Diverse coalition urges Congress not to cut farm bill programs

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, March 9, 2016 - A broad coalition of agriculture interests, conservation groups and nutrition advocates is appealing to Congress not to make any cuts in farm bill spending this year. 

A letter signed by 254 national and local organizations says lawmakers shouldn't touch any of the titles in the 2014 farm bill. That would include crop insurance as well as conservation and nutrition programs, popular targets of budget cutters. 

Some House conservatives are demanding that Republican leaders impose new cuts in domestic spending below the levels set by the two-year budget agreement that Congress approved in November, and President Obama's fiscal 2017 budget proposed $18 billion in cuts to crop insurance over 10 years. 

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However, Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., announced on Monday that he was postponing work on a new budget resolution and said that appropriators could move ahead with writing the fiscal 2017 based on the spending caps set in last fall's deal. 

The coalition letter was sent to the Senate and House Budget committees as well as the Appropriations panels in both chambers. The Budget panels develop broad long-range spending and revenue blueprints for the federal government, while the Appropriations committees write the annual spending bills for each department and agency

The letter said that the 2014 farm bill already “made a significant contribution to deficit reduction. 

“This bipartisan legislation was estimated to contribute $16 billion to deficit reduction over 10 years. These difficult cuts resulted from hard choices made to reform and reduce the farm safety net, conservation programs and nutrition assistance programs. Some of the reforms made in the new farm bill are still being implemented.”

The organizations that signed the letter include the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Association of Crop Insurers, American Bankers Association, American Heart Association, Audubon, Bread for the World, Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau, National Association of Clean Water Agencies, National Association of Counties, National Farmers Union, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, National Wildlife Federation and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

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The Senate Agriculture Committee's Ranking Member, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, applauded the effort.

 “The Farm Bill coalition - made up of more than 250 farm, food, conservation, and nutrition groups - are again standing strong against potential cuts from Congress,” noted the Michigan Democrat in a statement. “It's important that we keep the Farm Bill intact through the budget and appropriations process to provide the full five-year certainty promised in that bipartisan bill.”

A similar letter last year had 392 groups, according to the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which said it collaborated on the letter along with the Farm Bureau, Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. According to TRCP, sportsmen's groups were more involved in this year's letter. 

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