The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has released a letter to the Congressional budget "Super Committee" outlining strategies to achieve deficit reduction while at the same time supporting family farms and rural communities and maintaining food security safety nets.
NSAC urged the congressional deficit reduction or super committee today to take a policy and reform-oriented approach to reducing total farm bill spending while renewing investments in underfunded areas including new farmers, rural development, conservation, renewable energy, agricultural research, and new market development.
The NSAC letter to the Committee urged them to resist further cuts to farm conservation beyond the $2 billion Congress has already cut since the 2008 Farm Bill, to place hard caps on farm commodity and crop and revenue insurance subsidies, to end subsidies for the conversion of prime grasslands, to renew funding for critical mandatory farm bill programs that have no secured baselines after the end of the current farm bill cycle in 2012, and to protect anti-hunger programs from cuts.
A more detailed nine page document accompanies the letter and includes the full scope of the NSAC farm bill budget proposal.
NSAC Policy Director Ferd Hoefner contrasted the NSAC view with the farm bill cuts proposed by President Obama yesterday:
The Obama proposal holds promise, especially in the call for the end of direct payments. The farm bill cuts the President offered, however, are disproportionate to the size of the farm bill budget relative to total federal mandatory spending. In addition to the unfair size of the cut, the Administration proposal has three other problems.
First, the Administration would cut direct payments without offering a new alternative safety net proposal, even while proposing to leave a largely failed disaster program in place at a very substantial total cost equaling roughly half of the total savings. Disaster assistance should be built into the new safety net at a significantly lower cost, and eliminated as a free-standing program.
Second, all of the subsidies they do propose to leave in place are available without any effective limit on the size of the subsidy any one farm can receive. As such, they would focus the cuts on small and mid-sized farms, while allowing the largest farms continued access to the loopholes currently written into law to largely avoid the cuts that apply to everyone else.
Third, they do not take account of the dire need to put money into farm, food, and rural programs that create jobs, new business opportunities, and new healthy food options but that have shrinking or soon to be non-existent budgets.
The NSAC proposals by contrast would keep farm bill cuts at more equitable levels, target cuts so that the largest and wealthiest farms would actually have to contribute to deficit reduction, and align spending policies with widely supported public values with respect to increasing farm and rural economic opportunity, conserving natural resources and protecting the environment, and improving access to healthy food.
NSAC members from around the country will be contacting the Joint Select Committee and the House and Senate Agricultural Committees over the coming weeks to push for smarter budget cuts and real reform.