As a former crop insurance agent and current organic almond producer and processor from a long-time farm family in Fresno, Steve Koretoff spoke truth to power in a recent visit to Washington, D.C. Mr. Koretoff joined six representatives of the California caucus of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) for meetings with congressional staff to discuss farm bill priorities, including defending organic and conservation programs from disproportionate funding cuts.
Later this month, the Senate Agriculture Committee will begin hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill. The hearings come after the failed Super Committee process where, as part of a larger deficit reduction package, congressional leaders attempted to finalize a new farm bill. Also later this month, NSAC will release its coalition farm bill platform, which outlines, in detail, proposed changes to the farm bill to better support family farmers, conservation, local and regional food markets, renewable energy and rural communities.
At the end of January, our delegation of sustainable and organic agriculture advocates and producers met with the offices of several members of California’s congressional delegation – Democrats and Republicans alike. Top on our agenda was urging support for two NSAC-sponsored farm bill “marker bills”: The Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act.
Together, the two bills would create new local food market opportunities for farmers and consumers, improve organic farm programs, including organic crop insurance, and ease access to land and capital for beginning farmers and ranchers – all key issues for California agriculture.
Steve Koretoff knows first-hand the importance of organic and conservation programs and the need to see changes to better support conservation-oriented farms. Among the issues he raised in our meetings with congressional staff is the 5 percent surcharge holders of organic crop insurance have to pay on top of their premiums, a charge that their conventional neighbors do not pay. Experience has shown that organic farming is not any more risky than its conventional counterpart. Thus, such a surcharge on organic crop insurance creates an unfair disadvantage for organic producers. The Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act would eliminate the organic surcharge and level the playing field for organic producers.
Many of the issues addressed in the two NSAC-sponsored bills were also raised as key farm bill priorities by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
Get involved by asking your Congressional member to support the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act and Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act. Click here to see a growing list of bill co-sponsors.