Budgets, Appropriations and Priorities

A young farmer called me last year because he’s transitioning his farm to organic production and he heard me on the radio talking about USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative, which provides cost-share to farmers and ranchers during organic transition.
Jeff is a small farmer. He is transitioning to organic to make his farm more sustainable, economically as well as environmentally. Accessing EQIP Organic cost-share funds was an investment, not just in his operation, but in the future of family farms, ranches and rural communities.

When I saw that the House Appropriations Committee passed its fiscal year 2012 agriculture appropriations bill, I was shocked and saddened by the draconian cuts to conservation, extension, research, renewable energy and rural development that would be realized if the bill became law.

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) would be cut $171 million, requiring the government to renege on contracts it has already signed with farmers and ranchers.  EQIP would be cut $350 million. Likewise, rural development and renewable energy investments are decimated.

No one can deny that there are times when we must tighten our belts. However, how many farmers like Jeff will we fail if we slash investments that can help build a better future in rural America while leaving subsidies to the Nation’s largest farms virtually untouched.

Isn’t it time we put effective limits on the farm program payments to mega-farms and targeted the resources we have where they are needed most and can make the most difference?

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