Source: Rural Coaltion
Published January 8, 2013
A disastrous nine-month extension of the 2008 Farm bill was approved by the US Senate
in the early hours of the New Year attached to the fiscal cliff bill.
The extension was authored by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in his
negotiations with Vice President Joe Biden. It has now become law as part of much larger
fiscal cliff bill approved by the US House of Representatives on New Years Day, and
signed on January 3, 2013 by President Obama.
The final product falls far short of the hopes of the agricultural, rural, and urban
communities as well as the leadership in both Agriculture Committees.
For many months, farmers, ranchers, Tribal Nations, Farmworkers and rural and urban
communities with allies in the business community worked in good faith with the
Agriculture Committees on a full 5-year Farm Bill. The Senate had passed their version
of a full 5- year bill last summer. Disagreements over funding for Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program (SNAP) and a new dairy program were among issues that delayed
a vote on the House Agriculture Committee version of the bill in the full US House of
Following failure to complete the full bill in regular order, the Senate and House
Agriculture Committees in late December jointly developed a one-year extension
that while flawed at least had some balance. Their version of the extension included
support for a critical set of programs that are forming a foundation for a steadily
emerging new food system. For example, the Outreach and Assistance Program for
Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers we have long supported would have
received mandatory funding of $15 million and the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers
Development Program, $19 million for FY 2013.
The Agriculture Committees also responded to farmers across the nation devastated by
drought and heat for the last three years with measurable disaster relief and included a
small reduction in direct payments in commodity programs.
However, when the final deal on the extension was worked out, the Agriculture
Committees weren't included and most of those positive steps forward were reversed.
Direct commodity payments were kept at 2008 levels, despite agreements in the
Agriculture Committees to reduce them. Disaster aid was removed. FY 2013 funding
for the Outreach and Assistance Program for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and
Ranchers, and the Beginning Farmer Development Program, the Rural Value Added
Program, specialty crops, nutrition education, organic and urban agriculture, and some
conservation, forestry, energy and other critical programs, was zeroed out.
A new Congress was sworn in on January 3, 2013. The Agriculture Committees have expressed
their intention to continue work on a full five year Farm Bill. We will keep you informed of the
future opportunities for action. As a first step in the continuing saga of the 2012
Farm Bill, we have prepared the following Statement of Support for A Full and Fair Farm
Bill, and we urge your organization to sign on.
This Letter is sent on Behalf of the Undersigned Groups. For more information contact Lorette
Picciano, Rural Coalition at email@example.com or 202-628-7160; Katherine Ozer, National
Family Farm Coalition at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-543-5675.
Statement of Support for a Full and Fair Farm Bill
January 7, 2013
We, the undersigned, worked diligently and in good faith with the Senate and House Agriculture Committees to complete the 2012 Farm Bill in regular order. When that did not occur, the Committees jointly developed a plan for a one-year extension that, while flawed, had many merits. Like the Agriculture Committee leaders and members, we were shocked to learn that this agreement had been replaced by a biased extension that also disappointed the farmers, fishers, ranchers, Tribal Nations, farmworkers, and rural and urban communities we represent.
Direct payments were continued at the full 2008 levels - despite agreements to reduce them - while disaster response support for producers who have suffered up to three years of extreme drought and heat was eliminated.
In the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills, Congress gradually adopted a set of programs to build the foundation for a new food system. This emerging food system, a small but growing portion of overall US Farm and Food Policy, has the potential to enhance equity for our nation's diverse producers and farmworkers, secure a future in agriculture for new entry farmers and rural, urban and tribal communities, and provide fresh, local food for all consumers.
The Agriculture Committees' December 31 agreement continued 2013 support for these critical programs, which ranged from Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers to Beginning Farmer Development, Rural Development, Specialty Crop, Organic and Urban Agriculture, and others, including a deep surprise cut in the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance) education program. All of this funding was zeroed out as the Farm Bill extension was attached to the fiscal cliff bill that has now become law.
We thank the Agriculture Committee leadership and members for their efforts to achieve balance. Beginning immediately, we pledge to work with the incoming Agriculture Committees to complete a full and fair Farm Bill that mitigates disasters, protects natural resources, provides equity and inclusion, constructs a new and economically viable future for agriculture and rural communities, and assures healthy food for all consumers.