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Path AWAY from a 2012 Farm Bill: Pending House Extension Dooms Farm Bill Programs

July 28, 2012


For the past two days we have reported on the surprise move by the House Republican leadership to pull the rug out from under the 2012 Farm Bill.  Rather than complete its business by taking the farm bill reported out of the House Agriculture Committee to the floor and then to conference with the Senate-passed version, the House leadership has created a bill out of thin air, a bill that has never been considered by a congressional committee, a bill so new it does not even have a number yet.  With no open deliberation, no hearings, no testimony, and no chance for amendments, the House majority leaders plan to put it on the floor for a vote next Wednesday, bypassing the House Agriculture Committee in the process.

The leadership bill would extend the current 2008 Farm Bill’s commodity and crop insurance subsidy programs and the SNAP or food stamp program without significant change and with absolutely no reform, while cutting farm bill conservation programs by $761 million.  The conservation cuts would offset the provision of two year’s worth of livestock and fruit and nursery tree disaster assistance.  Not satisfied to cut just enough to offset the disaster payments, they propose to cut conservation an additional $140 million over and above what was needed.

The bill also pretends to cut one half of one percent ($261 million out of $50 billion) from commodity direct payments starting in 2014.  We say pretend not only because the cut is microscopic, but also because it would not kick in until after Congress rewrote the farm bill after the proposed one-year delay.  The proposed reduction in direct payments would almost certainly disappear in the farm bill rewrite next year, given the decision by both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees this year to terminate the direct payment program in its entirety in the new farm bill.  In effect, the extension bill would force taxpayers to spend another $5 billion for a program the House and Senate Agriculture have already decided deserves to be terminated.

In sharp contrast, the cuts to conservation would be real and would be effective immediately.  The irony of cutting conservation assistance to pay for disaster assistance was not lost on the National Association of Conservation Districts.

Responding to the proposed House bill, NACD President Gene Schmidt said, “We recognize farmers need aid in this emergency drought situation; however, sacrificing the very programs that help mitigate the impacts of drought and other disasters is extremely shortsighted.  While we can’t control the weather, long-term conservation planning is our best defense in protecting and preserving our natural resource base for the future. I think everyone would agree that it’s better to continue to invest in conservation now, than to be forced to pay the escalated costs of repair down the road.”

We couldn’t agree more.

But wait.  Its worse than all this, far worse.

The bill would also effectively terminate, at least for a full year, all of the farm bill-funded rural economic development, renewable energy, organic agriculture, local food, and beginning and minority farmer programs, and at least one of the specialty crop programs.  (See chart at end of post).

The bill would terminate farm bill direct funding authority for 27 such programs.  Of those, 21 are renewed with new direct funding authority under the terms of the Senate-passed 2012 Farm Bill, the House Committee-passed 2012 Farm Bill, or both.

In other words, the House leadership extension bill is gutting nearly two dozen smaller farm bill programs that one or both committees of jurisdiction have agreed should be renewed.  Yet they are continuing the giant $5 billion direct production subsidy program the Committees have agreed to terminate in the name of farm program reform.  Here to stay are widely discredited subsidies that pay without regard to farm prices or income.  Gone is support for healthy food, farmers markets, young struggling beginning farmers, renewable energy, and micro loans to spur job creation.

Gone to would be at least $77 million (according to OMB figures) in funds Congress has previously provided from which USDA is to pay successful claims against the government by black farmers whom USDA discriminated against in the past, under the terms of the Pigford lawsuit.

In a word, this bill is a travesty.

But wait, you may be saying, what about needed disaster assistance in the face of continuing drought?  Had the House majority leadership wanted to do something about disaster aid, it had two very simple paths forward.  The House could proceed to consideration of the 2012 Farm Bill, which contains the disaster funding already.  Or, had they wanted final action this month instead of in September,  they could have put a bill on the calendar to provide the $300 or so million in aid needed this year, and offset it with a 6 percent cut to direct payments, payments which are going away anyway.  Such a bill would likely have been easily passed.

But that was not the intent of what is being offered instead.  What is being offered is a political ploy aimed at trying to pass a highly controversial bill with no debate on the way out of town for a month long summer recess and then cynically blaming the other body and the other party for not following suit.  This would rank as just more political gamesmanship were it not for the real drought and real lives and livelihoods they are playing with, and were it not for the fact that if this bill passes, the 2012 Farm Bill dies.  For a farm bill process which has been relatively speaking marked by bicameral and bipartisan cooperation, this latest move is revolting, and as a result, we hope the rank and file of both parties will therefore revolt.

