Shaping the Organic Farming Movement in NJ
The Facts about Working Lands Conservation in the Draft Farm Bill
The draft bill introduced by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) would eradicate the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The Chairman’s draft farm bill would fold the best features of the CSP into the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQUIP). In total the draft bill would result in funding cuts for working lands conservation programs by 25% over 5 years and 20% over 10 years. The CSP and EQUIP are separate programs in order to enhance the sustainability of American agriculture. CSP focuses on helping farmers and ranchers implement conservation stewardship systems to address priority resource concerns on their land, while EQUIP provides cost-share assistance on a one-time basis to help producers implement conservation practices. The draft bill proposes adding “stewardship contracts” into EQUIP but eliminates comprehensive conservation approaches to whole farm stewardship and eliminates incentives for the most effective conservation practices. The next farm bill should focus on enhancing these conservation programs through benefits and program accessibility.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition produced a useful chart to compare the current CSP program standards to the enhanced EQUIP draft proposal. See how these bills compare here: http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/house-farm-bill-conservation/.
Action Alert: Save our farms, our food, our future
The Farm Bill is up for renewal this year and the time for change is upon us. A regenerative and organic version of the Farm Bill has been introduced by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). The Farm & Food Act represents our best hope for saving our farms, our food, and our soil from further degradation. Blumenauer recently gathered financial and policy experts, as well as environmentalists, advocates, and others in a forum to discuss Farm Bill Reform and introduce the Food & Farm Act.
The Food & Farm Act highlights four key principles.
1) Focus resources toward those who need it most
2) Foster innovation
3) Encourage investment in people and the planet
4) Ensure access to healthy foods
Since its inception in 1985, NOFA-NJ has shaped the organic and sustainable growing movement in New Jersey and nationally through policy action, events, and outreach. In cooperation with many partners and coalitions in all arenas of the food and environmental realm, NOFA-NJ’s policy work has impacted development and implementation of national organic standards, development of the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) approved materials list, and the formation of State of New Jersey’s organic certification program. In 2000, NOFA-NJ was awarded a delegate seat at New Jersey’s Annual Agricultural convention.
NOFA-NJ’s policy efforts work to encourage policies and regulations that support sustainable farms and farmers, specifically:
- Increase access to land opportunities for beginning and new farmers.
- Increase economic opportunities for organic and sustainable farmers in the state
- Increase support for the government entities that support sustainable growing practices, including the programs within the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, NJ Department of Agriculture and Rutgers Cooperative Extension and Experiment Station.
- Oppose regulation that supports the use of synthetic chemicals, genetically engineered organisms, and other agricultural practices that are detrimental to natural plant systems, degrade water quality or damage soil fertility in the region.
- Encourage policies that support the growing body of evidence that organic farming practices can mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration.