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Congress Needs to Pass a Good Farm Bill


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Guest Oxfam

I feel very strongly that Congress should reform the 2007 Farm Bill.

 

Devised during the Great Depression, the Farm Bill was designed to give American farmers a safety net when the market bottomed out. Today's Farm Bill gives out large government payments to producers of a small number of crops. Most American farmers get little or none of these commodity subsidies. Meanwhile, these subsidies don't alleviate the biggest problems in rural communities: lack of medical services, poor schools, population loss, and environmental degradation.

 

While the Farm Bill underperforms in the US, it also hurts farmers in developing countries. By encouraging the overproduction of crops such as cotton and rice, commodity subsidies create a glut that drives down world prices, undermining the livelihoods of millions of small farmers around the world.

 

All in all, a revamped 2007 Farm Bill can help poor people and rural communities in the US and abroad lift themselves out of poverty. Together with your other constituents, I urge you to reduce misguided agriculture subsidies and redirect the money to the programs that need it most: conservation, nutrition, rural development, and the research and development of renewable sources of energy.

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Guest USDA Press Office

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today unveiled the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2007 farm bill proposals. The more than 65 proposals correspond to the 2002 farm bill titles with additional special focus areas, including specialty crops, beginning farmers and ranchers, and socially disadvantaged producers.

 

"We listened closely to producers and stakeholders all across the country and took a reform-minded and fiscally responsible approach to making farm policy more equitable, predictable and protected from challenge," said Johanns. "We started with the 2002 farm bill and propose to improve it by bolstering support for emerging priorities and focusing on a market-oriented approach."

 

USDA began preparations for the 2007 farm bill in 2005 by conducting 52 Farm Bill Forums across the country. More than 4,000 comments were recorded or collected during forums and via electronic and standard mail. These comments are summarized in 41 theme papers. USDA economists, led by Dr. Keith Collins, studied the comments and authored five analysis papers.

 

The proposals unveiled today represent the final phase of a nearly two year process. Each detailed proposal provides information about why a change is needed, the recommended solution, and relevant background information about the impacted program or policy.

 

Highlights of the proposals include (funding reflects ten year totals):

 

Increase conservation funding by $7.8 billion, simplify and consolidate conservation programs, create a new Environmental Quality Incentives Program and a Regional Water Enhancement Program

 

Provide $1.6 billion in new funding for renewable energy research, development and production, targeted for cellulosic ethanol, which will support $2.1 billion in guaranteed loans for cellulosic projects and includes $500 million for a bio-energy and bio-based product research initiative

 

Target nearly $5 billion in funding to support specialty crop producers by increasing nutrition in food assistance programs, including school meals, through the purchase of fruits and vegetables, funding specialty crop research, fighting trade barriers and expanding export markets

 

Provide $250 million to increase direct payments for beginning farmers and ranchers, reserve a percentage of conservation funds and provide more loan flexibility for down payment, land purchasing and farm operating loans

 

Support socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers by reserving a percentage of conservation assistance funds and providing more access to loans for down payments, land purchasing and farm operating

 

Strengthen disaster relief by establishing a revenue-based counter-cyclical program, providing gap coverage in crop insurance, linking crop insurance participation to farm program participation, and creating a new emergency landscape restoration program

 

Simplify and consolidate rural development programs while providing $1.6 billion in loans to rehabilitate all current Rural Critical Access Hospitals and $500 million in grants and loans for rural communities to decrease the backlog of rural infrastructure projects

 

Dedicate nearly $400 million to trade efforts to expand exports, fight trade barriers, and increase involvement in world trade standard-setting bodies

 

Simplify, modernize, and rename the Food Stamp Program to improve access for the working poor, better meet the needs of recipients and States, and strengthen program integrity

 

The Administration's 2007 farm bill proposals would spend approximately $10 billion less than the 2002 farm bill spent over the past five years (excluding ad-hoc disaster assistance), upholding the President's plan to eliminate the deficit in five years. These proposals would provide approximately $5 billion more than the projected spending if the 2002 farm bill were extended.

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Guest Senator Tom Harkin

There are many priorities in the farm bill. First, we need to ensure that our agricultural producers have a good system of income protection against swings in the markets and weather. There is no place in America where agriculture is a bigger part of the economy than my home state, and I fully appreciate that we need to keep strong protections for producers who face hard times.

 

At the same time, I appreciate that the fundamental safety net – not just for farmers, but for humankind – consists of the soil, water, air, plants, and animals that make life on this planet possible and sustainable. We have to be good stewards of the gifts that have been given to us!

