Washington, DC, June 8, 2018 – Following the Senate Agriculture Committee’s release of its draft farm bill, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) released the following comment:
Today, Senate Agriculture Committee leadership has shown that the farm bill can and should remain a bipartisan affair. Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) have, true to their word, worked together to produce a bill that includes much-needed policy improvements and funding increases that will help drive the sustainability of American agriculture. The Senate bill stands in stark contrast to its companion in the House, which moved out of committee along completely partisan lines and was denounced by many farm and food advocates before it was defeated on the House floor. We are pleased, for example, that unlike the House companion bill, the Senate Committee’s draft bill makes no cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for low-income Americans.
The draft bill scales up investments for farm-to-fork initiatives and beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer programs, and makes important policy improvements to crop insurance and conservation programs. It also fails, however, to make meaningful reforms to farm subsidy programs to limit economic and farm concentration, and includes significant cuts to critical working lands conservation programs. In all, we believe the bill produced by Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow offers a good starting point for farm bill negotiations in the Senate. We look forward to actively working with our members and with our allies in the Senate to pass a bill that protects and supports American family farmers
The Conservation Title of the Senate bill includes much needed reforms to and enhancements of critical conservation programs, including those from the GROW Act and SOIL Stewardship Act. We commend Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow for including policy changes in their bill that will help farmers to enhance soil health, water quality, and advance organic agriculture. We also applaud Senate leadership for prioritizing conservation assistance for historically underserved producers, and for protecting overall funding for the Title, (as well as restoring funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, which was cut in the 2014 Farm Bill).
Sadly, these improvements are severely dampened by the fact that the Senate draft bill cuts funding from the farm bill’s two primary working lands conservation programs – the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives program (EQIP). Farmer and rancher demand for CSP and EQIP in recent years has often reached levels more than double the available funding, proof that these programs are important for farmers’ long-term sustainability and viability. While we appreciate that the Senate bill rejects any cut to overall Title funding, we believe that robbing cornerstone conservation programs to fund others in the Title is an ill-advised gambit that will open the door to additional attacks on conservation funding in the future.
Source: National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, June 8, 2018