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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

150 Groups Oppose House Budget Bill's Food and Farm Section

- from the desk of Ferd Hoefner, Sustainable Agricutlure Coalition,

150 Groups Oppose House Budget Bill’s Food and Ag Section

A wide-ranging coalition of 150 food, hunger, conservation, rural, renewable energy and agricultural research organizations today and companies urged the House of Representatives to defeat the pending budget reconciliation bill. The groups argued that the Agriculture Committee-approved provisions in the bill are unfair and would have “a serious and negative impact on the nation’s ability to prevent hunger, solve critical environmental and energy problems, and improve economic opportunity in rural America.”

In particular, the diverse alliance of national, regional, and state groups singled out the cuts to the Food Stamps, Conservation Security, Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Improvements, Value-Added Producer Grants, Agricultural Management Assistance (support for transition to organic farming), and the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems (competitive grant research funding) programs as misguided.

Among the many groups signing the letter were the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Environmental and Energy Study Institute, Congressional Hunger Center, National Organic Coalition, Bread for the World, National Farmers Organization, Center for Rural Affairs, Food Research and Action Council (FRAC), American Society of Agronomy, Community Food Security Coalition, Northeast-Midwest Institute, National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture, Union of Concerned Scientists, Crop Science Society of America, National Family Farm Coalition, Organic Valley Family of Farms, Defenders of Wildlife, Soil Science Society of America, Rural Coalition, Share Our Strength, and American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

The full text of the letter follows:

November 8, 2005

Dear Representative:

We the undersigned organizations strongly oppose the misguided priorities reflected in the budget reconciliation package reported by the House Agriculture Committee and urge you to oppose the budget reconciliation bill when it reaches the floor.

The agricultural portion of the bill as reported would:

• Eliminate nearly 300,000 food stamp recipients from the program entirely. One proposal alone would terminate food stamps to 225,000 people, mostly in low-wage working families with children. Another provision would terminate food stamps working-poor and elderly legal immigrants by making them ineligible for seven years after legally entering the U.S. regardless of how poor they are. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 70,000 low-income legal immigrants would be tossed off the Food Stamp Program by this measure. Through program interactions, the food stamp section of the bill would also force 40,000 children to lose their automatic eligibility for free school meals, according to the Congressional Research Service.

• Cut conservation spending over the next five years by $760 million, a rate nearly three times greater than conservation’s share of total committee mandatory spending. One proposal alone, scaling back the groundbreaking new Conservation Security Program, would cut over $500 million, bringing a stop to new enrollments in the program before the end of this farm bill cycle and denying participation to farmer and ranchers in large portions of the country. All this comes at a time when three out of every four farmers seeking to enroll in conservation programs are being turned away due to lack of funds, and follows on the heels of a one-year $507 million cut to farm bill conservation programs in the recently passed FY06 Agricultural Appropriations bill.

• Totally eliminate all funding for 2007 for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Improvements program (Section 9006). This popular and successful farm bill program assists farmers and ranchers with wind power, solar energy, biofuels and energy efficiency projects. The bill also would eliminate baseline funding for this program in the next farm bill.

• Totally eliminate all funding for 2007 for the Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG) Program that helps farmers and rural communities increase income and economic opportunity through creation of value-adding agricultural enterprises. The program is so popular that USDA is able to fund only a quarter of the project proposals. In addition to food and agricultural development projects, the program has also funded nearly 100 renewable energy projects in the last four years. The bill also would eliminate baseline funding for this program in the next farm bill.

• Totally eliminate funding for organic farming cost-share and organic transition conservation payments in each of the Northeast states and three Western states (UT, WY, and NV). These funds are helping to build a vibrant new farming industry. The cuts unfairly target some of the only organic funding in the entire agricultural budget and unfairly single out a region of the country.

• For three years, totally eliminate agricultural research and extension competitive grant funding by a total of a $460 million cut. The farm bill funding for the Initiative for Future Agricultural and Food Systems (IFAFS), while generally zeroed out in the appropriations bill, nonetheless provides the funding base for other agricultural research spending, including the National Research Initiative (NRI) which each year designates a major portion of its funding for the IFAFS program. Through IFAFS, the NRI funds important integrated research, education and extension projects in agro-ecosystems research, small and moderate-sized farm profitability, and human nutrition and obesity prevention.

In our view, these cuts do not represent a fair and balanced package. They would have a serious and negative impact on the nation’s ability to prevent hunger, solve critical environmental and energy problems, and improve economic opportunity in rural America. We urge you to vote against the entire bill and to speak out against the misplaced priorities represented by its agricultural component.

Thank you for considering our views.


[signed by 150 national, regional and state organizations]

- for more information post a question or comment here
or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.


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