A new chapter on Farm Bill 2012 opened Wednesday with the first in a series of hearings before the Senate Committee on Agriculture. The hearing focused on energy programs and rural economic development. It featured committee chair Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) observing that the farm bill is a jobs bill as she advocated for early action to pass a new bill this spring.
While the Senate eases into its farm bill discussion, analysts at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition are pouring over President Obama’s FY 2013 budget proposal, which was released on Monday. It’s a “mixed bag” says NSAC. There are big cuts proposed for working lands conservation programs and some up and down adjustments in discretionary spending for other sustainable agriculture programs. NSAC has provided a detailed analysis of the President’s proposal in the web post “Obama’s FY 2013 USDA Budget Request.”
The analysis is well worth the read as we gear up to support the sustainable agriculture elements of US farm programs. It’s detailed, yet concise, and helps provide perspective to the administration’s agricultural priorities. Among the troubling signals the administration is sending is a willingness to cut deeply into conservation programs.
That, in NSAC’s view would be a mistake: “Now is not the time to do further damage to the conservation baseline. Farmer and rancher demand for conservation dollars exceeds supply by multiple factors for most programs. If anything, in the face of renewed severe erosion, climate change pressures, water depletion, and mounting energy prices, we need a bigger, not a smaller investment in farm conservation to protect the land that is our long-term food security.”
At CalCAN will heartily agree with the NSAC assessment. The budget message coming from the White House tells us that we’ll have our work cut out for us in Washington, D.C. this year as we work to build a sustainable and climate-friendly food system.