bill, from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. LWV UMRR has been participating in conference calls with this coalition, and on Dec 11 signed on to a letter to Congressional leadership urging final passage of the bill . The bill has many positive components, including continued support for income-based food support, strong and expanded conservation program funding, additional supports for dairy farmers and even a provision to ease restrictions on the growing of hemp. We will include more information on this bill in blog posts to come, so stay tuned. The full text of the bill can be read here.
Clean Water Act preservation and support: LWV US was very involved supporting the initial passage of the Clean Water Act in 1970. (Read the history of LWV Clean Water Act advocacy here.) We are continuing this work through advocacy in two areas where our current federal administration is seeking to roll back Clean Water Act protections. One rollback is the rewrite of the Clean Water Rule. This multi-part rulemaking revolves around the definition of "Waters of the US". Here is the US, EPA rulemaking page, proposed changes were just announced on December 11, and a 60-day comment period will soon begin. LWV UMRR will work with LWV US to participate in this rule making. If you are interested in learning more about this proposed rule, and helping LWV UMRR prepare comments, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will send you materials and set up a conference call to discuss possible comment areas. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: The Environmental Integrity Project has issued a report on the impact of this potential rule change on Chesapeake Bay - Read more about it here.
LWV UMRR and LWV US have also signed on to a letter to EPA, urging them to maintain the existing Clean Water Act 404(c) rules. These rules have been used by environmental groups to counter environmentally damaging projects. The sign-on letter was started by the National Wildlife Federation.
Click here to read the letter. Click here to see the list of organizations that have signed on to the letter.
Foxconn: LWV Wisconsin has lead LWV efforts to oppose the withdrawal of more than 7 million gallons per day of Lake Michigan water for this new industrial development near Racine. LWV Lake Michigan is party to the Petition seeking reconsideration by WI DNR. LWV Upper Mississippi has made a resolution in opposition, and will continue to find ways to work against this transfer. You can read the resolution here.
LWV UMRR will be traveling to southeastern Wisconsin for our February Board meeting. We will seek to meet with Leagues in the area to talk about the project, get an update and see how the recent change of administration in Wisconsin may affect things. Once the plans for this meeting are set, we will share them here on our 'Upcoming Events" page. There are three previous blog posts on Foxconn:
Farm Bill Update from National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Blog
With the 2014 Farm Bill now expired without an extension in place, all eyes are now on the congressional leaders heading up the Farm Bill Conference Committee. The Committee leaders, which include Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee Pat Roberts (R-KS), Ranking Member Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee Mike Conaway (R-TX), Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN), are currently working behind the scenes in an attempt to negotiate a new bill by the end of the year.
Negotiations have proven difficult because of the substantive differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The Senate bill, for example, was approved with broad bipartisan support, while the House only narrowly passed along partisan lines after initially failing on the House floor. The differences between the two draft bills can be found across nearly all twelve of the farm bill’s titles, including the conservation title.
Rye cover crops in Harford County Maryland. Cover crops are among the conservation practices supported by CSP. Photo credit: Edwin Remsberg, USDA.
Within the conservation title, the biggest split is on the future of the farm bill’s working lands conservation programs: the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program(EQIP). In the Senate bill, both major working lands programs are kept whole, and important policy improvements are made to each that increase access and environmental benefits. The bill also cuts funding for each program by equal amounts to help pay for a needed funding increase of agricultural conservation easements.
The House bill took a much different approach. The House proposes to eliminate our nation’s only comprehensive working lands conservation program, CSP, entirely. This elimination is justified by the claim that the House bill would transfer the key components of CSP to EQIP, along with a portion of CSP funding – a myth we refute in more detail below. While the House bill does transfer some CSP funding, it still cuts $5 billion in total conservation funding. The proposed elimination of CSP would also reduce agricultural sustainability and cut working lands funding from a large number of key agricultural states, denying farmers and ranchers access to comprehensive conservation support.
Please visit the NSAC blog to read more on the CSP and what's at stake in these negotiations!
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