 

In addition to long-standing challenges in conservation, we face major new challenges. The price of corn is resulting in record plantings, and many producers are even bringing marginal land into production that can now profitably grow a crop.

 

Planting on marginal land – land which otherwise might be used for grass or some other low intensity use – can be problematic, to say the least. As we look to the future, we need to recognize that these record plantings will take a terrible tool on the environment if they occur without using good conservation practices. The need for good conservation – conservation on working land – is greater than ever. If we are not careful, we could end up turning renewable fuels into a resource-depleting energy source, similar in some respects to fossil fuels.

 

There are two key programs promoting working land conservation: the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which focuses on cost share for projects and incentives that help address existing problems, and the Conservation Security Program that I authored in the 2002 farm bill, that promotes good land stewardship. These two aspects of conservation policy – first helping producers solve problems or make specific changes to their practices, and second giving them incentives to take their conservation to even higher levels – are the route to long-term improvements in resource conservation.

 

The Conservation Security Program was started with a simple premise – pay farmers not just for what they grow, but how they grow it. But rather than the broadly based program that we originally envisioned, the program was implemented on an extremely limited watershed-by-watershed basis. Farmers signed contracts only to be told that we did not have the money to fully pay them for the new practices they agreed to implement. Some producers were blocked from participating because of the crop they grow, such as specialty crop producers. And long term limits meant that under current law the program would continue to have anemic growth throughout the next farm bill.

 

Clearly, the program as implemented with severe funding limits does not meet the vision we had for it. It does not meet the urgent, critical need that you folks see on the land every day.

 

For the 2007 farm bill, I have a refinement that will consolidate, simplify, and streamline these two strong working land conservation programs into one even stronger program – creating a comprehensive program that reaches from individual projects to high levels of stewardship. I call it the Comprehensive Stewardship Incentives Program, or C-SIP.

 

The new, comprehensive program has two sections – the Environmental Quality section focused on cost share and incentives to address individual projects or practices, and the Stewardship section that focuses on broad-scale long-term stewardship. Uniting EQIP and CSP will make it easier for producers and NRCS to work with the programs, eliminate overlaps and gaps, and provide incentives for producers to move from basic levels of conservation up to increasingly higher and more comprehensive treatment of resources of concern.

 

The program would maintain full funding for the environmental quality section at current levels, with a specific allocation of mandatory funding every year. In the stewardship section, the program would allocate to each state an acreage amount to enroll in the program. My goal is to have enrolled around 80 million acres of working land in the stewardship section of CSIP by the end of the farm bill – twice as many as is authorized for the largest current conservation program, the Conservation Reserve Program.

 

Every acre of conservation counts. Technical assistance from NRCS is critical. One new feature of CSIP is the availability of technical assistance-only contracts. If all a farmer or rancher needs is assistance in creating a plan or the know-how to solve a conservation problem, these contracts will allow that. This has been the fundamental role of NRCS from the time of its creation more than seven decades ago.

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Guest Tracy Taylor Grondine

The American Farm Bureau Federation commends the House Agriculture Committee for passing Chairman Collin Peterson’s farm bill proposal. The committee bill is a balanced proposal that addresses the needs of a broader core of U.S. farmers, expanding benefits to literally all sectors of agriculture.

 

“The committee bill makes several significant reforms in farm programs that address increasingly broad sector needs. In addition to extending the safety net for program commodities, it provides $1.6 billion in funding to fruit and vegetable and horticultural crop producers in areas critical to their operations. By better balancing support programs between all types of crops, the bill further encourages farmers to plant for the market, not for the benefit of government programs. This is critical at a time when meeting changing demand for farm products for various uses, such as biofuels, will depend on producer flexibility.

 

“The bill’s nutrition and conservation titles are the best funded in farm bill history. It also has a strong energy title, with $2.5 billion in additional funding.

 

“Farm Bureau will continue to work with House leadership as the bill moves to the floor next week for debate.”

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So nancy pelosi is pulling out all of the stops on this. Since this bill is so near, and dear to her heart.

Ya see people; In order for her to get the BILL through, Nancy Pelosi has to bring out the moderates on this

because THIS farm bill is actually a fight within the democrat party.

 

People; I can't make this stuff up.

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http://washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/a...ORIAL/107250011

 

Pelosi's farm boondoggle

Amid the most prosperous farm economy in decades, as crop prices and farm incomes approach or exceed record levels, President Bush this year requested Congress to limit taxpayer-financed agriculture subsidies to farmers whose annual adjusted gross income was less than $200,000. In a mockery of reform in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Democrat-controlled chamber, the House Agriculture Committee has produced a farm-policy reauthorization bill that would dole out subsidies over the next five years to farmers with annual incomes as high as $1 million.

 

 

 

That's not all. The bill would also increase by 50 percent the annual maximum direct payment to qualifying farmers from $40,000 to $60,000. This, mind you, is in a country where the median household income in 2005 was $46,376, which is 3 percent below its 1999 inflation-adjusted level. The direct payment would double if the farmer's wife also tilled the soil. That brings it to $120,000, more than two-and-a-half times median household income. The bill would also remove the $75,000 cap for "marketing loan payments."

 

 

 

Overall, the big winners would continue to be the five major commodity programs — cotton, rice, wheat, corn and soybeans, whose farmers pocketed about $17 billion of the $19 billion in 2006 subsidies. Today, fewer than 10 percent of the nation's farms collect nearly 60 percent of the subsidy payments, while nearly 60 percent of farmers receive nothing. This will not change over the next five years if the House approves this travesty of a bill, which it will consider this week.

 

 

 

To ensure Mrs. Pelosi's embrace of its flawed bill, the House Agriculture Committee approved $1.8 billion in new payments over the next five years for the fruit and vegetable industry. Particularly galling is the continuation of the direct payments, which were introduced in 1996 under the revolutionary free-market-oriented Freedom to Farm Act. To wean the major-commodity farmers off the welfare dole to which they had become addicted since the New Deal era, the 1996 bill sought to replace traditional farm subsidies with a system of fixed, declining annual direct payments. These "transition payments" would cease after seven years.

 

 

 

However, "emergency" supplemental appropriations during the late 1990s routinely raised the welfare payments to farmers. The 2002 farm reauthorization bill reinstated the traditional subsidies and also renewed the direct payments, which had been established in 1996 to wean farmers from their subsidies. In this era of "Democratic reform," the new bill would retain both forms of welfare.

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This was sent to me by the America's Second Harvest The Nation's Food Bank Network:

 

This 2007 Farm Bill will increase funding for the nutrition title by $4 billion over the next five years. Included in the $4 billion increase, among other provisions, are increases in mandatory funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) food purchases from $140 million annually to $250 million in FY 2008, and indexing this amount each year thereafter to adjust for inflation, a $40 million annual increase for TEFAP food storage and distribution costs, and an increase in the minimum food stamp benefit. We are grateful for these and other efforts on the part of the House Agriculture Committee to help reduce hunger in America.

 

We need you to contact the House leadership today to communicate the importance of securing an additional $1.6 billion to cover the full cost of the nutrition title of the Farm Bill. Please fax a letter today to the offices of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) through the Hunger Action Center. Contact your State Senator today and urge him or her to support these important anti-hunger programs.

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Maybe you should try to do your home work a little bit better.

 

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Nancy McLernon, senior vice president of the Organization for International Investment, a Washington trade association of overseas companies with US subsidiaries, said the legislation would abrogate tax treaties.

 

"Treaties that are negotiated by our Treasury and approved by the Senate would be thrown in the trash," she said.

 

 

Doggett's measure also drew criticism from Louisiana Representative Jim McCrery, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee.

 

"This proposal will raise taxes on many businesses operating in the United States," McCrery said on Wednesday. "It will hurt our competitiveness and our standing in the world by carelessly violating a host of treaties."

 

 

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I guess you did not watch the debate over the farm bill. House Democrats proposed legislation that would make it harder for overseas companies to use tax havens to avoid taxes on U.S. profits, that drew immediate opposition from Republicans and the Bush administration.

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  • 1 month later...
Guest Second Harvest

URGENT ACTION NEEDED ON SENATE FARM BILL

 

The Senate is soon expected to take up the “Farm Bill” – legislation that will determine whether or not critical anti-hunger programs, such as the Food Stamp Program, the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), receive the funding they need to sufficiently serve growing numbers of hungry Americans across the country.

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Guest Sen. Patrick Leahy (D)

The Bush Administration is not letting up in their assault on dairy farmers. They opposed our Dairy Compact, and they have dug in their heels about strengthening the MILC program. Dairy farmers are only a market cycle away from hard times that can drive them off the land and out of business. It is unconscionable that President Bush now wants to undercut the safety net that stands between dairy farmers and ruinous downturns in their hard-earned income.

