Citing the need for improved farm profitability, agricultural innovation, rural prosperity and adequate healthy diets for all people, Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) introduced the Farm, Nutrition, and Community Investment Act.

"American Farmland Trust (AFT) applauds Representatives DeLauro and Gilchrest for taking the bold leadership to chart a new direction in U.S. agriculture policy,” says AFT President Ralph Grossi. "The Farm, Nutrition, and Community Investment Act is a major new contribution to the 2007 Farm Bill debate, by addressing the deficiencies in today's farm and food policy in a comprehensive way.”

"For instance, the bill proposes a new program to foster farm profitability for all producers,” Grossi said. "This program would give state departments of agriculture the ability to distribute grant funds based on the priorities and needs identified through state-level strategic plans, with the USDA ensuring program accountability. This is just one of many ideas in this bill that could change the direction of U.S. farm policy for the better.”

Grant funds could not be used to directly subsidize the price of agricultural commodities, instead, producers, cooperatives, research institutions and eligible others could undertake critical programs and projects in their state or region. For example, grants could be used to develop agricultural processing facilities, provide food safety training, enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops, and much more.

Over the past three years, AFT has learned from farmers and ranchers how many unmet needs there are in U.S. agriculture. "Our nation's farmers are turned away from participating in conservation programs, and the majority receives no program support for their crops and livestock. We have an inadequate safety net in place that results in the need for repeated supplemental disaster assistance. Each year there is less farmland and fewer farmers, and, worse, in this land of plenty, too many people who go hungry,” said Grossi.

In addition to the state farm profitability grants program, the Farm, Nutrition, and Community Investment Act provides recommendations to increase funding for, and improve conservation programs; to reform and adequately fund farmland protection efforts, to improve and expand crop insurance, renewable energy and forestry programs. The bill includes dairy and organic policy recommendations; strengthens the nation's food assistance programs, and supports the production, distribution and access to healthy foods in order to address the country's hunger and healthy diet issues.

"AFT is proud to have worked with Representatives DeLauro and Gilchrest to develop a bill that will help meet the unmet needs of farmers, children, consumers and the environment around the country. Efforts such as this represent a new alliance of interests—agriculture, conservation, public health and anti-hunger coming together to make sure our national farm and food policy is fair, equitable and provides public benefits,” Grossi said.

More information on the Food, Nutrition, and Community Investment Act can be seen at http://www.farmland.org/programs/campaign/default.asp along with AFT's leadership of, and contributions to the formation of a new farm and food policy for America.