NFU, ASA, Nestle comment on farm bill principles | TheFencePost.com

NFU, ASA, Nestle comment on farm bill principles

The National Farmers Union, the American Sugar Alliance and Marion Nestle, the New York University nutrition professor, have commented on the farm bill principles released Jan. 24 by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson, who recently called for a bigger budget for the farm program, expressed disappointment that Perdue did not call for more spending.

In its newsletter, NFU said "The four-page document is fairly broad, providing a handful of bullet points for various aspects of the farm bill. Unfortunately, the USDA did not acknowledge a need for increased funding to adequately support our nation's food system."

"We need to be focused on bolstering farm safety net programs that protect producers when times get tough, and in this farm economy, that takes more money," Johnson said. "Unfortunately, USDA's proposals seem to suggest they aren't in favor of putting more money in the farm bill."

Perdue did not mention any specific commodities in the proposal, but the American Sugar Alliance, which represents cane and beet growers, said in a news release Jan 25, "While there will likely be disagreement on some of the principles, it's hard to argue with the USDA that Congress should 'provide a farm safety net that helps American farmers weather times of economic stress.' Talk of a strong domestic farm policy is music to sugar farmers' ears as they deal with Mother Nature's wrath and a low-price market."

"It's getting harder to make a living in sugar. Production costs keep going up, but sugar prices have barely budged in decades," said Leonard Simmons, a cane farmer from San Benito, Texas. "Hawaii recently stopped growing sugar because of this economic squeeze, and I fear Texas won't be far behind if U.S. sugar policy is weakened."

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The sugar program sets a floor price for sugar and operates without taxpayer cost except when prices are unusually low.

"If sugar is not profitable, farmers lose more than our farms. We lose our businesses, our investments and our local economies," said Galen Lee, a Plymouth, Idaho, sugar producer who is the president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.

Lee and Simmons are hopeful that lawmakers will resist calls to essentially cut sugar farmers out of the farm bill.

"After all, a strong domestic sugar industry will be important to rebuilding the rural economy, as President Trump has promised, and to achieving Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue's overarching goal to 'do right and feed everyone,'" they said.

Nestle said in her blog post Thursday that the principles show that USDA "supports legislation that will do a great many things for farm production, conservation, trade, food and nutrition services, marketing, food safety, research and education, and natural resources."

But she asked "Where is a vision for a farm bill that promotes health, sustainable agriculture, and small or mid-size farms, protects farm workers and reduces greenhouse gases?"

Of Perdue's principles on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Nestle asked how USDA will define who is "truly in need," where jobs to satisfy work requirements will come from and contended that the concern about fraud and abuse "means spending millions of dollars a year on fraud prevention."

Of Perdue's statement about the need to "assure the scientific integrity of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans process through greater transparency and reliance on the most robust body of scientific evidence," Nestle asked, "Weren't they always based on the available science? This sounds like a way to prevent the guidelines from suggesting eating less of junk foods."