Campaign Promises

Cabinet/Departments -> Agriculture


ItemAgriculture
AgribusinessGrade
AG-1
The Promise: "Will implement a $250,000 payment limitation so that we help family farmers, not large corporate agribusiness."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan to Support Rural Communities.
Source: http://change.gov/agenda/rural_agenda/
Status:When adopting the nation's FY2010 budget resolutions in 03/09, both the House and Senate rejected a proposal to cap subsidies to individual farmers at $250,000. Another proposal to phase out subsidies to farmers with gross annual retail sales of $500,000 or more was also rejected.

In his FY2011 budget proposal, President Obama stated: "The Budget proposes to limit farm subsidy payments to wealthy farmers by reducing the cap on direct payments by 25 percent and reducing the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) payment eligibility limits for farm and non-farm income by $250,000 over three years."

The USDA's FY2011 budget reflected in the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (H.R. 1473) did not specifically address the above proposal.

The President's FY2012 budget proposal did not address any aspect of this promise except to state: "The Administration proposes that farm policy target payments to only those who really need them...by reducing payments to wealthy farmers."

On 03/21/12, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced the "Rural America Preservation Act" (S. 2217). This bill would have capped direct payments at $50,000, counter-cyclical payments at $75,000 and marketing loan gains (including forfeitures), loan deficiency payments and commodity certificates at $125,000 annually (for a total of $250,000). The bill would have also closed loopholes that some farmers use to evade statutory limits. This bill did not progress beyond initial committee review and expired with the 112th Congress.

In President Obama's FY2013 budget request, he stated that his proposal "includes $32 billion in savings over 10 years by eliminating direct farm payments, providing disaster assistance, reducing subsidies to crop insurance companies..."

The Farm Bill passed in 2008 covered a 5-year period until the end of CY2012. To replace it, the "Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012" (S. 3240) was introduced by Senator Debbie Ann Stabenow (D-MI) on 05/24/12. This bill proposed to repeal (1) direct payments, (2) counter-cyclical payments, and (3) the average crop revenue election program. However, the bill states in part: "in the case of any producer... that has an average adjusted gross income in excess of $750,000...the total amount of premium subsidy...shall be 15 percentage points less than the premium subsidy provided in accordance with this subsection that would otherwise be available for the applicable policy, plan of insurance, and coverage level selected by the producer." Thus, it is conceivable that payments to multi-millionaire farmers could exceed $250,000.

The above bill passed the Senate on 06/21/12 but lack of House action on it led to its expiration with the 112th Congress at the end of CY2012. Instead, the 2008 Farm Bill was extended to 09/30/13 under the "American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012" signed into law by President Obama on 01/02/13. The $250,000 payment limitation was not addressed in that bill.

A new 5-year Farm Bill, dubbed the "Agricultural Act of 2014" (H.R. 2642), was signed into law by President Obama on 02/07/14. The basic tenet of this promise is not addressed in this bill.

This promise was not fulfilled.
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AG-2
The Promise: "...will increase funding for the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program to help farmers afford the costs of compliance with national organic certification standards..."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Promoting a Healthy Environment," dated 10/08/08.
Source: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/edg/media/Obama_Cap_and_Trade_0512.pdf
Status:The National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP) was funded at the $22M level under the 2008 Farm Bill. This was mandatory funding to be spent starting in FY2008 until expended or the end of FY2012, whichever occurred first.

Replacing the 2008 Farm Bill, the "Agricultural Act of 2014" (H.R. 2642), was signed into law by President Obama on 02/07/14. Section 10004(c) states in part that the Secretary of Agriculture shall fund the NOCCSP in the amount of "... $11,500,000 for each of fiscal years 2014 through 2018...", an increase of $37.5M over the previous Farm Bill.

This promise has been fulfilled.
1.00
AG-3
The Promise: "... will reform the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Risk Management Agency's crop insurance rates so that they do not penalize organic farmers."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Promoting a Healthy Environment," dated 10/08/08.
Source: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/edg/media/Obama_Cap_and_Trade_0512.pdf
Status:Under the Federal Crop Insurance Act (7 U.S.C. 1501-1524), the USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) administers the federal crop insurance on behalf of the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC).

