Source: American Farmland Trust

While announcing his choice for the new federal budget director, President-elect Barack Obama pledged to make budget reform a goal of his administration, says Jon Scholl, president of American Farmland Trust.

"He has slated farm payments for scrutiny, noting that it is time to 'eliminate those programs we don't need and insist on those we do need to operate in a cost-effective way,'" Scholl said. "That's a statement that American Farmland Trust can agree with."

Over the past three years, American Farmland Trust has led a comprehensive campaign to strengthen American agriculture and expand the public benefits of U.S. farm policy.

"We've known for a long time that Americans-producers and consumers-have not been well-served by many of today's farm and food policies," Scholl said. "For years, farmers and ranchers have told us they need better risk management tools and more effective programs to help them enhance conservation and land protection efforts. One of the greatest new elements contained in the 2008 Farm Bill is the Average Crop Revenue Election, or ACRE, program, for it represents a fundamental reform in how U.S. commodity programs operate, including the farm payments that President-elect Obama mentioned."

Under ACRE, market distortion is reduced, direct payments cut, and there is a reduction in loan deficiency payment rates.

"Participating in ACRE allows producers to choose a market-oriented, risk management tool that adjusts with market prices and pays farmers only when they need it-when they suffer a real loss in revenue," Scholl said. "The existing policies are based on politically set target prices and loan rates that distort the market. So ACRE is a small step for farmers to take in the right direction?but it's a giant leap forward in changing 'business as usual' in U.S. agricultural policy."

Scholl recently said that Obama is inheriting a daunting set of domestic and global challenges, given the fluctuations in global food and fuel prices, the shaken economy, and growing hunger.

"Farmers are under enormous pressure to produce food, fiber and fuel while minimizing their impact on the environment," Scholl said. "But with the right policy and true risk management tools, farmers and farmland can play a huge role in solving these challenges. We applaud President-elect Obama on his willingness to seek more effective and efficient agricultural programs and policies, such as ACRE."

American Farmland Trust is also asking producers and consumers to finalize its transition message to Obama by ranking eight key issues that will help achieve key strategic goals for the agriculture sector: focusing greater attention on protecting farmland and improving the economic vitality of farms; increasing the availability of fresh, local foods; giving farmers incentives to protect the environment; and, strengthening the connection between local farms and consumers. To rank the key issues visit: