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Congress Includes Awful 2008 Farm Bill Extension in Fiscal Cliff Deal

For the sake of our nation’s health, our farmers, and our natural resources, we need Congress to do its job.

As part of the legislative package to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, Congress agreed to a simple extension of the old 2008 Farm Bill through September 30, 2013. 


This happened despite the fact that the full Senate passed their version of a new Farm Bill in June of last year. The House Agriculture Committee also passed their version a month later. But efforts at reform in a new farm bill were thrown out for the sake of expediency as the 112th session of Congress came to an end.


The consequence of this political expediency is that the new Congress will have to start the process of reauthorizing a new, full five-year farm bill from the beginning. They have between now and the end of September to do so.


Identifying the Fault Lines


Since July of last year, the biggest obstacle to passing a 2012 Farm Bill was lack of support from the House GOP leadership for bringing a new bill to the House floor. The House GOP leadership turned aside chances to do that prior to November elections, and then during the lame-duck session. As part of the "fiscal cliff" deal, Congress agreed to pass a simple extension of the 2008 Farm Bill -- meaning one with no reforms or modifications to improve our farm and food policies.


Specifically, that meant no commodity subsidy reform, no disaster assistance, and no extension of funding for farmers markets, value-added agriculture, rural microenterprise assistance, beginning farmers, minority farmers, organic agriculture and renewable energy.


Unknowns Lie Ahead


It is anyone’s guess as to how the farm bill debate will proceed from here. In February, Congress will probably get bogged down on budget issues. In March, Congress will have to deal with the next Continuing Resolution to keep the government functioning. On March 1, sequestration kicks in and the Government will face $85 billion in spending cuts to defense and non-defense spending.


Despite these built-in difficulties, there is every reason to suspect that the Senate and House Agriculture Committees can come up with new bills that are reported out of Committee at some point this spring. Whether those bills will be more closely aligned than the 2012 versions were, especially on the divisive commodity subsidy and food stamp spending provisions, very much remains to be seen.

What kind of farm bill do we seek?
An equitable 21st-century farm bill must include essential policies that help family farms to thrive in innovative ways, better protect both our productive and fragile lands, and forthrightly reform out-dated farm subsidies.
In greater detail, a new farm bill must:
Invest in the future of healthy farms, food and people:
  • Harness the economic power of local food and small businesses to strengthen rural and urban communities and create jobs.
  • Ensure access to fresh, healthy food for all -- including those in need and in our schools.
  • Grow the next generation of American farmers by providing the tools, training, and access to capital that beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers need to succeed.


Protect our precious air, soil and water:
  • Reward farmers for their environmental stewardship by fully funding farm conservation programs.
  • Link federal crop insurance support to conservation of wetlands and fragile soils.
Reform farm subsidies and level the playing field:
  • Eliminate wasteful direct payments.
  • Target support to working farm families by closing loopholes that benefit mega-farms and millionaire investors.
  • Cap farm and crop insurance subsidies to improve fiscal responsibility.
Learn more about our farm and food policy at Agriculture & Food: Focus on 2012 Farm Bill.


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