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Guest Sen. Bernie Sanders (I)

Once again, the White House is putting its far-right ideology ahead of the needs of the country. In this case, the President’s irresponsible promised veto will hurt family farmers, hungry children, and the environment. While this Farm Bill is not everything that I would want, it makes needed improvements in our nutrition programs, extends and improves the MILC program that is so important to family dairy farmers, and it puts additional emphasis on conservation and renewable biofuels. Americans said very clearly last November that they want change. President Bush should honor the wishes of the American people and withdraw his veto threat. The Bush Administration seems to have no trouble finding money to pay for the war in Iraq and tax cuts for the wealthy, but somehow there's just not enough money for hungry children.

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Guest Second Harvest

The Senate began consideration of the Farm Bill the week of November 5th; however, debate has stalled due to disagreements over how to proceed with amendments to the legislation. Passage of the Farm Bill is critical, as the legislation includes additional resources for food banks and their anti-hunger partner agencies to help ensure that charities are able to meet the significant demand for food assistance. Please call your Senators ASAP and urge them to pass a strong nutrition title as part of the Farm Bill before the Thanksgiving congressional recess begins the week of November 19. Please also urge your Senators to boost funding for vital nutrition assistance programs, including the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), that provides nutritious commodities to low-income Americans.

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Guest America's Second Harvest

Good News! After stalling in the Senate, the Farm Bill is now moving forward. As currently drafted, the Farm Bill provides new resources to food banks through increased funding for vital federal nutrition programs, including the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) and the Food Stamp Program.

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Guest Concerned Citizen

Although efforts continue in the Congress to develop a final Farm Bill that will secure the support of a majority of Members and the President, further progress on passage of a final bill will be delayed due to further negotiations and a two week congressional recess beginning March 14th. Please take action today and urge your Members of Congress to quickly pass a final Farm Bill that supports federal nutrition programs that feed low-income Americans.

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Guest American for Progress

The $289 billion, five-year Farm Bill, originally slated for completion in 2007, finally passed both houses of Congress by veto-proof majorities last week, despite criticism from environmentalists, some advocates for the poor, and economic conservatives. The bill is now on the cusp of a largely symbolic presidential veto. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post have come out supporting the veto, while prominent congressional leaders, from diverse states and parties, have been vocally opposed to components of the final bill. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a prominent farm bill reform advocate, said, "This bill was well designed to avoid every opportunity for serious reform of wasteful, outdated subsidy programs while actually piling on additional layers of unnecessary spending." While the bill does contain some giveaways to the powerful agro-business, Campus Progress explains that the Farm Bill encompasses far more than just farm subsidies. "Its influence goes far beyond agricultural policy. The bill affects public health, by shaping what Americans eat; the environment, by determining what land gets conserved and how much alternative energies are promoted; and global poverty, by playing a large part in setting U.S. crop prices."

 

A LITTLE FOR EVERYONE: The bill has tied together some unlikely bedfellows, making its final passage contingent on groups banding together on issues ranging from nutrition programs to fuel efficiency regulations to labor provisions. As part of early deliberations, for example, corn growers, Wall Street investment firms, and ethanol producers, worked for an aggressive renewable fuels standard (RFS). The California Coalition for Food and Farming brought together organic farmers, minority groups, urban food banks, and environmentalists to support a community reinvestment proposal. "No one is thrilled with all aspects of this deal, but we understand the delicate balance it took to get it done," said David Cleavinger, National Association of Wheat Growers president." The nutrition section includes hard-fought improvements in the rules and funding for food stamps and other programs. Though pleased with the food stamp provision, NETWORK, a faith-based anti-poverty organization, explained that they are "disappointed that there is no significant reform of the commodity subsidies that give unfair advantage to large landowners at the expense of small farmers in the U.S. and around the world."

 

CONGRESSIONAL DELIBERATION: Debate in Congress forged bipartisan alliances. Republicans and Democrats banded together not so much by party, but by geographic region, local business interests, and specific issues. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) gathered a wide group of senators' signatures on a letter opposing the renewable fuel standard, citing it as an "attack on ethanol." On the other side sat a bipartisan group of 26 senators who lobbied the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to cut this year's requirement for nine billion gallons of corn ethanol in half, they say, to ease food costs. In the end, the farm bill went so far as to make a decided shift away from corn-based ethanol towards cellulosic ethanol production. But to pass the bill, Congress was forced to accept compromise. "This [is] the product of a consistent, bipartisan, cross-regional and bicameral effort in Congress. ... The reality is that no member of Congress or administration official will or should get 100 percent of what he or she wants in any bill," said Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer noted: "If you look at what happened at the end of this bill when it became clear it wasn't going in a direction the president was going to support, they sort of put something in there for everybody. Everybody gets to take home something from the farm bill that is important to their district or their constituents. That's hard to vote against."

