Ag coalition asks Congress to oppose ag-related cuts

More than 250 farm, nutrition and conservation groups unite in request to keep farm bill intact.

In a letter Wednesday, a total of 255 groups called on congressional budget and appropriations leaders to oppose additional cuts that would further reduce spending for programs such as conservation, nutrition assistance and the nation’s farm safety net.

According to the letter, any cuts would be in addition to the $16 billion contribution already made toward 10-year deficit reduction goals by reform of and cuts to the bipartisan farm bill Congress passed just two years ago.

“These difficult cuts resulted from hard choices made to reform and reduce the farm safety net, conservation programs and nutrition assistance programs,” the letter stated. “Some of the reforms made in the new farm bill are still being implemented.”

In addition to asking congressional budget and appropriations leaders to oppose any additional cuts for the agriculture committees in the fiscal 2017 appropriations process, the groups also asked members of Congress to oppose any proposals to reopen any title of the farm bill during consideration of the 2017 Budget Resolution. The groups also requested that neither the Senate Agriculture Committee nor the House Agriculture Committee be subject to reconciliation instructions.

Greg Fogel, senior policy specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said his organization has consistently advocated against using the annual appropriations process to reopen the farm bill and cut conservation program assistance to farmers and ranchers.

“Year after year, however, the appropriations committees have used this process to reset funding levels already agreed to during the farm bill debate," Fogel said. "Over the last several years, appropriations bills have cut farm bill mandatory funding for agricultural programs — particularly for conservation programs — by hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Earlier this year, the Administration released a fiscal 2017 budget request, and no cuts to farm bill funding for private lands conservation programs were included.

“The Congressional Budget Office projects that mandatory farm bill spending will decline over the next five years, while mandatory‎ federal spending outside the agriculture committees’ jurisdiction will rise over the same time period,” the coalition's letter stated. “These committees have already done the hard work to make the difficult choices necessary to deliver bipartisan cuts, which the farm and food community have accepted in securing agriculture’s contribution to the goal of federal deficit reduction.”

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) welcomed the letter, saying, “The farm bill coalition – made up of more than 250 farm, food, conservation and nutrition  groups – are again standing strong against potential cuts from Congress. It’s important that we keep the farm bill intact through the budget and appropriations process to provide the full five-year certainty promised in that bipartisan bill.”

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