154 grassroots organizations sent a letter to the United States Senate on Monday in opposition to a government funding bill that would slash more than $60 billion from the federal budget for the last half of fiscal year 2011. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) circulated the letter, and the Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural circulated it as well.
The groups argue that the bill (H.R.1) unfairly singles out programs that serve sustainable, organic, beginning and minority farmers, and that the disproportionate cuts to agriculture and rural America are reckless and unjust. The letter particularly highlights the threat these cuts make to rural communities, struggling to create jobs, find new markets, and renew economic life.
H.R.1 slashes a disproportional amount from the agriculture budget (22 %) relative to other budget functions, and the House is also proposing deep cuts to conservation and renewable energy funding provided by the 2008 Farm Bill — a combined $500 million would be cut under the House bill from the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Wetland Reserve Program (WRP), and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP).
In addition, no cuts were proposed for two of biggest line items in the agriculture budget – commodity payments or crop insurance – while conservation, renewable energy, loans for beginning and minority farmers, and feeding programs for low income families took big hits. The letter states: “In a year of relatively high farm income, the House has focused its cuts instead upon programs that protect the environment, increase economic opportunity, serve beginning and minority farmers, and ensure proper nutrition for low-income families.”
The House bill would also eliminate funding completely for a number of small programs of great importance to sustainable, organic, beginning and minority farmers. “These are programs that with minimal resources are charged with serving the most chronically underserved segments of agriculture,” the letter states.
All 154 organizations from across the United States urge the Senate to reject this short-term approach that disproportionately targets a particular piece of government spending and threatens to reverse economic recovery in rural communities. In closing, they call for “a more equitable, responsible and measured approach to deficit reduction,” and that, “…with just half a fiscal year remaining, a net freeze at the prior year’s level would be a significant contribution toward a comprehensive deficit reduction plan.”
To take action in support of sustainable agriculture funding click here.