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Congress asked to avoid additional farm bill budget cuts

More than 500 groups urge members of Congress to reject calls for additional cuts to farm program spending.

Reduced spending under the 2014 farm bill contributed greatly to the nation’s deficit reduction effort. However, additional cuts to the 2018 farm bill would present perils on many fronts, a diverse coalition told congressional appropriations and budget leaders.

In a letter, 502 groups representing a wide range of constituents -- from agriculture and nutrition assistance to rural development, conservation and local governments -- said additional funding cuts would “hinder development and passage of the 2018 farm bill.”

Support for the letter was spearheaded by the American Farm Bureau Federation, Bread for the World, Feeding America, the Food Research & Action Center, the National Association of Counties, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

The letter strongly urged the congressional leaders "to reject calls for additional cuts” during a time when the agricultural and rural economies are showing stress, a significant number of American households financially are struggling to meet basic nutrition needs and U.S. farm income has declined 46% from only three years ago.

The last farm bill contributed $23 billion in savings to deficit reduction over 10 years at the time of passage, the letter states. That was the first time spending for a farm bill was voluntarily reduced before Congress even began considering the measure.

“It was the only reauthorization bill in that Congress that voluntarily offered savings,” the letter pointed out. “These difficult cuts resulted from hard choices made to reform and reduce the farm safety net, conservation initiatives and nutrition assistance.”

In reality, savings from the 2014 farm bill went much further. The Congressional Budget Office’s January 2017 baseline estimates that spending on nutrition and crop insurance alone was nearly $100 billion less than projected, while mandatory‎ federal spending outside the agriculture committees’ jurisdiction has risen over the same time period.

“We have all begun preparing for the 2018 farm bill and recognize that passing a bill with additional funding reductions would be extremely difficult, if not impossible,” the letter said. “Therefore, as the Senate and House agriculture committees begin preparing for the 2018 farm bill, it is imperative that the committees not be hamstrung by further budget or appropriations cuts to any farm bill program.”

The groups strongly encouraged congressional leaders “to recognize the substantial savings already achieved, which far exceed expectations, and to provide the (agriculture) committees the opportunity to complete their work through regular order, without arbitrary budget cuts or caps.”

“We know the (agriculture) committees will once again face challenging budgetary and policy choices in the development of the 2018 farm bill,” the letter said. “That is why it is so important you ensure the committee process for the farm bill can proceed with some budget flexibility.”

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