The choice is clear.  If this bill is actually brought to the floor next week, it should be voted down.  And the House should get back to the business of passing a new five-year farm bill, on time and on schedule.  Kicking the can down the road is bad.  Kicking the can down the road and killing off reform and killing off vital programs in the process is disgraceful.

Here is a chart of what the proposed one year extension bill cuts and terminates.  We may update this chart as more information becomes available.

Farm Bill Program

House One Year Extension Bill

What it means

Conservation Stewardship Program 2013 cap of 11 million acres 1.5 million acre cut = $289 million cut
Farmland Protection Program 2013 cap of $150 million $50 million cut
Environmental Quality Incentives 2013 cap of $1400 million $350 million cut
Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program 2013 cap of $45 million $40 million cut
Grassland Reserve Program * Mandatory funding authority terminated $32 million cut
Voluntary Public Access * Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program Zero funding in 2013
Desert Terminal Lakes * Repealed Repealed
Organic Research & Extension * Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program Zero funding in 2013
Specialty Crop Research Initiative * Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program Zero funding in 2013
Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program * Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program Zero funding in 2013
Biobased Markets Program * Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program Zero funding in 2013
Biorefinery Assistance* Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program Zero funding in 2013
Repowering Assistance Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program Zero funding in 2013
Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program Zero funding in 2013
Biodiesel Fuel Education Program * Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program Zero funding in 2013
Rural Energy for America Program * Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program Zero mandatory funding in 2013; small appropriations pending in House and Senate appropriations bills
Biomass Research and Development* Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program Zero funding in 2013
Biomass Crop Assistance Program * Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program Zero funding in 2013
Farmers Market Promotion Program* Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program Zero funding in 2013
National Clean Plant Network * Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program Zero funding in 2013
National Organic Certification Cost Share Program * Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program Zero funding in 2013
Organic Data Initiative * Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program Zero mandatory funding in 2013; small appropriations pending in Senate appropriations bill
Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers * Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program Zero funding in 2013
Small Watershed Rehabilitation * Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program Zero mandatory funding in 2013; small appropriations pending in House appropriations bill
Local Food Aid Procurement * Mandatory funding authority terminated Unclear
Rural Microenterpreneur Assistance Program * Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program $3 million cut; zero funding in 2013
Value-Added Producer Grants * Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program Zero mandatory funding in 2013; small appropriations pending in House and Senate appropriations bills
National Sheep Improvement Center Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program No immediate budget impact
Healthy Forests Reserve Program Mandatory funding authority terminated; converted to a purely discretionary program No immediate budget impact
Market Loss Assistance for Asparagus Mandatory funding authority terminated No immediate budget impact
Pigford Claims Mandatory funding authority terminated At least $77 million in payments to black farmers whom USDA discriminated against would be stopped, according to OMB figures

*  = Provided with mandatory money for 2013-2017 by the Senate-passed 2012 Farm Bill and/or by the pending House Committee-passed 2012 Farm Bill, but not under the pending House leadership one-year extension bill.


Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers, Budget and Appropriations, Conservation, Energy & Environment, Farm Bill, Local & Regional Food Systems, Organic Farming, Research, Education & Extension, Rural Development


6 Responses to “Path AWAY from a 2012 Farm Bill: Pending House Extension Dooms Farm Bill Programs”

  1. […] In his Reuters article from Friday Mr. Abbott also pointed out that, “An advocate for small farmers, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition [NSAC], called for the House to ‘vote down this dirty extension bill.’ The bill would cut soil and water conservation programs while keeping the direct payment, it said.”  [For more complete and detailed discussion from the NSAC, see this blog update from Saturday, “Path AWAY from a 2012 Farm Bill: Pending House Extension Dooms Farm Bill Programs”]. […]

  2. […] Path AWAY from a 2012 Farm Bill: Pending House Extension Dooms Farm Bill Programs – NSAC. Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  3. […] read the comprehensive article by the NSAC, click here. Share this:MoreLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  4. […] and the agriculture industry remain stuck in limbo and many programs will be threatened. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition sums it up succinctly: What is being offered is a political ploy aimed at trying to pass a highly […]

  5. […] Specifically, the one year extension the House is considering would: […]

  6. […] Leading up to today’s vote, it’s been a busy week or so in farm bill politics, with pressure mounting on Congress to pass legislation to “provide relief to cattle, pork and poultry farmers, who have been especially hard hit by the drought.” Last Friday (July 27), the House Rules Committee posted the text of a proposed one-year Farm Bill extension(PDF), which would be offered on a closed-rule basis—in other words, no amendments allowed from members. The proposed extension was withdrawn late on Tuesday, and the disaster relief standalone bill was born. In order to pay for disaster relief, conservation programs will be eliminated. […]

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