California Caucus members of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, including CalCAN, expressed reluctant support for the farm bill up for final vote in Congress the last week of January. The bill cuts billions from conservation programs and fails on key commodity reforms, but renews the critical investments in important programs for beginning farmers, local food systems, organic agriculture, and healthy food access, and also relinks conservation requirements to the receipt of crop insurance premium subsidies.
NSAC Statement on Farm Bill Final Passage
January 28, 2014, Washington, DC – The farm bill reported by the conference committee renews funding for a number of important programs that were left stranded by last year’s farm bill extension, but fails to make much-needed reforms in the structure of farm policy.
The bill jettisons the long-overdue payment limitation reforms included in both the House- and Senate-passed bills last year that target farm subsidy payments to working farmers. It also drops a provision passed twice by the Senate that would have modestly reduced insurance subsidies to millionaires. Additionally, the bill cuts billions from the very conservation programs that help farmers address production challenges and protect natural resources and the environment. The final bill also reduces benefits for a portion of SNAP (food stamp) participants.
“At a time of fiscal restraint, growing income inequality, and economic distress in rural communities, it is appalling for the new farm bill to continue uncapped, unlimited commodity and crop insurance subsidies for mega-farms,” said Ferd Hoefner, Policy Director with NSAC. “The backroom deal to reverse the reforms backed by a bipartisan majority of the both the House and the Senate is an affront to the democratic process.”
The bill does renew critical investments in important programs for beginning farmers, local food systems, organic agriculture, and healthy food access, and also relinks conservation requirements to the receipt of crop insurance premium subsidies. The final bill also rejects a series of extreme proposals to eliminate market and contract protections for livestock and poultry farmers.
“We are pleased that the bill renews support for innovative programs that invest in the next generation of farmers, the growth of local and organic agriculture, and economic opportunity in rural communities,” said Ariane Lotti, Assistant Policy Director with NSAC. “These programs have been needlessly on hold for the past year, and farmers and communities have been left in the lurch as a result.”
“We do not endorse the process that has led to completion of this farm bill nor do we think it represents the 21st century policy we need to support a sustainable farm and food system,” Lotti added. “However, given a lengthy two-and-a-half year process and the importance of renewing funding for the most innovative programs for the future of agriculture, we support moving forward but will continue to work for the real reform this bill lacks.”