WASHINGTON, DC — On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee advanced their funding priorities for several spending bills (including agriculture) for fiscal year 2020. Disappointingly, the Senate bill completely ignores the struggles facing American family farmers by shortchanging the vast majority of programs supporting sustainable agriculture. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, which represents over 130 farm and food organizations nationwide, issued the following comment in response:
“Farmers are struggling to stay afloat as they weather the uncertainty of a depressed agricultural economy, compounded with the recent onslaught of natural disasters,” said Juli Obudzinski, interim policy director at NSAC. “Sadly, this administration has further compounded farmers’ struggles by launching trade and tariff wars and throwing markets into a maelstrom of chaos. Congress must intercede on behalf of our nation’s family farmers and help bring our agricultural economy back onto solid footing.
“Unfortunately, the appropriations package passed today by the Senate Appropriations Committee falls far short of the intervention farmers need. The bill completely ignores the needs of sustainable, family-scale operations and fails to fund new and promising programs - like the Local Agriculture Market Program – that were created with strong, bipartisan support in the 2018 Farm Bill. For the first time in recent history, Senate Appropriators zeroed out all discretionary funding for the highly successful Value Added Producer Grant program (now housed under LAMP), which was created nearly two decades ago to help farmers weather economic downturns through new market development.
"The bill also shortchanges agriculture research, making only modest increases in investments despite the fact that agriculture is long overdue for significant boosts to public R & D funding. For the nation's only farmer-driven research program, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, we're disappointed the Senate bill simply maintains the status quo rather than provide the $8 million in additional funding that the House did.
“While we applaud Senate appropriators for the bill’s few bright spots, chief among them the protection of mandatory conservation program funding, this bill doesn't come close to offering the level of support warranted by the state of our farm economy. We therefore urge Congress to use the House FY 2020 Agriculture Appropriations bill as their goalpost when finalizing spending for the upcoming fiscal year.”
Proposed funding for NSAC priority programs in the Senate Appropriations bill:
Local Agriculture Market Program: Value Added Producer Grants: $0 (discretionary); Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program: $0 (discretionary)
Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach: Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers (2501): $3 million (discretionary); Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program: $0 (discretionary); Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education: $37 million; Food Safety Outreach Program: $8 million
“We are also extremely disappointed that the Senate bill gives the green light to USDA’s contentious relocation of the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture by providing $25 million to fund the move,” said Obudzinski. “As the appropriations bills are conferenced, we urge appropriators to reject funding for this short-sighted relocation, and instead adopt the House bill’s language to prohibit USDA from selling its research agencies to the highest bidding city. NSAC calls on Congress to stand up for the hardworking researchers, scientists, and staff of USDA by including clear language blocking the Department’s efforts to relocate core research agencies outside of their home in the capital.”