Agriculture is a critical part of America's economy. From beef to nurseries to berries, family farmers and ranchers are providing the basic needs on which Americans and millions of people around the world depend. At the same time, American farmers are facing new and increasing pressures from budget deficits, trade rules, urban sprawl, climate change, rising energy costs and shrinking water resources.

Promoting Healthy Food and Farms

An epic of hunger and malnutrition is sweeping across America, as many families can't afford to put healthy foods on their tables. The Committee believes that increasing the availability of healthy and fresh foods in schools, hospitals, and under served communities is critical to improving the overall health and food security of the United States. By growing and distributing some of these foods locally and regionally, profitable markets can be created for many small and mid-sized independent farmers and ranchers, help to preserve farmland, and protect the environment with reduced transportation costs and more sustainable farming practices.

Food distribution works hand-in-hand in localities and regions with community-led efforts to reduce hunger and provide affordable foods needed for good nutrition, especially in communities under served by retail food stores. Reduced-price meals in schools have been proven to help students achieve higher test scores, while foods stamps can help many families bridge the gap between what they can afford and what they need.

Reforming Farm Subsidies

The current farm system provides little help to most American farmers and ranchers. Most of commodity payments go to a few large-scale farm operations, with only 40% of farmers receiving any commodity payments at all. In fact, over 50% of farm subsides go to only 22 Congressional districts. The result is that, these payments do little to support or sustain rural communities, which continue to lose jobs and see their populations decline. Current farm programs are not meeting the needs of today's family farmers or their communities.

These subsidies also distort the market by providing incentives for the overproduction of bulk commodity crops and limit the freedom of farmers to respond to changes in market signals. They also prevent many poor farmers around the world from making a living where their products are competitive. These subsidies need to be changed

Protecting Farmland and the Environment

More than 1 million acres of farmland are lost every year in the United States. Much of the best farmland, which is close to growing cities, is being lost to development and sprawl. The pressure of sprawl is forcing farmers off their land and depriving us all of the benefits of near-by sustainable agriculture, such as local food and a host of environmental benefits.