Farm bill coalition asks for no cuts to farm bill programs | TheFencePost.com

Farm bill coalition asks for no cuts to farm bill programs

The Hagstrom Report

A broad alliance of hundreds of farm, conservation, nutrition and rural groups sent House and Senate Budget and Appropriations committee leaders a letter Feb. 21, urging them not to re-open the 2014 farm bill through the budget or appropriations process.

"The undersigned organizations, representing America's agriculture, nutrition, conservation, rural development, finance, forestry, energy, trade, local government, plant/animal health, agricultural sciences and veterinary medicine, labor, outdoor recreation, equipment manufacturing, cooperatives, hunters, anglers and crop insurance sectors, strongly urge you to reject calls for additional cuts to policies within the jurisdiction of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry or the House Committee on Agriculture," the letter says.

The signers also point out that the 2014 farm bill promised to save $23 billion and that January 2017 baseline estimates from the Congressional Budget Office project that nutrition and crop insurance alone will spend nearly $100 billion less, while mandatory federal spending outside the Agriculture Committees' jurisdiction has risen over the same time period.

The letter says the groups have started preparing for the 2018 farm bill.

"With the agriculture and rural economy struggling, households across the country struggling to meet their basic needs for nutrition, and farm income down 46 percent from only three years ago, it would be perilous to hinder development and passage of the 2018 Farm Bill with further cuts," the letter says.

THE ALLIANCE

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The alliance includes the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the Food Research & Action Center, the National Association of Conservation Districts and the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives as well as commodity, livestock and banking organizations. The letter was sent to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and ranking member Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and ranking member Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; House Budget Committee Interim Chairwoman Diane Black, R-Tenn., and ranking member John Yarmuth, D-Ky.; and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., and ranking member Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.

"The Food Research & Action Center is proud to have played a leadership role in developing and garnering support for the attached letter urging the House and Senate Budget and Appropriations Committees not to hinder development and passage of the 2018 Farm Bill with further cuts," FRAC said in an email to The Hagstrom Report.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition noted in a statement that it "has consistently advocated against re-opening the farm bill during the appropriations process. In recent years, it has become increasingly common for appropriations bills to cut farm bill conservation program spending in order to fill discretionary spending gaps. These programs, which include the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, are the primary means through which farmers, ranchers and foresters build soil health, prepare for drought and flooding events, limit water pollution, and enhance wildlife habitat. Despite the benefits that they provide to American farmers and ranchers and to the environment, these programs have been targeted unfairly for spending reductions, year after year, through backdoor cuts known as 'changes in mandatory program spending.'"

"In the coming months, congressional appropriators will finalize funding legislation for fiscal year 2017 while simultaneously beginning work on FY 2018," said Greg Fogel, NSAC policy director. "The letter sent today reaffirms that the purpose of appropriations bills is to modify discretionary, not mandatory, spending levels. Appropriators should not be in the business of cutting or postponing mandatory funding for farm bill programs through the appropriations cycle."

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