House Farm Bill Extension Would Hurt Farmers and Economy, Undermine Conservation Efforts
July 27th, 2012
On Friday, July 27, the House Rules Committee posted the text of a one-year extension to the 2008 Farm Bill. In our earlier post, we noted that we strongly oppose a clean extension of the Farm Bill, given that the bill would allow many critical programs expire.
Unfortunately, the bill posted on the Rules Committee website tonight is far worse than a clean extension. It is a dirty extension. It does not extend many of the most important food and agriculture reform and economic renewal programs and it cuts more than $760 million from mandatory conservation programs. Moreover, it spends another $5 billion on direct payments that both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees agreed to terminate. To add insult to injury, we are told by House sources the extension would be offered under a closed rule, meaning that leadership would not allow members to offer amendments.
The bill cuts only $261 million over ten years from the direct payment program, with no cut at all in fiscal year 2013. Rather than reduce direct payments per se, and rather than implement reform by scaling back the amount of payments mega farms can receive, the bill takes the entirety of its modest cut to direct payments from farms that are not large enough to exceed the farm bill’s payment limitation. In other words, the largest farms get no cut at all.
Conversely, in FY 2013 the bill would cut 1.8 million acres from the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), $50 million from the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP), $350 million from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and $40 million from the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), while completely eliminating the Grasslands Reserve Program (GRP). Farmer demand for these programs exceed even the current supply of dollars and acres by more than 2:1. In a year when intensifying production pressures, weather pressures, and environmental pressures cry out for more rather than less conservation assistance, the proposed bill would help guarantee an acceleration of problems and an increase in costs down the road to protect and enhance the natural resources on which our food security depends.
The proposed bill would provide no mandatory money for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), Conservation Reserve Program Transition Incentive Program (CRP-TIP), Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP), Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers (OASDFR), Renewable Energy Assistance Program (REAP), Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP), Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG), or Voluntary Public Access (VPA) program. Each of those programs would be funded under one or both of the Senate-passed 2012 Farm Bill and the House Committee-passed 2012 Farm Bill, and thus represents a radical about face on the part of the House Republican leadership. In essence, the bill is saying no to new farming opportunities, no to job creation, and no to improved production and access to healthy food.
For more contextual information on the extension, disaster relief, and the future of the farm bill, read our earlier blog post.
NSAC strongly opposes this extension bill. It makes absolutely no sense to use long-term soil and water conservation efforts as an offset for short-term drought relief to farmers and ranchers. Moreover, the bill would allow critical rural development, beginning farmer, research, and conservation programs expire with no funding for FY 2013. We continue to urge Congress to do its job and finalize a farm bill before the end of the fiscal year.
We have no opposition to a clean bill that funds expiring livestock and specialty crop disaster programs. But that is not what the House leadership is proposing. They are simply manipulating appropriate public interest to respond to the drought to kill the farm bill, kill reform, beat up on conservation programs, and make the farm bill’s most innovative programs disappear overnight. This dirty extension bill deserves to be soundly defeated.