A coalition of farm, conservation, nutrition and rural groups are urging the House and Senate budget and appropriations committees not to reopen the 2014 Farm Bill through the budget or appropriations process.
“With the 2018 farm bill debate quickly ramping up, it would be entirely inappropriate for congressional appropriators to use the upcoming 2017 and 2018 appropriations bills to raid mandatory funds from crucial farm bill programs like those that help farmers implement conservation activities on their farm, and anti-hunger programs that provide nutritious food access to families," said Greg Fogel, Policy Director at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. "These decisions should be left to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to make next year as part of the normal farm bill process.”
The House Agriculture Committee held a hearing Feb. 15 to review the economic challenges facing rural America as it prepares for the 2018 Farm Bill. Members heard from several witnesses including Dr. Robert Johansson, USDA chief economist; Dr. Nathan Kauffman, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City; Dr. Joe Outlaw, Texas A&M University, Department of Agricultural Economics; Dr. Patrick Westhoff, Director for the Food and Agricultural Research Institute, University of Missouri, and Dr. D. Scott Brown, University of Missouri. The testifiers highlighted low farm commodity prices, declining net farm income, tightening credit conditions, a strong dollar and unfair trade practices.
“There is real potential for a crisis in rural America,” said House Ag Committee chairman K. Michael Conaway. “Net farm income for America's farmers and ranchers has fallen 50% over the past four years with the collapse in commodity prices. As we begin the farm bill process, these economic realities must be front and center. The farm bill serves as a safety net for producers, helping manage risk in difficult times. We are in those times now, and we must deliver solutions that work for our nation’s farmers and ranchers.”
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has consistently advocated against reopening 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.
“In the coming months, congressional appropriators will finalize funding legislation for fiscal year (FY) 2017 while simultaneously beginning work on FY 2018,” said Fogel. “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.”
Source: NSAC, House Ag Committee