In CY2000, the Agricultural Risk Protection Act (ARPA) recognized organic farming as a good farming practice, allowing the inclusion of organic production for coverage under all crop insurance policies in effect at that time.

Citing insufficient experience with losses to organic agriculture because conventional mitigating practices to control insects, weeds, etc. would not be employed and based on data available to the RMA, organic loss ratios exceeded conventional farming losses. The RMA therefore determined that an additional insurance rate load of 5%, applied as a 5% surcharge, was appropriate for organic farming practices.

The Farm Bill of 2008 mandated a review of this surcharge practice. The RMA issued a contract in 02/09 for a thorough study to "review actuarial appropriateness of RMA's organic rates and organic pricing arrangements" and "the Corporation shall eliminate or reduce the premium surcharge that the Corporation charges for coverage for organic crops, as determined in accordance with the results."

The playing field for organic crop producers was finally leveled in 05/13 when the USDA announced the removal of the 5% surcharge for all organic crops starting in the CY2014 crop insurance cycle.

This promise has been fulfilled.
1.00
AG-4
The Promise: "will also provide tax incentives to make it easier for new farmers to afford their first farm."
When/Where: Obama and Biden's Plan for America: "Blueprint for Change," dated 10/09/08.
Source: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/550007-barack-obama-2008-blueprint-for-change.html
Status:Mandated under the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, which was vetoed by President Bush but which became law (Public Law 110-234) under a Senate Override on 05/22/08, the Office of Advocacy and Outreach at the Department of Agriculture (USDA) opened in mid December 2009 with an initial staffing budget of $3M. Its mission is to improve access to USDA programs of small farms and ranches, beginning and/or socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

The opening of the USDA Office of Advocacy and Outreach did nothing to deliver on President Obama's campaign promise to provide federal tax incentives to new farmers.

This promise is not to be confused with state-level tax incentives provided to new farmers by some states (i.e. Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa) or to landowners who rent portions of their properties to new farmers.

The new 5-year Farm Bill, the "Agricultural Act of 2014" (H.R. 2642), was signed into law by President Obama on 02/07/14. It does not address any new tax incentives for starting farmers.

This promise was not fulfilled.
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AG-5
The Promise: "...will create a rural revitalization program to attract and retain young people to rural America."
When/Where: Obama and Biden's Plan for America: "Blueprint for Change," dated 10/09/08.
Source: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/550007-barack-obama-2008-blueprint-for-change.html
Status:The Rural Revitalization Act of 2009 (S. 323) was introduced by Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) on 01/26/09 and was referred to the Senate Subcommittee on Finance. No further action taken on this bill by the 111th Congress and it expired at the end of CY2010.

In support of rural development, rural housing services, rural business/cooperative services and rural utilities services (including broadband expansion), no specific "Rural Revitalization Program" was created during President Obama's first term in office.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports the following levels of funding for its rural development programs:

FY2009 to FY2012: Average of $33.0B per year
FY2013: $33.4B
FY2014: $28.5B
FY2015: $29.7B

USDA figures for FY2016 are not yet available. What is clear from the above data is that funding for rural development programs was reduced by several billion dollars per annum during the latter years of President Obama's terms in office.

While several multi-agency initiatives such as the "Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge" were introduced during President Obama's tenure, these were limited in regional scope and served very few participants. No nation-wide "rural revitalization program" was created.

This promise was not fulfilled.
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AG-6
The Promise: "...will strengthen anti-monopoly laws and strengthen producer protections to ensure independent farmers have fair access to markets, control over their production decisions, and fair prices for their goods."
When/Where: Obama and Biden's Plan for America: "Blueprint for Change," dated 10/09/08.
Source: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/550007-barack-obama-2008-blueprint-for-change.html
Status:An anti-monopoly law prevents a company from being the sole supplier of specific goods or services, thereby preventing it from charging any price it desires.

Aside from the USDA's rule published in 12/09 to level the competitive playing field for the poultry industry, there has been no other known initiative to "strengthen" existing anti-monopoly laws such as the Packers and Stockyard Act of 1921 or other producer protections.

This promise was not fulfilled.
0.00
Conservation SecurityGrade
AG-7
The Promise: "...will fight to increase funding for the Conservation Security Program and the major set-aside programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program..."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Supporting the Rights and Traditions of Sportsmen" dated 08/06/08.
Source: http://obama.3cdn.net/84b2062fc4a5114715_ftxamv9ot.pdf
Status:The 2008 Farm Bill replaced the Conservation Security Program with a new Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The new program encourages participants to undertake new conservation activities in addition to maintaining and managing existing conservation activities. Also, the new program operates under an annual acreage limitation rather than a funding cap. The CSP is administered for the Department of Agriculture (USDA) by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA).

Here's how funding fared for the CSP (including mandatory appropriations for technical assistance for the CSP as of FY2012) and for the CRP under President Obama (in millions):

Conservation Stewardship Program
FY2010... $0.612 Enacted
FY2011... $0.805 Enacted
FY2012... $0.812 Enacted
FY2013... $0.975 Enacted
FY2014... $1.195 Enacted
FY2015... $1.385 Enacted
FY2016... $1.464 Estimated
FY2017... $1.865 Requested

Conservation Reserve Program
FY2010... $1.911 Enacted
FY2011... $1.891 Enacted
FY2012... $1.913 Enacted
FY2013... $1.928 Enacted
FY2014... $1.732 Enacted
FY2015... $1.736 Enacted
FY2016... $1.836 Estimated
FY2017... $1.917 Requested

Despite the fluctuations for the CRP reflected above, the steady funding increase depicted for the CSP warrants the determination that this promise has been fulfilled.
1.00
AG-8
The Promise: "...extending the swamp buster provisions of the Farm Bill..."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Supporting the Rights and Traditions of Sportsmen" dated 08/06/08.
Source: http://obama.3cdn.net/84b2062fc4a5114715_ftxamv9ot.pdf
Status:Swamp buster provisions originated under the Food Security Act of 1985 and essentially prevented landowners from using dredged or drained wetlands for agricultural purposes if these landowners expected to receive USDA benefits.

Under the Farm Bill of 1996, swamp buster provisions were refined to permit the use of converted and abandoned wetlands as farmland.

There was no retention of swamp buster provisions in the "Agriculture, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012" (S. 3240) that passed the Senate on 06/21/12 to replace the Farm Bill of 2008, nor is there any record that President Obama sought to extend those provisions, which expired on 10/01/12. This bill expired with the 112th Congress at the end of CY2012. Instead, the 2008 Farm Bill was extended to 09/30/13 under the "American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012" signed into law by President Obama on 01/02/13. There is no mention of a swamp buster provision extension in this bill.

The new 5-year Farm Bill, dubbed the "Agricultural Act of 2014" (H.R. 2642), was signed into law by President Obama on 02/07/14. It contains nothing related to the extension of swamp buster provisions.

This promise was not fulfilled.
0.00
Forest ServiceGrade
AG-9
The Promise: "Will place a high priority on implementing cooperative projects to remove brush, small trees and other overgrown vegetation that serve as fuel for wildfires."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Committed to Wildfire Management and Community Protection" dated 10/18/08.
Source: http://www.fusee.org/resources/Documents/Obama%20fire%20policy.pdf
Status:The "Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006" (H.R. 6111) signed into law by President Bush on 12/20/06 codified the requirement for the implementation of a comprehensive, cost effective, multi-jurisdictional hazardous fuels reduction and fire prevention plans for the Lake Tahoe Basin, Carson Range, Carson City and Spring Mountain areas of Nevada.

Further-reaching legislation such as the "Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act of 2012" introduced by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) on 07/19/12 and its House counterpart bill (H.R. 5744) introduced by Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) on 05/15/12 would have permitted the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior to extend wildfire prevention projects and to streamline projects to reduce the potential for wildfires. Neither of these bills progressed beyond initial committee reviews and expired with the 112th Congress at the end of CY2012.

Congressman Gosar reintroduced this legislation under H.R. 1345 on 03/21/13. It expired with the 113th Congress at the end of CY2014. Senator Lee did the same under S. 2286 on 11/17/15. His bill has not progressed beyond initial committee review and will likely die at the end of CY2016.

Nonetheless, the economic stimulus American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, signed into law on 02/17/09 by President Obama, provided an additional $500M to the USDA and an additional $15M to the Department of the Interior for "Wildland Fire Management."

