Only a few reactions to farm bill principles
January 29, 2018
Farm and nutrition groups were slow to react to the farm bill and legislative principles Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue released.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall called the principles "a roadmap for the 2018 farm bill" and said it is good for farmers, ranchers and rural communities. The secretary's farm bill principles look to the future while securing the present for farmers and ranchers who continue to face a prolonged period of reduced farm income. We are pleased the secretary and his team have highlighted not just the importance of risk management on the farm, but also rural development, research and development, trade, conservation and nutrition. We applaud Secretary Perdue's clear signal that he is looking forward to working with agriculture's leaders in Congress, just as is Farm Bureau, to arrive at a farm bill that will bring out the best agriculture has to offer the American people and the world."
The principles did not mention the dairy program or any other commodity specifically, but National Milk Producers Federation President Jim Mulhern said that he is "encouraged" that Perdue's principles "start with improving the farm safety net. The farm bill's dairy Margin Protection Program has proven to be inadequate in providing help to America's dairy farmers, and fixing it must be a priority in 2018. The USDA has taken significant steps at NMPF's request in the past three years to improve the MPP, but more is needed."
Greg Fogel, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said NSAC "is heartened to see that USDA's 'Farm Bill and Legislative Principles for 2018' gives attention to many priority issues of the sustainable agriculture community, including: land access and increased opportunity for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers; organic label integrity; and strengthening our investment in agricultural research and working lands conservation. We hope that Congress will take note of USDA's emphasis on these issues, and recognize the need to realign farm bill funding to ensure a truly family farmer-focused bill.
But Fogel said, "Several issues that are key to the health of America's rural communities are left out entirely, including: advancing local and regional markets, expanding opportunities for value-added agriculture and farm-based renewable energy."
He concluded, "We are also concerned by the suggestion of potentially disastrous changes to nutrition assistance programs. In this document, USDA seems to imply a fundamental change in our food security programs that could not only challenge the agency's anti-hunger objectives, but could also seriously risk the timely passage of a new farm bill. If we want an on-time farm bill that serves the needs of American farmers and families, Congress must seek to unite, not divide, the agricultural and anti-hunger coalitions."
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Jim Weill, president of the Food Research & Action Center, which lobbies in favor of federal nutrition programs, said that the nutrition statements were "very broad, and the devil is in the details."
Referring to a provision calling on congress to "support work as the pathway to self-sufficiency, well-being and economic mobility for individuals and families receiving supplemental nutrition assistance," Weill said, "Supporting work as a way to self-sufficiency is an important goal. The question: Is that going to be done by ensuring that people get job training and jobs that they need, or will it be done through arbitrary time limits?"
Weill urged support for a bill (H.R. 1276) sponsored by Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C., a member of the House Agriculture Committee. That bill exempts from SNAP work requirements able-bodied adults without dependents who are not offered a position in a SNAP Employment and Training Program.