Big Ag Flexes its Muscles By David Rogers (Politico)
Congress holds the purse strings, but who holds Congress these days when it comes to farm policy: the meatpackers and Monsanto? So it seemed last week as lawmakers sent the White House an updated budget for the Agriculture Department complete with industry-backed orders on how Secretary Tom Vilsack should run the place.
The Post-it notes from the packers were hard to miss.
Alarmed that automatic spending cuts this month will slow plant operations, the meat lobby won a last-minute Senate amendment that cuts from a new White House-backed school breakfast program in order to ensure there will be enough money to keep food safety inspectors on the job this summer and avoid disruptions. Read more.
From the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition:
Is There a Mega Budget Deal Coming?
At the end of December, Congress extended the current farm bill, but without renewed funding for beginning, minority, organic, specialty crop, and local food farmers; renewable energy; economic development; and disaster assistance. They also punted automatic across-the-board budget cuts until March 1.
Then, at the end of January, Congress punted debate over the debt ceiling until mid-May. That move created what we have called the triple-headed budget monster – a debate over automatic budget cuts by March 1, a debate on funding the government for the rest of 2013 by March 27, and a debate on raising the debt ceiling by May 18.
One Head of the Triple-Headed Budget Monster Left
Two of the heads of the triple-headed monster have now come and gone. The automatic cuts known as sequestration went into effect on March 1, including an over 5 percent cut to almost all USDA discretionary programs and a nearly 6 percent cut to farm bill commodity and conservation programs. The continuing resolution to fund the government for the rest of this year — a bill that includes sequestration as well as an added funding rescission over and above the sequester cut — was approved this week and sent to the President for his signature.
Statement of Support for a Full and Fair Farm Bill:
We, the undersigned, worked diligently and in good faith with the Senate and House Agriculture Committees to complete the 2012 Farm Bill in regular order. When that did not occur, the Committees jointly developed a plan for a one-year extension that, while flawed, had many merits. Like the Agriculture Committee leaders and members, we were shocked to learn that this agreement had been replaced by a biased extension that also disappointed the farmers, fishers, ranchers, Tribal Nations, farmworkers, and rural and urban communities we represent. Read the full statement.
New England Farmers Union:
New England farmers received a sour New Year’s surprise when a short-term extension of the 2008 farm bill was attached and passed along with the fiscal cliff deal. The terms of the deal originated with Minority Leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who along with Vice President Biden, sidestepped months of hard work by the Senate and House Agriculture Committees. Read more here.
Up to the Minute Updates
You can also follow Farm Bill updates through twitter accounts such as: @sustainableag and @hfhpcoalition. Information is also being updated regularly at the Farm Bill Primer website.
"A Northeast Farm Bill Agenda: Priorities for the 2012 Farm Bill" is a collaboration between the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, New England Farmers Union Educational Foundation, Wholesome Wave, and others. Use this document to shape your organization's approach to the 2012 Farm Bill and beyond. Dozens of organizations in our region participated in the months-long process of creating this rich resource which gives voice to the specific needs of the Northeast. Not only does it include policy and funding priorities, it is an excellent overview of the current state of our regional farm and food system. Download/view A Northeast Farm Bill Agenda- Priorities for the 2012 Farm Bill