Food and Farm
Agriculture is a critical part of Oregon’s economy. From berries to beef, family farmers, and ranchers are feeding Americans and millions of people around the world. At the same time, farmers are facing new and increasing pressures from climate change, urban sprawl, rising costs, and shrinking water resources. Earl has long believed that current agricultural policy spends too much money supporting large corporations, doesn’t adequately help the majority of small and midsize farmers, and subsidizes manufactured food at the expense of fresh, healthy food.
The Farm Bill is the most important bill that most Americans have never heard of. It impacts our economy, environment, and what we eat. Earl is working to make the Farm Bill more visionary and equitable. He authored the report "Growing Opportunities," which details legislative priorities for the Farm Bill. Several of those priorities can be found in H.R. 4425, the Food and Farm Act which Blumenauer introduced in November 2017 and offered alternatives to the status quo.
Earl was deeply disappointed with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which was a missed opportunity to provide American families with desperately-needed reforms that impact health care, climate change, economic development, and the food we eat. While some improvements were made in the bill, it largely continued the status quo. In Earl's view, the 2018 Farm Bill missed the mark. He's committed to leading the progressive opposition for a Farm Bill that works better for communities across the country, not corporate mega-farms.
Earl believes a better Farm Bill will:
- Reduce spending and focus resources on those who need it,
- Foster innovation,
- Encourage sound conversation practices and outcomes, and
- Ensure access to healthy foods.
Reduce spending and focus resources on those who need it
Many current Farm Bill programs pay too much for people to grow the wrong crops in the wrong places and usually at the wrong time. This comes from generations of special interests and big agri-business negotiating for federal handouts, while the rest must settle for crumbs.
Earl wants to focus resources on small and mid-sized, beginning, minority, and disadvantaged farmers, and invest in infrastructure to help them thrive. The average American farmer is 58 years old – as this generation retires, we need a younger population of well-trained farmers and ranchers to step up and take the helm of the country’s food production. But the biggest challenge for most small family farmers, in addition to education, is access to capital and land. We should be facilitating access for beginning, low-income, and socially disadvantaged farmers access to a variety of federal programs, ensuring that they get the technical assistance they need to help them thrive, and streamlining their access to loan funding and other opportunities.
The United States is one of the world’s biggest producers and consumers of agricultural commodities, and its long-term agricultural productivity and success relies on innovation through research. The discoveries that have come about because of federally-funded research are some of the biggest drivers for increasing agricultural production, and benefit farmers across the country. Earl wants to think beyond traditional areas such as crop research and conservation and expand federal policy to include supporting research into crop resiliency and the impacts of climate change on agriculture. In addition, Earl wants to prioritize and increase critical funding for research for specialty crops, organics, and beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers.
Encourage sound conservation practices and outcomes
Earl believes that we must support practices that lead to the long-term sustainability of farmland and protect the environment. Currently, nearly 11 percent of conservation program funds go to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) for waste storage facilities and irrigation equipment installation. In 2017, greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, including factory farms, accounted for approximately 9 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Earl wants to make sure that conservation funding is used to maximize environmental benefits, prioritizing biodiversity, water quality and quantity, climate change preparedness, and carbon pollution reduction.
Ensure access to healthy foods
Across America, there is an epidemic of hunger and poor nutrition. Many families can’t afford to put healthy foods on their tables: during 2017, an estimated 13 percent of American households receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. In Oregon, that number jumps to 16 percent. Locally and regionally, food distribution works hand-in-hand with community-led efforts to reduce hunger and provide affordable food needed for good nutrition, especially in communities underserved by retail food stores. Growing, processing, and distributing some of these foods locally and regionally will create profitable markets for many small and mid-sized independent farmers and ranchers, help to preserve farmland, and protect the environment with reduced transportation costs and more sustainable farming practices.
Earl is a strong advocate for strengthening and expanding nutrition programs that promote the availability and affordability of healthy and fresh foods in school meals. In addition, he supports removing barriers that keep local farmers from selling products to schools and other institutions, as well as new programs to increase the supply and availability of locally and regionally produced foods in the marketplace, particularly in underserved communities.
For more information on Earl's efforts to reform the Farm Bill, please contact the office.