Friday, November 16, 2007

What the heck is Cloture? See below for answer..

A little debate lesson from the Center for Rural Affairs blog. Short story is that the farm bill is on hold again...

"The cloture vote on the farm bill failed, so the farm bill is put on hold until at least December. Starting later today, the Senate will go on a 2 week vacation- I mean recess- for Thanksgiving,
For those who have better things to do with their time than keep up on Senate procedural terms, all “cloture” means is that the Senate has a vote to end debate and proceed to actual consideration of a bill for a set period of time, at which point there would be a vote on the bill. Since Senate procedure usually allows for unlimited debate, cloture is the primary way in which the Senate forces an end to debate on a bill and schedules an actual vote.
The key, of course, is that you need 60 votes to win a cloture vote. Not a simple majority. Since there are 51 Democrats in the Senate, they needed 9 Republicans to break with their party and vote for cloture. That didn’t happen, so now the farm bill is put on the back burner for a time- but nobody really knows how long. We’ll have more commentary later today."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Some choice words from Senator Dorgan

The Farm Bill looked like it was moving forward and then they could not agree on what ammendments to vote on...AGAIN! It is quite possible that the 2007 Farm Bill will be passed in 2008.

Senator Dorgan speaking of the lack of progress in the Senate: "If family farmers farmed like legislators legislate, there would be no food."

And then Senator Dorgan a few minutes later, "You could compare the United States Senate to a glacier, but the difference is that a glacier actually moves from time to time."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

CALL YOUR SENATORS AGAIN! (new ammendment proposals)

It looks like the Senate floor debate will be lengthy. Close to 100 amendments have already been filed. Our most important amendments are scheduled to be introduced first so it is imperative that you call today if you have not already done so. The toll-free number and talking points are listed below.

Please call your senators toll-free RIGHT NOW at 1-800-826-3688. Urge them to support the following amendments to the farm bill as they come to the floor:

Lugar/Lautenberg Amendment
Grassley/Dorgan Amendment
NEW: Brown/Sununu Amendment
NEW: Menendez Amendment
Other amendments that strengthen nutrition programs
(Note: This toll-free number will connect you to the Capitol switchboard; please ask to be connected to your senator’s office in order to leave your message.)

The Senate vote on the farm bill will make a critical difference in whether the 2007 farm bill will include changes that benefit hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world and make programs more fair for U.S. farm and rural families.

Here's some info on what those amendments are:

Lugar/Lautenberg Amendment: Would broaden the agricultural safety net by making a free revenue insurance program available to all farmers, saving billions of dollars to be used for nutrition, conservation, the McGovern-Dole international school meals program and more.
Grassley/Dorgan Amendment: Would cap commodity payments at $250,000 per household, helping ensure that payments are targeted to those who need them.
NEW: Brown/Sununu Amendment: Would reform crop insurance programs to bring the insurance companies' underwriting gains more into line with other types of insurance and lower their Administration & Operations ('A&O') reimbursement. No farmers would see any change in their premium costs or coverage. It would save money to reinvest in food stamps, conservation and McGovern-Dole international school feeding program.
NEW: Menendez Amendment: Would make a small cut to Direct Payments and reinvest the savings in food stamps and conservation.
Other amendments that add funding to nutrition programs: Several other amendments will likely be offered to increase funding for the Food Stamp Program and other vital nutrition programs.

The amendments would improve the Agriculture Committee's bill: providing a safety net for all farmers—not just those who grow program crops; making our commodity system fairer for smaller family farmers; and adequately funding vital needs in nutrition.

"Weed it and Reap" response

Yay! The NY Times posted a letter to the editor in response to Michael Pollan's op-ed. It wasn't mine, but that's how advocates work together. If we all send in enough letters, it proves there is enough interest in a topic to print even one. This one had a very clever NY baseball analogy and was written by the Exec Director of the NYC Coalition of Hunger, so it's fitting the NY Times chose his.
Hunger and the Farm Bill
Published: November 12, 2007
To the Editor:

In “Weed It and Reap” (Op-Ed, Nov. 4), Michael Pollan claims that environmentalists and the “hunger lobby” were bought off on the farm bill, giving our support to the harmful “elephant in the room” — agribusiness subsidies — in exchange for financing for conservation programs and food stamps, which he derides as merely “fleas.”

But blaming us for bad farm bills is like blaming long-suffering Mets fans seated in the far upper deck at Shea Stadium for the team’s overpaid players and year-end collapse.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, agribusinesses contributed more than $399 million to federal political campaigns between 1990 and 2006. In contrast, even when some antihunger groups (like mine) risk alienating donors by opposing corporate farm welfare, we hardly have an impact on this big-money debate.

Considering that the food stamp program helps more than 26 million Americans each month, it is no mere “flea.” Fighting to help millions avoid starvation, antihunger advocates take what we can get.

Joel Berg
Executive Director, New York City Coalition Against Hunger
New York, Nov. 4, 2007