Thursday, 14 February 2013

AGree position paper

The AGree agricultural policy initiative, which has been working for a couple years to bring together a diverse group of food policy stakeholders, recently began posting position papers to its website. 

For example, one position paper addresses policies to Increase Agricultural Productivity by Conserving and Enhancing Soil, Water, and Habitat.  In my view, the position paper reflects common-sense mainstream views about the need to protect the environment.  Yet, U.S. food policy has become sufficiently fractured, and some producer organizations are sufficiently concerned about regulatory overreach, that it requires some courage and compromise for AGree just to state these positions.

That productivity and conservation position paper includes several general principles plus a smaller number of policy planks for 2013:
AGree is deeply concerned about policy proposals actively being considered that would undermine rather than build on achievements to date. AGree supports the following currently threatened policies and programs, which are critical building blocks for long-term transformative change:
  • Existing conservation requirements for farm program eligibility, which should be re-attached to federal subsidies for crop insurance premiums.* [Note from Parke: the footnote addresses special transitional issues for farmers who would be subject to these conservation requirements for the first time.]
  • Investments in farm bill conservation programs; these programs should target durable environmental quality improvements across the landscape and leverage the investments of producers and other partners.
  • Investments in the scientific, research, and extension infrastructure that support agriculture; indeed, strengthening this critical infrastructure will be necessary to successfully meet the challenges the U.S. faces over the long term.
I work on AGree's Research Committee, which provides research support services to the more important Advisory Committee.  The Advisory Committee oversees the policy positions.  AGree is funded by several major foundations.  Of course, AGree is not responsible for anything said on this blog, nor am I asked to endorse everything AGree does.  I will say that I think it is great to bring together such a group of stakeholders to talk and get to know each other, perhaps eventually overcoming some divisions and mistrust.  Such an effort could lead to policy recommendations worth listening to.

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