Release: NSAC Comments on Senate Farm Bill Markup
May 14th, 2013
For Immediate Release
NSAC COMMENTS ON SENATE FARM BILL MARKUP
Washington, DC, May 14 – The Senate Agriculture Committee today voted a new five-year farm bill out of committee by a vote of 15-5. The committee bill maintains the historic reforms to commodity subsidies included in last year’s bill that limit payments to the operator and not more than one additional farm manager per farm operation. The bill also retains certain improvements to crop insurance supported by NSAC, including a nationwide “sodsaver” provision to protect grasslands from conversion, re-linking soil and wetland conservation accountability to insurance subsidies, and better crop insurance options for diversified operations and for organic farmers.
“We applaud Chairwoman Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Cochran (R-MS) for advancing a new farm bill that protects the common-sense payment limitation reforms made to commodity programs and adopted as part of last year’s farm bill,” said Ferd Hoefner, Policy Director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “We are also pleased that the bill retains provisions to make crop insurance work better for diversified farms and for organic farmers. Each of these provisions improves the farm safety net, making it more fiscally responsible and more accessible to diverse sectors of American agriculture.”
“We were disappointed by the removal from the bill of the subsidy reduction on crop insurance premiums for farmers and investors making over $750,000 per year, a measure that passed overwhelmingly on the Senate floor last year,” added Hoefner. “We will continue to support the reauthorization of a full five-year farm bill, and will support amendments to target insurance subsidies and improve conservation accountability as the farm bill process moves forward.”
The committee bill also retains funding levels for beginning farmer, rural development, and marketing programs that were part of last year’s bill. Many of these programs were left unfunded in the 9-month farm bill extension that Congress passed as part of the fiscal cliff deal in January.
“The Committee today renewed its commitment to investing in economic development and job-creation programs that provide opportunities for farmers and rural communities,” said Hoefner. “Some of the funding levels for beginning and minority farmer programs, value-added agriculture, and rural development are lower than we would like, but nonetheless represent strong steps in the right direction that hopefully will be improved upon as the farm bill process moves forward.”
A number of amendments were agreed to during the markup, including one endorsed by NSAC on farmers growing for local and regional food markets.
“Thanks to leadership of Senator Cowan (D-MA) and Senator Brown (D-OH), the bill now ensures that farmers producing for local and regional markets will be better able to access operating credit through the Farm Service Agency,” said Hoefner.
Despite improvements, there were also missed opportunities for organic and beginning farmers.
Senator Cowan with Senator Leahy (D-VT) lead the charge to equalize payment limits in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program for organic farmers and those transitioning to organic production.
“We commend Senators Cowan and Leahy for seeking to improve the Environmental Quality Incentives Program so that organic farmers aren’t subject to a lower payment limit than all other farmers,” continued Hoefner. “This is a much-needed improvement that after four years of program implementation has proven to be the top barrier to program participation by organic and transitioning farmers.”
Senator Harkin (D-IA) pushed for amendments to make credit and training more appropriate and accessible for young and beginning farmers.
“We are grateful for Senator Harkin’s (D-IA) continued commitment to ensuring the success of the next generation of farmers,” noted Hoefner. “We regret that the Committee was not able to address improvements to credit and training for beginning farmers during markup, but hope they will be included in the bill as it moves to the Senate floor for debate and amendment.”
NSAC will continue to support reauthorization of the farm bill and will continue to work to strengthen the bill so that it further expands opportunities for family farmers to produce good food, sustain the environment, and contribute to vibrant communities.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities.