Disastrous Disaster Bill Pulled

31 July 2012

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By Courtney Hendrix and Jessy Gill, CFJC Staff

The House Rules Committee released a proposal to extend the 2008 Farm Bill (Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008) over the next fiscal year. House majority leaders released the disaster bill quietly, and planned to put it to the floor for a vote under a closed rule. This means no public hearings, opportunity for open Agricultural Committee deliberation, or chance for amendments.  This act was a surprise move for many with a legitimate stake in creating a fair and responsible reauthorization of the Farm Bill.

The outcomes of this proposed extension would be different than if the House and Senate were to re-sign the 2008 Farm Bill. Firstly, there is not enough funding in the federal budget to re-sign the 2008 Farm Bill, hence the flurry around the many cuts during both the Senate and House Ag markups. The proposed extension makes modifications and exceptions to the 2008 Farm Bill programs to create availability of supplemental agricultural disaster assistance, including drought assistance to livestock, for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. To pay for drought assistance, the extension makes deep, unnecessary cuts to conservation programs, which is ironic considering these conservation programs are part of the solution to reducing occurrences of future droughts.

House Leadership’s proposal to extend the Farm Bill is shameful politics that manipulates the genuine concern around the drought crisis as a frame to make drastic cuts to important programs, and push through a controversial bill.  All programs not mentioned in the proposal would suffer major repercussions if it were accepted.  Innovative and important programs which were fought so hard for during the 2008 Farm Bill reauthorization process would be stripped of their mandatory funding, and given discretionary funding.

Discretionary funding does not provide secure, stable funding to these small programs in need of support. With the extension, the majority of these small programs would be zeroed out, including the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program (FMPP), Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers (Section 2501), Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), National Organic Certification Cost Share Program, and many others.

The California Food and Justice Coalition signed on to a letter urging the House of Representatives to vote no on a year-long extension of the 2008 Farm Bill. The letter was initiated by GOAT (Getting Our Act Together) participants who are organizations and individuals collaborating to identify opportunities for shared work on issues of equity, justice, and access in the 2012 Farm Bill reauthorization. CFJC has also posted the 4 major take-away points to know about the dirty extension.

The House Rules Committee was scheduled to vote on a one-year extension for 5pm ET today, Tuesday July 31st. Opposition to this package erupted over the weekend, after release of the bill. Organizations and individuals from across the country immediately stood up to voice their concerns over this widely controversial package­― stating that the House has disrespected the democratic process and that the extension would eliminate and/or significantly reduce funding for important programs. Just today the bill was pulled because House Republicans did not feel they had enough votes to pass the package on the House floor.

It looks like a freestanding disaster assistance package will be created as an alternative to this extension. The reauthorization process will continue after the August recess and needs to be finalized before the September 30th expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill.

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