Will there be a new Farm Bill?
The U.S. Farm Bill is the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the federal government. This comprehensive bill of many parts is reviewed and re-authorized every five years by the U.S. Congress. The current Farm Bill, authorized in 2008, expired on October 1st.
Despite a proposed bill by the House Agriciulture Committee passed during the summer, House leadership did not move the bill to a floor debate and vote. Congressional members have now returned to their home states for election year campaigning, so in effect the current farm bill expires without a new bill in place. How can that be?
House leaderships assures the public that they will take up the farm bill after the elections, meaning the lame duck session during end of November into December. Some members say the expiration of the current farm bill at this time is no big deal, given that the end of the fiscal year (now) and the new crop year (next spring) are months apart. Furthermore, the two major programs of the farm bill — SNAP (food stamps) and crop insurance subsidies — will continue unabated during this time.
But that leaves begging: What happens to all the other programs in the farm bill? There are many, and these are certainly important to the family farmers, beginning farmers, rural workers, rural entrepreneurs, and rural communities that seem to be left hanging to dry.
We strongly believe current U.S. agricultural and food policies need to be addresed and reformed. We are called to build a just framework that serves farmers and rural communities, promotes renewed stewardship of the land, provides safe and nutritious foods, and overcomes hunger and malnutrition where these persist.
Your voice is needed now to make sure that the Farm Bill feeds the hungry,
preserves God’s creation, and supports small family farmers and rural America.
During this election campaign period and until Congress reconvenes after the elections, we encourage everyone to reach out to your U.S. Representative and relay this urgent message:
“Don’t walk away from America’s farmers and ranchers. Complete the 2012 Farm Bill and fully fund farm bill programs for beginning farmers, local food, organic agriculture, and rural jobs that expired on October 1st – programs that create jobs in rural communities, help farmers seize market opportunities, and invest in the next generation of farmers.
“I am urging you to pass a farm bill now that will support farming and ranching practices that protect God’s creation, help our struggling rural communities, strengthen local nutrition programs for low-income families, and enhance global food aid to the world’s most impoverished.”
Given that the current farm bill expired on October 1st, many programs cease to be funded that previously benefitted family farms and rural communities.
The Senate has already passed a farm bill; the House Agriculture Committee has written one, too. We are now beyond the time for leadership in the House of Representatives to prioritize the farm bill and give it floor time.
We need a farm bill that helps not only the farmers and ranchers that grow our food, but also rural communities throughout our nation and food deficient communities around the world. We need a farm bill that helps to fight hunger, empowers the most vulnerable, ensures a stable food supply, and protects farm and ranchland for future generations.
The proposed farm bill that passed out of the House Agriculture Committee is not yet this legislation, but immediate action on the House floor can amend the committee bill and authorize the necessary programs to address current and critical situations. Adoption of a new farm bill is one of the most important tasks before this Congress and should not be delayed.
Background on the House Agriculture Committee’s bill:
– The farm bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee makes dramatic cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Weakening SNAP at a time when many families are struggling to make ends meet will lead to more hunger and food insecurity. SNAP is a highly efficient program, with a low rate of fraud and error.
– The Committee bill makes substantial cuts to the Conservation Security Program, a hugely important program to promote good soil and water conservation practices on working farms and ranches. The House bill also cuts funding for rural development by half, including steep cuts to much-needed water and wastewater treatment projects in rural areas.
– The Committee bill cuts funding to programs to help beginning farmers and farmers from socially disadvantaged groups get started in the business of agriculture. These programs play a critical role in supporting the next generation of farmers, a key consideration given that the average age of American farmers is currently 57 years old.
– Finally, the Committee bill fails to renew the international Food for Peace pilot program for local and regional food purchases, nor does it include the Senate’s newly-proposed pilot program to improve food security in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa. The House needs to make these key reforms and improvements in our international hunger relief programs.
In principle, we urge Members of Congress to support a Farm Bill and amendments that prioritize:
- Domestic Hunger and Nutrition: Catholic teaching maintains that food is a basic need and a fundamental right of the human person. With continued high unemployment and a struggling economy, the need for adequate funding levels for domestic hunger and nutrition programs such as the SNAP (formerly food stamps) program is essential.
- Conservation: We support full funding for conservation initiatives that promote stewardship of the land and environmentally sound agriculture practices. These programs provide technical assistance and financial incentives for farmers and ranchers to adopt practices aimed at fostering healthy, productive and non-eroding soils, clean air and water, energy savings and wildlife habitat.
- Farm Subsidies: It is important to provide a reasonable amount of support for our commodity and dairy farmers. However, in these times of financial hardship, our public policies should call for shared sacrifice. Given current high commodity prices and federal budget constraints, agricultural subsidies should be reduced overall and targeted to small and moderate-sized farms, especially minority owned-farms. Government resources should help those who truly need assistance and support those who comply with environmentally sound and sustainable farming practices.
- Rural Development: Rural communities and small towns are the backbone of the social and economic life of America. Effective policies and programs are needed to encourage rural development and promote the culture and well-being of these communities.
- International Food Security and Development: The Food for Peace program combats chronic hunger, builds resilience against drought and other natural disasters and provides needed nutrition for poor families abroad. International development assistance should be protected in the development “safe box” which funds long-term anti-hunger programs that help people better feed themselves.
Daniel Heuer | Tuesday, September 18, 2012
“Don’t walk away from America’s farmers and ranchers. Complete the 2012 Farm Bill and fully fund farm bill programs for beginning farmers
Sister Maryann Golonka | Monday, August 27, 2012
Please support domestic hunger and nutrition programs, conservation and sustainable farming practices, farm subsidies for small and medium family owned fams, rural development especially programs to teach young farmers to farm in a sustainable manner, and international food security and development for poor familiies faced with chronic hunger, drought, natural disasters and poor farming practices.
Ms. Bonnie Baker | Friday, August 24, 2012
Pass the farm bill.
Nicholas Coccoma | Friday, August 24, 2012
As a person of faith and a concerned citizen, I urge you to implement in the Farm Bill the agricultural principles that the NCRL outline in this message. We need an agricultural policy that supports sustainable, moderate and small farms–not one that subsidizes giant, polluting agribusiness.