November 30, 2007
November 30, 2007 - In an effort to hang on to the safety net provided in the Farm Bill for commodity groups, 26 agriculture groups forwarded a letter to members of the Senate asking them not to support the Farm, Ranch, Equity, Stewardship and Health (FRESH) Act that was put forth by Sens. Frank Lautenberg (N.J.) and Richard Luger (Ind.).
The FRESH Act eliminates the current safety net provided in the Farm Bill to U.S. producers and shifts considerable funding to conservation, nutrition, energy and other programs.
"It is easy to look at current high prices for most agricultural commodities and assume it is a 'good time' to lower government support. It is critical to remember that Farm Bills are written for the long-term rather than short-term and that there is no assurance high prices will continue over the next five years to 10 years," groups stated in the letter.
Additionally, the commodity title of the Farm Bill has already taken a $57 billion cut. In 2002, Congress committed $98.9 billion to commodity programs. According to the March 2007 baseline, commodity title outlays are projected at only $42 billion over the life of the new Farm Bill. All told, the commodity programs are projected to be about 10 percent of total Farm Bill spending, while more than 80 percent of the Farm Bill spending is already slated for nutrition and conservation programs.
The organizations believe the Farm Bill can live up to the current World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations without gutting the crucial safety net needed by producers. U.S. farm policy should continue toward a more level playing field in the global market by providing assistance to America's farmers. However, this goal is not achieved by writing a Farm Bill that complies with what someone assumes will be the potential outcome of the WTO negotiations.
In conclusion, the groups stated that while they support strong conservation, nutrition and energy programs, additional support for these programs should not come at the expense of adequate funding for the safety net for American farmers. Staff contact: Peter Orwick, ext. 33