The Agriculture Committee Chairmen Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) and Ranking Members Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) announced a public meeting of the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee that began on Wednesday, September 5, 2018. According to one of our partner organizations, the National Sustainable Ag Coalition, “We expect the conference committee session to consist largely of short statements from each committee member; it won’t lend lots of concrete information but will help us gauge which issues members of Congress are prioritizing. It also means behind the scenes negotiations will be heating up.”
We are now down to the final meetings to determine the new Farm Bill. Here are some key talking points to share with the House and Senate members in your area.
– Ask to ensure food access and dignity for families in need – by protecting the SNAP program from cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) contained in the House legislation such as: changes to categorical eligibility, excessively burdensome work requirements and, denying lifetime benefits to persons who have previously committed certain crimes. This would only penalize their families and children and make it more likely these persons would commit crime again in the future.
– Invest in a sustainable future – by permanently funding programs that connect farmers and eaters, support beginning farmers and farmers of color, underwrite organic and sustainable agriculture research, and provide healthy food incentives for families.
– Farmers and ranchers deserve support in times of need. However, farm supports must be capped on the total amount any one farm can receive annually. Family farms will still receive support during times of hardship and low commodity prices, but caps or limits are needed to prevent larger operations with non-farm investors and absentee “managers” from receiving multiple payments.
– Please support changes that support family farmers on the land. By capping support payments at reasonable levels, more funding can be allocated to Rural Development and Conservation programs. Senate bill strengthens commodity payment limits and eligibility rules for subsidies, House bill strips them completely.
– We urge support for (permanently fund) the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program (FOTOP), to help socially disadvantaged persons and veterans succeed in the vocation to be farmers and ranchers.
– We urge support for the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) to provide grants to business and non-profits for new business opportunities and marketing strategies to reduce on-farm food waste.
– Protect our shared natural resources – by protecting the nation’s largest resource conservation program on working farm and ranch lands: the Conservation Stewardship Program . We urge that funding must increase for these working lands conservation programs. As mentioned above, caps and limits placed on commodity and crop insurance subsidies will allow additional funding for conservation programs.
– We urge Congress to continue to strengthen enforcement of soil and wetland conservation compliance for farm operations that receive commodity and crop insurance subsidies.