This promise has been fulfilled.
1.00
AG-10
The Promise: "Will use controlled burns and prescribed natural fire to reduce such fuels in close coordination with those communities that are most at risk"
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Committed to Wildfire Management and Community Protection" dated 10/18/08.
Source: http://www.fusee.org/resources/Documents/Obama%20fire%20policy.pdf
Status:Controlled burns and prescribed natural fires have been applied by communities since at least the 1930's according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC). However, it is acknowledged that they sometimes haven't been applied in the areas most needed to prevent loss of individual properties.

On 03/10/09, Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV) introduced the "Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act" (H.R. 1404), referred to as the "FLAME Act of 2009," to "authorize supplemental funding for catastrophic emergency wildland fire suppression and...to develop a cohesive wildland fire management strategy."

On 10/29/09, the House and the Senate passed the "Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2010," which included Title V, the FLAME Act of 2009. President Obama signed this bill into law on 10/30/09. Annual appropriations since 2009 have continued to fund Forest Service, Department of Interior and other organizations responsible to implement provisions of the FLAME Act of 2009.

Based on NIFC-furnished statistics, the following represents the trend in number of prescribed fires by all participating organizations and affected acreage during President Obama's terms in office:

Year- - - - # of Burns- - - - # of Acres
2009- - - - - 12,429- - - - - 2,531,113
2010- - - - - 16,882- - - - - 2,423,862
2011- - - - - - 8,672- - - - - 2,112,811
2012- - - - - 16,626- - - - - 1,971,834
2013- - - - - 18,764- - - - - 2,000,040
2014- - - - - 17,044- - - - - 2,389,798
2015- - - - - 37,263- - - - - 2,958,260
2016 (Not Yet Tallied)

This promise has been fulfilled.
1.00
AG-11
The Promise: "...will fight to protect roadless areas on Forest Service lands from all new road construction."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Supporting the Rights and Traditions of Sportsmen" dated 08/06/08.
Source: http://obama.3cdn.net/84b2062fc4a5114715_ftxamv9ot.pdf
Status:Early in his administration, President Obama delegated authority to the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to approve applications to build roads and proceed with logging operations in land areas under the purview of the Forest Service.

The authorization was soon thereafter granted by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for the logging exploitation of a 381 acre tract of Alaska's Tongass National Forest, which necessitated the building of seven (7) miles of roads in this otherwise roadless area.

The promise to "fight to protect roadless areas" was not fulfilled.
0.00
AG-12
The Promise: "...will develop domestic incentives that reward forest owners, farmers, and ranchers when they plant trees, restore grasslands, or undertake farming practices that capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere."
When/Where: Obama/Biden Plan: "Promoting a Healthy Environment" dated 10/08/08.
Source: http://www.environbusiness.com/uploads/pdf/obamaenvironmentalplan.pdf
Status:Instructions to all federal agencies to improve the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions were articulated in President Obama's 10/05/09 Executive Order 13514, replaced by Executive Order 13693 dated 03/19/15. However, these executive orders did not address any new domestic incentives for the capture of carbon dioxide applicable to individual forest owners, farmers and ranchers.

The Air Quality Initiative portion of the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) addressed in the 2014 Farm Bill, dubbed the "Agricultural Act of 2014" (H.R. 2642) and signed into law by President Obama on 02/07/14, provides assistance to farmers, ranchers etc. to (1) establish cover crops, (2) plant windbreak trees, (3) implement nutrient management practices, and (4) apply other conservation measures to reduce airborne particulate matter and greenhouse gases. Nothing new when compared to previous farm bills.

This promise was not fulfilled.
0.00
Land UseGrade
AG-13
The Promise: "Will support the Open Fields Incentives legislation that provides incentives to farmers and ranchers who voluntarily open their land to hunting, fishing and other wildlife-related activities."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "Supporting the Rights and Traditions of Sportsmen" dated 08/06/08.
Source: http://obama.3cdn.net/84b2062fc4a5114715_ftxamv9ot.pdf
Status:The Open Fields Initiative was introduced in 2005 by Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND). It found its way into the Farm Bill of 2008, with funding projected at $50M in financial support for voluntary, state-run access programs that provide incentives to private landowners to allow public access to their land for hunting and fishing purposes.

