On June 28th, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and a broad coalition of farm, conservation, wildlife, and forestry organizations representing millions of Americans joined forces for a National Day of Action to protest the huge cuts to farm bill conservation programs and an initiative to support development of local and regional food systems in the House of Representatives Fiscal 2012 agriculture appropriations bill.
The agriculture appropriations bill the House of Representatives just passed slashes $1 billion from mandatory farm bill conservation funding and tells USDA to drop the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative. The coalition urged their members to call their Senators and ask them to protect conservation and local and regional food development funding.
"The House measure would slash programs that support farmers who protect the soil and water on which our nation's future productivity depends," said Ferd Hoefner, Policy Director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
"Conservation programs were cut by $500 million in fiscal year 2011 and the House is proposing an additional cut of $1 billion for fiscal year 2012 to the Conservation Stewardship Pro-gram, the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, Farmland Pro-tection Program, and the Wetlands Reserve Program."
"These cuts are between 20 and 30 percent, and are grossly disproportionate to other spending cuts," noted Hoefner. "The Conservation Stewardship Program cut is particularly egregious as it would require USDA to break contracts the government has signed with farmers who have committed to conservation practices" said Hoefner.
Conservation programs are consistently oversubscribed with long waiting lists of farmers wanting to implement conservation systems. Conservation program spending has been slashed while funding for commodity programs remains untouched in the House-passed bill. "If cuts to mandatory funding are to be made, then everything has to be on the table," said Hoefner.
A provision denying any funding for the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative is a direct attack on new farm and market opportunities, rural job growth and public health. The initiative provides crucial coordination and public outreach to build new income opportunities for farmers producing for the local and regional markets.
"These markets are essential to rural economic recovery and eliminating the Know Your Farmer initiative is shortsighted and extreme," said Hoefner. "Development of local and regional food systems and markets is a job creator and a good investment in public health."
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. The Kansas Rural Center is a member.