NO. R-79.  JOINT RESOLUTION urging the federal government to use regional equity in implementing the 2002 federal farm bill.

(J.R.S 21)

Offered by:  Committee on Agriculture.

Whereas, agriculture is a unique and diversified industry in the northeastern United States, and

Whereas, the agricultural industry continues to be one of the top employers in each of the states in the northeast region, and

Whereas, the differences in climate, transportation, feed, energy costs, and land values compound those regional differences, and

Whereas, the current crisis in dairy prices is placing a tremendous burden on the entire structure and infrastructure of agriculture in the northeast, and

Whereas, the northeast region of the United States contains more than 135,000 small to mid-sized family agricultural operations on more than 20 million acres of land, and

Whereas, in the northeast region, more than 58 million consumers, many living in urban areas, are concerned about food security in these times of national unrest and terrorism, and

Whereas, it is in the best interests of national security to assure that regional agriculture continues to be viable and available to provide a safe, secure food supply to those consumers, and

Whereas, the 2002 federal farm bill established a positive first step in providing regional equity in federal support to northeast agriculture, and

Whereas, the proposed EQIP rules contain provisions which will pose a severe impediment to northeast farmers who wish to have access to those support programs, now therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:

That in promulgating the rules and regulations implementing the 2002 farm bill, the federal government:

1)  Assure that “locally led conservation” not be supplanted by “national priorities and measures” by continuing the commitment to farmer‑driven decision‑making which will create local efficiencies and opportunities to partner with other entities to optimize the funds available.

2)  Recognize that cost-share rates of less than 75 percent will, contrary to the stated statutory intent, not make agricultural production and environmental quality compatible goals.

3)  Ensure that the implementing rules and regulations will support the development of irrigation systems for new and existing irrigators.

4)  Acknowledge that the U.S. Department of Agriculture practice of three‑year rotations, which has been adopted by many northeast producers, will under the proposed implementation rule severely limit the number of producers who are eligible for irrigation cost-share funds.

5)  Recognize that historically, the northeast is underserved by farm bill programs due to the inability of northeast producers to receive commodity payments.

6)  Recognize that EQIP is one of the few farm bill programs which producers in the northeast can utilize.

7)  Recognize the congressional intent to make EQIP regionally equitable through the equal distribution of funds.

8)  Assure that the scheduling of EQIP rule drafting does not eliminate states from the regional equity clause in the proposed 2003 rule, and that the $12 million allocated to each state will be available for at least one year until the rules are established and ample time is provided for notification of the agricultural community and the distribution of the funds, and be it further

Resolved:  That the Secretary of State be directed to send a copy of this resolution to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman, the Northeast States Association for Agricultural Stewardship of the Council of State Governments, and to the members of the Vermont Congressional Delegation.