While on vacation in Hawaii, President Obama signed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 on Thursday. Almost unnoticed, a one-year Farm Bill extension was attached to the fiscal cliff legislation, which is far from the comprehensive extension of the 2008 Farm Bill that CFJC and partners had been tracking hourly throughout the holidays. The Farm Bill extension deal reached in the 11th hour negotiations on January 1 is a disaster for famers, eaters, and the environment. Along with many across the country, at CFJC we are extremely disappointed in Congress and the White House for the unusual process that excluded the voices of many farmers, workers and communities who will be impacted by the Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.
Our D.C. partners, and other groups fighting for an equitable and sustainable Farm Bill, were in conversations with Congressional staff to ensure critical programs to farmers and communities would be included in any Farm Bill extension. And it did look as though, while not perfect, a fair Farm Bill extension was in the works until just hours before the legislation was finally passed, when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell went into backroom negotiations with Vice President Joe Biden and stripped away all that had been negotiated. This demonstration of lack of transparency in the 2012 Farm Bill extension and backroom deals eschews the needs of everyday people. CFJC views policy as a critical intervention for communities to take back their food system. Mitch McConnell’s version of the Farm Bill puts profit before people and sacrifices farmers and communities for the sake of industrial agriculture.
The Farm Bill extension that passed does not make sense. For example, it continues direct subsidies despite both the Senate and the House Agriculture Committees’ earlier agreement to permanently eliminate these payments for commodity production. At the same time, it cuts disaster aid for livestock and fruit producers, who have suffered for three years from extreme heat and drought. Additionally, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program- Education (SNAP-Ed) was cut by almost a third for the 2013 fiscal year; this was never part of either version of the Senate or House Agriculture Committee bills. Furthermore, the 37 critical programs, including Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers to Beginning Farmer Development, Rural Development, Specialty Crop, Organic and Urban Agriculture, and others, that CFJC and our partner groups fought to include were left out of the Farm Bill extension deal.
In addition to the Farm Bill reauthorization process, Congress still needs to address sequestration, which was suspended for two months; and deal with the debt ceiling to avert a government default in February. CFJC is committed to ensuring that continuing Farm Bill discussions take place in the light of day.
We want a Farm Bill that:
- Is equitable and comprehensive
- Assures healthy food for all consumers
- Protects natural resources and mitigates disasters
- Constructs a new and economically viable future for agriculture and rural communities
CFJC thanks the Agriculture Committee leadership and members for their attempt to pass a reasonable extension. With and on behalf of our partners we recommit ourselves to getting an equitable Farm Bill measure passed in 2013.