This program was in effect and grant money was available from the Department of Agriculture to fund state efforts to develop incentive-based programs that expanded public access to private lands for hunting, fishing, and other recreational purposes. While funding in the amount of $16.67M per year over the three years was reflected in President Obama's FY2010 budget proposal, the "Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program" (VPA-HIP) under which the Open Fields Incentives fell was completely defunded by Congress in the final FY2012 budget.

There is no provision for Open Field Incentives in the Farm Bill of 2008 replacement legislation, the "Agricultural Act of 2014" (H.R. 2642) signed into law by President Obama on 02/07/14.

This promise was not fulfilled.
0.00
Renewable EnergyGrade
AG-14
The Promise: "... Will encourage the use of methane digesters that are being used to produce power from animal waste."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Promoting a Healthy Environment," dated 10/08/08.
Source: http://www.environbusiness.com/uploads/pdf/obamaenvironmentalplan.pdf
Status:On 12/15/09 while at a climate conference in Copenhagen, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced an agreement with U.S. dairy producers to accelerate adoption of innovative manure-to-energy projects on American dairy farms. This would lead to a reduction of dairy farm greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25% by 2020 while also extracting electricity from the raw manure using anaerobic digesters.

The USDA reports that it has several programs that support the installation of anaerobic digesters and other technologies that reduce GHG emissions from
manure management practices. They include:

(1) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which includes conservation practice standards for both anaerobic digesters, solid separators, and roofs and covers with methane flaring;

(2) Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which supports anaerobic digesters through grants and loans; and

(3) Research, education, and extension programs to explore the development and implementation of technologies and practices that reduce methane emissions from animal manure.

Under EQIP and REAP, the USDA has initiated Livestock Partnerships that explore mechanisms to prioritize anaerobic digesters and the appropriate associated electrical generation technology, covers with flares, solid separators, and other manure management technologies that reduce GHG emissions.

The promise to "encourage" the use of methane digesters as a means to produce power from animal waste during President Obama's tenure in office has been fulfilled.
1.00
AG-15
The Promise: "...will expand USDA projects that focus on energy efficiency and conservation."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Promoting a Healthy Environment," dated 10/08/08.
Source: http://www.environbusiness.com/uploads/pdf/obamaenvironmentalplan.pdf
Status:Section 6407 of the 2014 Farm Bill, the "Agricultural Act of 2014" (H.R. 2642), signed into law by President Obama on 02/07/14, is new. Entitled the "Rural Energy Savings Program," this section did not exist under the 2008 Farm Bill. The purpose of this section is "to help rural families and small businesses achieve cost savings by providing loans to qualified consumers to implement durable cost- effective energy efficiency measures.

This section of the 2014 Farm Bill provides funding to complete energy audits, provide renewable energy development assistance, make energy efficiency improvements and install renewable energy systems. The USDA also has programs that help convert older heating sources to cleaner technologies, produce advanced biofuels, install solar panels, build biorefineries, and other energy efficiency/conservation initiatives.

There is authorized to be appropriated $75M annually (FY2014 through FY2018) to carry out the provisions of Section 6407 of the 2014 Farm Bill.

This promise has been fulfilled.
1.00
ResearchGrade
AG-16
The Promise: "...will increase research and educational funding for land-grant colleges."
When/Where: Obama and Biden's Plan for America: "Blueprint for Change," dated 10/09/08.
Source: http://campaign-promises.com/wp-content/uploads/obamablueprintforchange.pdf
Status:Under the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890, each eligible state received 30,000 acres of federal land for each member of congress the state had as of the 1860 census. Proceeds from the sale of this land were to be used for the establishment and funding of public colleges and a few state-supported contract colleges that fulfill the public land-grant critera.

Approximately 100 colleges and universities across the USA and its territories (including Native American Tribal Colleges) are currently classified as land-grant colleges/universities.

Under President Obama, funding for 1890 institution research, including 1890 facility improvements, managed by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) was as follows:

FY2010 - $111M Enacted
FY2011 - $113M Enacted
FY2012 - $113M Enacted
FY2013 - $106M Enacted
FY2014 - $116M Enacted
FY2015 - $116M Enacted
FY2016 - $120M Estimated
FY2017 - $126M Requested

Notwithstanding the funding reduction reflected for FY2013, this promise has been fulfilled.
1.00
Agriculture GPA0.5