NSAC's Blog

NSAC, Farmers Partner to Advocate on Sustainable Agriculture Funding

March 28, 2014

This week, a dozen family farmers and sustainable agriculture advocates from eight states traveled to Washington, DC to share their stories with the members of Congress who will decide on the coming year’s agricultural budget.  In meetings Wednesday and Thursday, farmers called upon their legislators to invest in a more sustainable food and farm future through strong funding for a host of critical agriculture programs.  Concurrently this week, NSAC submitted formal appropriations testimony to both the House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations subcommittees on behalf of its member organizations nationwide.

“It was time to advocate for the programs we’d made use of,” said Arkansas farmer Jeremy Prater of Cedar Creek Farm in Cedarville.  With the help of research made available through the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, Prater and his wife transitioned his grandparents’ conventional poultry operation to what he calls “a sustainable and local model,” raising grass-fed beef, poultry, goats and hogs.  SARE supports regional, highly effective farmer-driven innovation and has been an NSAC funding priority since its inception in 1988.

Iowa farmer Andrew Pittz discusses the SARE program with Senator Tom Harkin

Iowa farmer Andrew Pittz discusses the SARE program with Senator Tom Harkin.

Lifelong dairy farmer Barb Buchmayer of Green Hills Harvest in Purdin, MO made the trip to Washington DC to communicate “the importance of conservation programs on our farm and in our local farming community.”  Preventing cuts to mandatory funding levels for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and other conservation programs authorized in the Farm Bill is another of NSAC’s  appropriations priorities for the year.  Participating in EQIP allowed Barb and her husband to incorporate conservation management practices for erosion control and wildlife habitat  management on their Missouri farm.

“We are excited that the president’s budget included additional funding for RMAP (the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program),” said Steph Larsen, of NSAC member group the Center for Rural Affairs, based in Nebraska and Montana.  “We’re hopeful that appropriators will give USDA more flexibility, so that RMAP providors will be able to help many more rural small businesses.”

The possibility of a legislative rider limiting contract fairness for livestock and poultry producers inspired Missouri farmer Mai Her to make the trip to DC.  “As a poultry grower, the GIPSA (Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Act) rule is there to protect us – without these rules we’re at the mercy of the company,” Her said.  “It makes me proud to come here, to the place where these national decisions are made, and educate my members of Congress on the issues that are so important to my community.”

Representative Chellie Pingree with Maine organic farmer Carly DelSignore

Representative Chellie Pingree with Maine organic farmer Carly DelSignore.

“It’s really important to have a voice,” agreed Carly DelSignore of Tide Mill Organic Farm in Edmunds, Maine.  She spoke with her legislators to share her diversified farm’s successes with SARE, which helped them optimize their chickens’ grain consumption and reduce costs.  She also strongly encouraged a proposed $5 million to fund food safety training for farmers.  The Food Safety Outreach program will provide funding for organizations to help farmers comply with upcoming Food Safety Modernization Act regulations from FDA.

“Even such a small amount of money is effective,” she said.  “We need to keep alive the systems that work for farmers and economies and communities.”

Priority Agriculture Appropriations Asks

NSAC urges Congressional appropriators to invest in sustainable agriculture in the FY 2015 agriculture appropriations bill by:

  • Funding food safety training for farmers at $5 million via the new Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP);
  • Opposing cuts to mandatory funding for farm bill conservation programs, including CSP and EQIP;
  • Providing $30 million for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, which is authorized at $60 million but has never received more than $23 million;
  • Funding the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) program at $2.5 million, per the President’s FY 2015 Budget Request;
  • Providing $3.3 million in discretionary funding for loans and grants through the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP);
  • and excluding legislative riders that limit fair competition and farmer protections in livestock market.

For more on these and other NSAC appropriations requests for FY 2015, you can download our full appropriations testimony.

Categories: Budget and Appropriations, Competition & Anti-trust, Conservation, Energy & Environment, Food Safety, Research, Education & Extension, Rural Development

Comments are closed.