Federal Spending Bill a Catastrophe for Rural Priorities

On Dec 10, 2014, appropriators in the House and Senate emerged from weeks of backroom talks and 24 hours of tense, final negotiations among top Congressional leaders. They had 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 the proposal passed on Dec 11. A vote to pass the bill in the Senate is expected on Dec 12.
This spending bill is a catastrophe for the priorities of rural and small-town America. Previous deep cuts to conservation are made even worse. Numerous policy riders attached to the bill are an assault on our soil, our water, and on protections for family farmers and ranchers we have fought for tirelessly over the last decade.
This legislation is a testament to the dysfunction of Congress. This is no way to make public policy. 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.
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. 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.
Ferd referred to this as the “browning of the farm bill.” He called it 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.
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 effectively guts the law, including an unprecedented action to force the repeal of existing regulations.

We'll keep you posted on developments and let you know when you can make a difference.