Comment on Obama Agriculture Budget from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

Comments of Ferd Hoefner, NSAC Policy Director: The Obama Administration is to be congratulated for sending Congress FY 2010 budget requests for modest but important increases for key rural economic development and farm credit programs during trying economic times.  The sustainable agriculture community is particularly grateful for proposed increased funding for farm bill programs that help build small business and farming opportunities in rural America. The proposed budget would increase funding for the new Rural Micro-entrepreneur Assistance Program from $4 million to $28 million, the Value-Added Producer Grants program from $19 million to $22 million, and the Rural Cooperative Development Grants program from $6 million to $17 million.  Together, these programs enable rural farm and non-farm enterprises access to credit, capital, and training to help stimulate the rural economy, grow small businesses and coops, improve farm income, and foster new local and regional food systems.

On the farm credit accounts, the proposed budget would increase direct farm ownership loans, which are targeted in particular to beginning and minority farmers and ranchers, from $222 million worth of loans this year to $393 million in 2010.  In addition, the new conservation loan program would be funded at a loan volume of $150 million, divided evenly between direct and guaranteed loans, while the new Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Account Program would be fully funded at $5 million.  Each of these programs helps create new economic opportunities in farm country and we urge Congress to adopt them. Sadly, on the conservation side of the budget, the Obama proposal is a close repeat of the Bush Administration’s tactic of slashing farm bill conservation program mandatory spending and redirecting the savings to other programs.  The proposed request cuts over $680 million from the mandatory funding baseline for the 2008 Farm Bill.  This is unacceptable.  We strongly oppose this singling out of the conservation title of the farm bill for cuts and urge Congress to reject the President’s proposal. The conservation cuts include $250 million from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, $43 million from the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, $30 million from the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, and over $350 million from the Wetlands Reserve Program.  The Conservation Stewardship Program, Grassland Reserve Program, Conservation Reserve Program, and several smaller programs were left unscathed.  In the FY 2009 agriculture appropriations, Congress left all the farm bill conservation programs intact with the exception of a $270 million cut in EQIP. National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition p: 202-547-5754 f: 202-547-1837 www.sustainableagriculture.net <http://www.sustainableagriculture.net>

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