Jan 03 2013
Buried in the 150-page “fiscal cliff” tax bill passed New Year’s Day is a last-minute farm bill extension that removes funding for numerous programs that assist organic farmers, small farmers, and beginning farmers. The legislation fails to provide disaster aid for farmers or livestock producers, and provides no mandatory funding for specialty crop and organic provisions, beginning farmer and rancher programs, and numerous conservation measures.
Research programs that were cut include:
- Organic Agriculture Research and Extension ($20 million)
- Specialty Crop Research Initiative ($50 million)
- Beginning Farmer & Rancher Development Program ($19 million)
Outreach programs that were cut include:
- Farmers Market Promotion Program ($10 million)
- National Organic Certification Cost Share ($5 million)
- Organic Data Initiative ($1 million)
- Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers ($15 million)
Meanwhile, the deal locks in $5 billion in direct payment subsidies for commodity production for another year, regardless of price and income conditions. Both Senate and House Agricultural Committees had agreed to eliminate these direct payment programs earlier in 2012.
‘The deal is blatantly anti-reform,’ said Ferd Hoefner, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. ‘Many smaller, targeted programs to fund farm and food system reform and rural jobs…were left out completely.’
‘A responsible measure would have cut direct payments and insurance subsidies and fully funded important conservation programs,’ said Craig Cox, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the Environmental Working Group. ‘This extension reflects the skewed priorities that continue to produce a totally unbalanced farm and food policy. Soil erosion, land conversion, and water pollution from farm chemicals are enormous challenges. Yet this extension will hobble a major conservation program, while channeling billions in cash payments to already highly profitable farm businesses. It makes little sense to cut support for organics, the fastest growing sector of the agriculture economy, and to curtail a long list of other initiatives designed to increase access to healthy food and create new economic opportunities for family farms.’