October 28, 2011
On Friday, October 28, as the staff for the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees prepare for final deliberations on a farm bill proposal to send to the special congressional deficit reduction panel (or super committee), NSAC sent the leaders a letter highlighting some key concerns.
The letter addresses three main issues that will be paramount as NSAC members determine whether or not to support the proposal to the super committee.
First, it urges the restoration of effective payment caps and conservation requirements on commodity and commodity insurance subsidies. The letter notes that these are part of the social contract struck with the taxpayer over the course of decades of farm bill — subsidies should be capped and the beneficiaries should be required to farm in ways that do not exacerbate soil erosion or drain wetlands. The now very badly frayed social contract is in urgent need of being restored, and NSAC urges the leaders to do just that as they reconstruct and make major revisions to the commodity and crop insurance titles of the bill.
Second, the letter notes that conservation funding is on tap for a disproportionate share of the proposed cuts to farm bill spending and urges restraint. The letter encourages inclusion of an enhanced Conservation Stewardship Program, enlarged Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative, restored Wetland Reserve Program, and targeted incentives for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, local food producers, and organic agriculture.
Finally, the letter urges renewal and expansion of farm bill direct funding for beginning and minority farmers, direct and local marketing, rural micro-enterprise and value-added grants and loans, organic farming, specialty crops, agricultural research, and renewable energy.
The proposal from the leaders of the Agriculture Committees is expected early next week.