The farm bill extension deal reached in negotiations between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden is a disaster for farmers and the American people. The nine-month extension measure was attached to the bigger fiscal cliff bill and passed by the Senate and House.
The deal is blatantly anti-reform. The full Senate and the House Agriculture Committee earlier this year agreed to permanently eliminate direct payment subsidies for commodity production regardless of price and income conditions, yet the deal would lock in those egregious subsidies for another full year at a $5 billion price tag. On the other hand, many smaller, targeted programs to fund farm and food system reform and rural jobs, included in a weekend agreement between Senate Agriculture Chair Debbie Stabenow and House Agriculture Chair Frank Lucas, were left out completely.
Also left out of the final deal is any workable dairy policy for the next year and any disaster aid for livestock and fruit producers. The deal also has the effect of keeping farmers from being able to improve soil and water conservation through enrollment in the Conservation Stewardship Program at the present time.
We are extremely disappointed in the Republican leadership for proposing this deal and in the White House for accepting it. The message is unmistakable – direct commodity subsidies, despite high market prices, are sacrosanct, while the rest of agriculture and the rest of rural America can simply drop dead.
We commend the Agriculture Committee leadership for trying to pass a more responsible extension measure, and on behalf of our member organizations and the farmers they represent we recommit ourselves to getting a true farm and food bill reform measure passed in 2013.