 

OIL, BIOFUEL, AND NUTRITION: The farm bill is more than agriculture subsidies. It also directly impacts, but does little to address, what Americans are facing every day: milk prices that have increased 21.2 percent (up to $3.80 per gallon) in the last twelve months, gas prices that are set to reach $7.00 by 2012, and working professionals who are forced to rely on food stamps because they've lost their jobs. And the farm bill doesn't just stop at America's borders. It influences the the manner in which foreign aid is given to victims of the hurricane in Myanmar and the earthquake in China. It influences World Trade Organization Doha Round deliberations, which has been seven years in the making. The bill remains a uniquely powerful tool for finding solutions to these national and global problems. "t's the system that's in place, like it or not. And if citizens don't like it they must continue to push for reform. But derailing the farm bill, which does fund a great many vital programs that help children and struggling farmers, is not the way to bring about reform. ... But at this point the choices are limited. It is either accept or reject. The president and the people must hold their noses and accept the farm bill that has been approved -- and then they must work to reform the system," a local Washington state paper argued.

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Guest April Demert Slayton

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Ranking Member Bob Goodlatte of Virginia issued the following statement today:

 

“Following veto override votes of 316-108 in the House and 82-13 in the Senate, the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 has been enacted into law, with the exception of the bill’s trade title.

 

“The trade title was included in the conference report passed by Congress but was inadvertently left out of the official copy of the farm bill that the President vetoed. Today, the House also took action to correct the www.google.com error that resulted in the unintentional omission of the trade title from the enrolled farm bill and ensure that the entire farm bill is enacted into law swiftly. Most of the farm bill is now law and the Administration can begin implementing the new programs and policies immediately.

 

“The Food, Conservation and Energy Act makes historic new investments in food, farm and conservation programs that are priorities for all Americans, which is why a broad, bipartisan coalition voted overwhelmingly to pass this bill.

 

“While no one got everything they wanted in this Farm Bill, we struck a balance that meets the pressing needs of working American families struggling with high food prices and that supports America’s farmers and ranchers as they continue to provide a safe, abundant, homegrown supply of food and fiber while protecting our natural resources and developing new sources of renewable energy.”

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Guest Joe Pouliot

A $300 billion five-year Farm Bill that cleared Congress ontains much-welcomed environmental provisions, but also creates risk to native grasslands, leaves conservation programs under-funded and misses an opportunity to reform the government’s outdated farm subsidy system, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

 

“There’s good news and bad news in this Farm Bill,” said Curt Freese, managing director of WWF’s Northern Great Plains Program. “The good news is the bill increases investment in conservation efforts by $4 billion and reauthorizes important conservation programs such as the Grassland Reserve Program and the Wetland Reserve Program. The bad news is that the permanent disaster fund and other Farm Bill subsidies – combined with record-high commodity prices and mandates for corn ethanol production – will incentivize conversion of ecologically fragile grasslands to croplands.”

 

The Northern Great Plains, where WWF works to restore prairielands and habitat for endangered species like the black-footed ferret, is losing over 250,000 acres a year as a result of grassland conversion. A strong “sodsaver” provision – contained in both the original House- and Senate-passed bills – which would have created a disincentive to convert grasslands to crops by eliminating certain subsidies, was dramatically weakened in the final bill, said Freese.

 

Freese added that the legislation, H.R. 2419, continues to underfund key conservation programs. He noted that over the five-year term of the previous Farm Bill, $13.5 billion in conservation projects, requested by nearly half a million farmers, went unfunded. “The problem will only be exacerbated with rising prices for commodities, which are leading many farmers to remove lands currently enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program and other conservation programs – a problem not confronted by the bill.”

 

Jason Clay, senior vice president of WWF’s Market Transformation Initiative also expressed regret over relative lack of reform in the farm subsidy system. While the bill imposes income caps for fixed, direct payments to farmers and ranchers, the caps exceed the limits sought by WWF and other conservation organizations. Under the bill, agricultural businesses can earn up to $1.5 million and still be eligible for direct payments.

 

“Imposing income caps for public subsidies is an important first step,” Clay said. “But the caps in this bill are set too high to be considered real reform. With rising food prices throughout the world, affecting the most impoverished and vulnerable populations in developing countries, the Farm Bill could have taken any number of creative and far-reaching measures to address this global crisis. Instead, it maintains the traditional subsidies that create the market imbalances that are among the many culprits in today’s food crisis.

 

“In short, subsidies lead to overproduction without environmental safeguards,” Clay added. “The Farm Bill will cause US agriculture to have environmental and social impacts far beyond our borders.”

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