Senator Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., wants Congress to consider what she calls a progressive and meaningful approach to agricultural policy when it develops the 2012 Farm Bill. Gillibrand, who is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, is promoting a move away from cotton and rice subsidies and direct payments to what she calls more rewarding safety net programs that emphasize conservation, local food production and marketing and easier access to credit for cash-strapped dairy farmers.
Gillibrand's approach is not likely to set well with Ag Committee leadership. Ag Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., represent southern crops such as cotton, rice and peanuts. But Gillibrand admits these things take time and says that's why she wants to start this debate now.
Gillibrand's five areas of improvements are providing greater access to capital through USDA loan programs; addressing the dairy crisis by overhauling the milk pricing system; expanding the Market Access Program and securing more funding to promote USDA's Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program; targeting assistance to specialty crop farmers via current conservation programs as well a new program Gillibrand plans to introduce called the Conservation on Muck Soils program; and she wants to invest in new sources of clean, renewable energy.