Federal Spending Bill Catastrophic for Rural Priorities - Center for Rural Affairs urges vote against spending bill.
Lyons, Nebraska - Yesterday, appropriators in the House and Senate emerged from weeks of backroom talks and 24 hours of tense, final negotiations among top Congressional leaders having penciled out an agreement on a $1.1 trillion year-end spending bill that will fund the federal government through September 2015. The package was then introduced in the House, where a vote on the proposal will likely take place by Thursday. A vote in the Senate is expected by Friday as well.
“This spending bill is a catastrophe for the priorities of rural and small town America,” said Traci Bruckner of the Center for Rural Affairs. “Previous deep cuts to conservation are made even worse, and numerous policy riders attached to the bill are an assault on our soil, our water and on protections for family farmers and ranchers that we have fought for tirelessly over the last decade.”
“This legislation is a testament to the dysfunction of Congress, and this is no way to make public policy,” added Bruckner. “This bill shatters investments our nation has made in conservation. It shatters investments that create opportunities for independent, family farmers and ranchers, and beginning farmers and ranchers in particular. We can, we must, do better than this.”
“Senate and House members concerned about rural and small town priorities should vote against this bill,” urged Bruckner.
According to Ferd Hoefner of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the 2014 Farm Bill cut $4 billion from voluntary conservation assistance programs, or over $6 billion when accounting for sequestration, and the new spending bill unveiled today piles on, taking hundreds of millions more, primarily from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program.
“We are witnessing the browning of the farm bill,” said Hoefner. “It is a sad day for those who believe in voluntary solutions to our agro-environmental problems, and a sad day for those who believe annual appropriations bills should not be used as backdoor mechanisms to cut mandatory farm bill spending that is not within their jurisdiction.”
Hoefner also explained that the spending bill includes the policy rider from the House bill to prevent the Packers and Stockyards program at USDA from doing anything to protect the rights of farmers and ensure a fair marketplace for livestock and poultry producers. The rider is so extreme as to effectively gut the law, including an unprecedented action to force the repeal existing regulations.
“Adoption of the [Packers and Stockyards] rider will deny farmers protection from retaliation when they use their first amendment rights, deny them the right to a jury trial, and even deny them the right to know how the prices they receive are calculated,” concluded Hoefner. “It is an extreme, radical, and blatantly anti-farmer provision that has no place in an appropriations bill, or indeed in any bill.”