Draft House Farm Bill Analysis and More on the Farm Bill from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
FARM BILL ANALYSIS
Overall, the draft House Farm Bill is mixed when it comes to organic agriculture. It fails, unfortunately, to address some very significant issues concerning conservation and crop insurance access, as well as certification support for producers transitioning to organic. However, organic research and data initiatives receive support in the Chairman’s draft, and generally fared better than other areas of organic agriculture.
Though some conservation programs did receive increased funding in the draft bill, conservation takes a nearly $1 billion overall cut over 10 years. This proposed cut is on top of the $4 billion hit that the conservation title took in the last farm bill. Most egregiously, the draft bill proposes a massive cut to working lands conservation and guts the nation’s premier working lands program – the Conservation Stewardship Program.
The research title of the House Agriculture Committee Chairman’s recently released draft farm bill does not, in any substantive way, work to enhance the current landscape of sustainable agriculture research. While the text contains certain provisions that are beneficial, the majority of the legislation fails to fill the growing gaps in the public research and seed breeding industries that are increasingly making American agriculture less competitive globally, and also making our food system less secure.
The draft farm bill unfortunately fails to help American farmers tap growing local and regional food markets – in fact, the bill actively undermines the very programs and systems that have been the shining stars of the local and regional food renaissance.regional food renaissance.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), along with our many members, partners and allies, have put forward many thoughtful recommendations on how the strength of these farm safety net programs could be retained and strengthened, while also making much-needed improvements that would increase program access, equity, environmental improvement, and accountability. Unfortunately, the Chairman’s draft bill fails to take advantage of this rare opportunity to turn the ship and modernize these important programs.
By failing to incorporate the recommendations of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act into the mark, the Chairman fails to take advantage of a rare opportunity to knock down the long-standing barriers to entry for future generations of farmers. At a time when the average age of the American farmer is approaching 60 years, and increasingly retiring producers are struggling to find talented and driven future farmers to take over their operations, opening new doors to economic opportunity for beginning farmers is absolutely critical.
FARM BILL COMMENTS
The Conaway draft is clearly not a serious effort toward a bipartisan farm bill. By torpedoing decades of work by American farmers and advocates to advance sustainable agriculture and food systems, the Chairman has given this bill little chance of passing as written on the House floor. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) strongly encourages Chairman Conaway and the members of the House Agriculture Committee to work toward a bipartisan solution that will not just give lip service to America’s vulnerable families and food producing communities, but one that will provide real support to farmers, consumers, and our natural resources.
Many of the tiny but mighty programs are targeted toward strengthening local and regional food systems and ensuring that rural and food producing communities have the tools and resources to capitalize on farm-to-fork economic opportunities. Because most of these programs do not have permanent funding as commodity and crop insurance subsidies do, Congress must actively choose to refund them in each farm bill cycle in order for the programs to continue.
In total, the draft bill proposes to cut funding for working lands conservation programs by 25 percent ($4.3 billion) over five years and 20 percent ($7.1 billion) over 10 years, exclusive of final payments to existing CSP contracts. To put that figure in contrast, the 2014 Farm Bill cut the entire conservation title by $4 billion over 10 years.
Though limitations adopted in the final 2014 Farm Bill were far from game changing, they did make at least some effort to level the playing field for family farmers and reduce abusive subsidy schemes used to circumvent the law. The Conaway proposal makes a complete 180° turn from these reform efforts, and effectively ensures that payment limitations will never actually apply to anyone who cares to avoid them.
Learn more about agricultural politics and farm policy from beginningfarmers.org at https://www.beginningfarmers.org/farm-policy-agricultural-politics/