Ag coalition asks for increase in ag budget |

Ag coalition asks for increase in ag budget

A coalition of more than 70 agriculture groups late Dec. 14 sent a letter to congressional leaders asking for an increase in the agriculture budget for the fiscal year 2018 agriculture appropriations bill on which congress is working.

“We write as a coalition of organizations from the food, agriculture, scientific, academic, veterinary and consumer communities to urge you to substantially increase the discretionary budget cap for domestic programs and provide an allocation for the FY 2018 Agriculture appropriations bill of 5 percent of the total domestic discretionary budget cap increase,” the letter said.

“The food and agricultural sector alone contributes nearly $1 trillion to the national economy every year, or approximately 5.5 percent of the nation’s GDP. The sector supports over 22 million American jobs, or nearly 15 percent of U.S. employment.

“This segment of our economy is the best example of how the combination of technology, ingenuity and hard work have made our country the strongest force for improving the lives of billions of people here and around the world. However, more support is needed if we are to maintain our historic leadership in this area.

“If the budget caps are raised, additional agricultural investment should be a top priority within the final omnibus bill. We believe that the agriculture appropriations subcommittees are currently hamstrung by a discretionary allocation that is not commensurate with the importance of this sector to the daily lives of Americans. This is a challenge that can only be remedied by leadership on both sides of Capitol Hill, and by the full appropriations committees.

“The USDA and FDA bill is the smallest of all the appropriations bills, save for the legislative appropriation. The success of the American farm and food system has made it possible for the consistent transfer of resources into other sectors.

“Since FY 2010, the inflation-adjusted agricultural appropriations budget has fallen by 20 percent, while most other allocations have grown or not faced the same dramatic cuts. These reductions pose immediate and long-term threats to our production, natural resources and ability to lead on an increasingly competitive global stage, which is why the trend of declining investment must be reversed now.

“The marginal value of this extra funding to promote science, rural development, and the economic health of agriculture far outweighs the last dollars of spending in many other areas and these investments will improve food security and national security.”

The letter was released by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Kanika Gandhi, an NSAC policy specialist said, “It is encouraging to see such a diverse range of stakeholders coalesce around the need to lift the budget cap for non-defense discretionary spending and to increase the allocation for the agriculture appropriations bill. The agriculture bill has not always received its fair share when the caps are increased, but we believe this is a great opportunity for leaders in both chambers to invest in the future sustainability of the American farm and food system.”

The letter was sent to House and Senate Republican and Democratic appropriations leaders and to the leaders of the House and Senate.

The letter was signed by a broad range of groups, but there were some oddities about who signed and who didn’t.

The National Farmers Union signed the bill, but the American Farm Bureau Federation did not. Crop groups supported the request, but meat groups did not sign the letter. Western Growers, the largest association of fruit and vegetable farmers signed the letter, but the United Fresh Produce Association did not.