More than 150 grassroots groups oppose House budget cuts to sustainable agriculture programs

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) was one of more than 150 organizations to sign on to a letter to the U.S. Senate in opposition to a House budget bill (H.R.1) that would cut more than $60 billion dollars from the federal budget over the remainder of this fiscal year. H.R. 1 slashes a disproportional amount from the agriculture budget (22 %) relative to other budget sections. Worse, it unfairly targets programs that serve sustainable, organic, beginning, and minority farmers.
H.R. 1 makes deep cuts to conservation and renewable energy funding provided by the 2008 Farm Bill—a combined $500 million would be cut under the House bill from programs including the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and Wetland Reserve Program (WRP).
While Conservation, Renewable Energy, Farm Services Agency direct farm lending, and feeding programs for low income families took big hits, no cuts were proposed for commodity payments or crop insurance, two of the biggest line items in the agriculture budget after nutrition programs. According to the letter submitted by OEFFA and other groups, “In a year of relatively high farm income, the House has focused its cuts instead upon programs that protect the environment, increase economic opportunity, serve beginning and minority farmers, and ensure proper nutrition for low-income families.”
“These cuts are reckless and unfair,” said Carol Goland, OEFFA’s Executive Director. “If cuts must be made then everything must be on the table. Cuts must be fair, equitable and made based on the merits of each program.”
The House bill would make very major cuts in agricultural research and extension, rural development, and would also eliminate funding completely for a number of small programs of great importance to sustainable, organic, beginning, and minority farmers. The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA), Organic Transitions Research Program, Office of Advocacy and Outreach (to coordinate policy and outreach to beginning, women, and minority farmers), and the Office of Tribal Relations program would all be terminated.
H.R. 1 also cuts several USDA agency administrative budgets more severely than the programs they manage. “With the staff cuts this will require, we don’t see how they can possibly do their job effectively,” Goland said. “The Senate needs to be more responsible and even handed in its approach to deficit reduction.”
To read the full text of the letter, go to http://sustainableagriculture.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/154-Organization-Letter-to-Senate-on-Ag-Section-of-HR-1.pdf.

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