ShapeShapeauthorShapechevroncrossShapeShapeShapeGrouphamburgerhomeGroupmagnifyShapeShapeShaperssShape

Environmental Defense Calls Senate Ag Committee Farm Bill a Mixed Bag

by 5m Editor
26 October 2007, at 12:46pm

WASHINGTON - Environmental Defense today called the Senate Agriculture Committee's $4.8 billion funding increase for conservation programs in the farm bill it passed a step in the right direction, but still insufficient to meet farmer demand.

The group called the Committee's failure to reform subsidies disappointing and urged the full Senate to match the original goal of Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) to increase conservation funding by $6 billion by reducing some subsidies.

"The good news is that the Senate Agriculture Committee took an important step in the right direction by voting to expand and improve conservation programs," said Sara Hopper, an attorney for Environmental Defense (http://www.environmentaldefense.org/page.cfm?tagID=13988). "The bad news is that the new funding for conservation programs the Committee provided is still too little to meet demand from the two out of three farmers who apply and are rejected by USDA."

Rather than reducing subsidies, the Senate Agriculture Committee voted to increase support levels for some crops and added new crops to the subsidy roll, despite the fact that the Senate Finance Committee also recently voted to increase farm subsidies by creating a new $5.1 billion permanent disaster program. The Senate Agriculture Committee did not require any reduction in direct payments, fixed payments that flow to farmers based on past production regardless of current need.

"Direct payments go to farmers even when they're making record profits and will cost taxpayers $100 million a week for the next five years if the Senate fails to adopt reforms," said Dr. Timothy Male, a senior scientist for Environmental Defense (http://www.environmentaldefense.org/page.cfm?tagID=846). "This $100 million a week could help pay for many investments important to all Americans, such as helping farmers who offer to provide cleaner water and air, important wildlife habitat and to reduce sprawl."

The Committee also failed to include a meaningful income limit on who can receive subsidies or a real limit on the maximum subsidies per person per year. The Committee's bill ensures that the largest growers of a handful of commodity crops will continue to collect large payments in a time of high prices and record farm income

"Under the Committee bill, half of all farm bill spending will continue to flow to just seven states, shortchanging farmers in the other 43 states," concluded Hopper.

Unlike commodity program payments, conservation program payments are not limited to producers of a handful of commodities. All farmers can be eligible for conservation funding, regardless of what they grow, how much they grow or where their farm is located.

The Senate is expected to have a full debate on the Committee-passed farm bill, possibly as early as Oct. 30. It is expected to debate amendments that will shift some funding for subsidies to conservation and other national priorities.

Recent public opinion polls conducted Sept. 18-21 by Zogby International for Environmental Defense in Colorado, New York, Oregon, Virginia and Washington state found that more than three out of four (76% to 85%) of poll respondents in each state agreed that their U.S. senators should support shifting money from farm subsidies to conservation programs. If this reform effort succeeded, more than six out of 10 (62% to 77%) of the poll respondents in each state said they would have a more favorable opinion of Congress.

Environmental Defense, a leading national nonprofit organization, represents more than 500,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems. http://www.environmentaldefense.org

Further Reading

- You can view the poll results by clicking here.

5m Editor