Last day to help end "factory farm bailout"

Last month I posted about efforts to convince the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reduce the share of conservation funds that large confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) receive through the USDA’s Environmental Quality Initiatives Program (EQIP).

Food Democracy Now sent out an action alert on Thursday reminding supporters that comments on making EQIP work for sustainable and organic farmers must be received by the USDA by the close of business on April 17 (today).

You can fax your letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack (202-720-4265) or submit your comments online (Food Democracy Now has instructions on that process).

Click here and scroll down the page for talking points and a sample letter on this issue. However, it’s always better to put these things in your own words if possible. I’ve posted Food Democracy Now’s sample letter after the jump. If you are writing your own letter, make sure it goes to the correct address and says this near the top:

Re: Docket Number NRCS- IFR-08005 Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Final Rules

Sample Letter:

Financial Assistance Programs Division

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Natural Resources Conservation Service

1400 Independence Avenue, SW.

Room 5237S

Washington, DC 20250-2890

Re: Docket Number NRCS- IFR-08005 Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Final Rules

Dear Secretary Vilsack,

In these hard economic times and with concerns over food safety, water quality and conservation at an all-time high, it’s important to not only stand up for family farmers but to encourage best agricultural practices.

As a result of these factors, I think it’s important that the USDA stop using taxpayer dollars to bailout factory farms and help support sustainable and organic farmers that protect the environment and build strong rural communities.

The USDA needs to ensure that the EQIP rule be clarified, in accordance with the 2008 Farm Bill, and that EQIP assistance is available to all farmers and ranchers for comprehensive whole farm conservation planning.

The final EQIP rule must also require NRCS State Conservationists to rank and process applications for organic conversion assistance in a separate funding pool that makes clear that the limit of $80,000 over a 4-year period applies only to organic conversion payments and not all EQIP payments made to organic farmers and ranchers.

I recommend that the NRCS amend the EQIP rule to prohibit the use of EQIP funding for animal waste storage, treatment or transportation for new or expanding CAFOs and that the EQIP rule does not allow waivers to increase assistance to CAFOs above the $300,000 payment limit.

Numerous studies have proven conclusively that corporate CAFOs have negative impacts on water quality, decrease the value of their neighbor’s property, and harbor antibiotic-resistant bacteria that threatens human health.

It’s time that organic farmers and ranchers stand on an equal footing with conventional producers in funding amounts they receive from EQIP. This can easily be done if the USDA follows the rules of protecting the people and our collective resources over the interests of giant corporate agribusinesses.

Please stand up for independent family farmers and ranchers and swiftly enact these recommendations.

Sincerely,

[Your name here]

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