As farmers, ranchers and rural communities grapple with a devastatingly weak farm economy, nearly 200 organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation and several state Farm Bureaus, are urging congressional budget writers to reject calls for additional cuts to farm bill programs.
The bipartisan, budget-neutral 2018 farm bill was built upon the previous farm bill, which made a significant contribution to deficit reduction, the groups pointed out.
“These difficult cuts in 2014 resulted from hard choices made in partnership with agricultural leaders and were designed to substantially reform the farm safety net, conservation initiatives and nutrition assistance – ultimately reducing the financial support provided to America’s farmers and ranchers,” they wrote in a letter sent today to House and Senate Budget and Appropriations committee leaders.
Not only does the 2018 farm bill improve upon the reforms made in 2014, it is projected to cost far less over 10 years than the 2014 farm bill — while improving access to conservation programs, maintaining a commitment to nutrition programs and providing farmers and ranchers with the risk management certainty needed in this uncertain environment.
While the Agriculture Department forecasts an uptick in farm income for 2019, farmers and ranchers’ income is still expected to be 44 percent lower than it was in 2013. Add climbing farm debt and debt-to-asset ratios, rising bankruptcies and retaliatory tariffs that weigh on farm prices and erode our competitiveness in key export markets and the case for protecting farm program funding becomes all the more compelling, according to the groups.
As USDA begins implementation of the 2018 farm bill, “we respectively request that you reject cuts to vital farm policy programs. Further cuts to farm programs would deliver a significant blow to U.S. agriculture at a time when farmers, ranchers, and rural America are already struggling,” they wrote.
The letter was sent to Senate Budget Committee Chair Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Ranking Member Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); House Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) and Ranking Member Steve Womack (R-Ark.); Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.); and House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-Texas).