WASHINGTON, Sept. 29—The executive board of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives this week approved a set of priorities for farmer co-ops in the next farm bill.
“When it comes to writing the next farm bill, many things are still very much up in the air from the impact that the Super Committee will have on the process, to the budgetary resources that will be available to the agriculture committees, to the timing of the bill itself,” said Chuck Conner, NCFC President & CEO. “I believe that NCFC’s member-led process of developing this farm bill framework positions the organization well to be as flexible as needed as the answers to these unknown variables become apparent.”
The framework urges that Congress build on the success of the 2002 and 2008 farm bill in achieving the goals of meeting the food, fuel and fiber needs of consumers worldwide, strengthening farm income, promoting rural development, and spurring job creation across the U.S. Going forward, NCFC identified four key themes to guide the organization’s policy throughout the process:
-Defending the Agriculture Budget Baseline: While Congress faces many challenges in the current budget environment, a farm bill cannot be written without resources. While NCFC recognizes that the budget deficit will require belt tightening across federal spending, farm bill spending should not be singled out for cuts out of proportion to its impact on the federal budget.
-Promoting the value of farmer cooperatives: Maintaining and strengthening the nation’s farmer cooperatives remains NCFC’s top priority, and in the context of the farm bill, this includes ensuring that farmer cooperatives remain eligible to participate in federal programs for the benefit of the farmer members.
-Ensuring an adequate farm safety net: A cornerstone of any farm bill must be ensuring that farmers, ranchers and growers continue to have access to as many tools as possible to help them mitigate the risk inherent in production agriculture. Specific to dairy, NCFC strongly supports H.R. 3062, the Dairy Security Act of 2011, introduced by Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN) and that draws on the Foundation for the Future proposal developed by the National Milk Producers Federation and their members.
-Promoting market access and U.S. agricultural exports: Programs such as the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program help achieve the goal of expanding U.S. agricultural exports while at the same time creating American jobs and boosting farm income. They are also both tremendously cost effective—MAP for example has a return on investment of 37 to 1.
“Another major piece of our framework reflects one concern that NCFC repeatedly heard from co-op producer-members from across the country—namely, that increased regulations from federal agencies threaten to add significant cost to their farms and cooperatives,” said Conner. “These comments led to NCFC’s recent proposal for a two-year moratorium on all significant, discretionary regulatory actions that would add costs to agricultural production.”
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