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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