Spencer Torbett, Policy Officer & Staff Attorney for the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, led our second webinar in our Farm Bill series. He walked our audience through Title I of the Farm Bill, the commodities title and helped to explain everything it includes. Keep reading for an overview of the commodities title, its importance to Indian Country, information about our next webinar, and the link to Spencer's presentation.
Title I provides programs for farmers who produce corn and other feed grains, wheat, rice, soybeans and other oilseeds, peanuts, and pulses crops (dry peas, lentils, chickpeas), dairy, sugar, and cotton. Historically, these have been known as “staple” crops and were generally considered to be crops whose abundance was important to national and, in some cases, global food security. In the early years of the Farm Bill, most federal farm policy was focused on these important crops. When agriculture became more mechanized and farmers began producing more of these staple crops, the economics (supply and demand) for such crops became volatile for farmers. Market fluctuations, the Great Depression, and the Dust Bowl were among the major factors that led to a shift in federal farm policy and passage of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, which began modern commodity policy.
Today, Title I focuses on income assistance and market attention and is passed with an eye towards U.S. trade goals and obligations under the World Trade Organization. Agriculture production provides a key trade balancing function for our overall economy. Even in times of great economic volatility, the trade of agriculture commodities in the global marketplace can have a stabilizing effect on the overall U.S. economy. Most countries throughout the world have some policies in place to protect their own farmers and encourage the growth of their own agriculture systems. Most trade deals include some degree of negotiations surrounding agriculture and commodities issues. Under the most recent 2014 Farm Bill, income assistance to farmers is only provided in cases of significant yield losses in an area or deep price-based losses. Cotton was eliminated as a program crop. Dairy was transitioned to a margin protection program, and livestock producers were given additional protections. Spending on Title I programs is far less in recent years than it has been historically, and for the last decade, spending has been less than one-quarter of one percent of the federal budget.
There are many Tribal governments and Tribal farming, ranching and food businesses that are already engaged in producing covered commodity crops of wheat, corn, soybeans, and are deeply engaged in livestock operations impacted by the livestock provisions of Title I.
Our work around these programs centers on ensuring that they are equitably accessible by Tribal producers and that our voices are heard as the programs are discussed and either amended or reauthorized.
- Regaining our Future: An Assessment of Risks and Opportunities for Native Communities in the 2018 Farm Bill
Our next webinar covering Title II of the Farm Bill, the conservation title, will be livestreamed from our Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter pages on Friday, February 25th at 3 pm EST. We hope to see you there!