Monday, July 16, 2012

Farm Bill Passes in House Agricultural Committee

Earlier this month, the 220th General Assembly of the PC(USA) declared that "protection of the environment is a vital part of the Christian faith." In this statement of stewardship, the Assembly asked that our advocacy efforts in the areas of agriculture and food supply be guided by the principles of:

"renewability, sustainability, resilience, minimized carbon emissions, participatory research and decision-making, revitalized rural communities, strong local food economies, security of food supply, ethical treatment of animals, and fair and dignified treatment of persons working throughout the food chain."

As the Farm Bill continues its journey through Congress, we remember these values and lift up important points from the House Agriculture Committee's decisions last week.

After the Senate passed the Farm Bill last month, the bill went through the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday. The committee voted 35-11 in favor of the Farm Bill and discussed over 100 amendments. Their action may move the Farm Bill one step closer to law, although it is still unknown if the Farm Bill will come before the House for debate before the September 30th expiration of the current farm bill.

We posted in detail about the Senate's Farm Bill, and will touch upon some of the same issues as they were decided by the House Agriculture Committee. You may remember that a bulk of the Farm Bill discussion and funding goes toward SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps). SNAP was a major part of the Agriculture Committee's discussions, and they resolved:
  • To cut $16.5 billion from SNAP, $12 billion more than the Senate voted to cut.
  • In good news,  an amendment to increase SNAP cuts to $30 billion was voted down.
  • To increase assistance to food banks through TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program). Five million dollars in TEFAP funding came from SNAP cuts.

The House Agriculture Committee also made changes to programs serving special populations of farmers. The Committee:
  • Supported an amendment to allow microloans to small farmers and beginning and young farmers.
  • Cut funding nearly in half for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, getting rid of the funds for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

Other issues of significance in the House Agricultural Committee's Bill include:
  • Conservation programs were consolidated, cutting the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) by $3 billion, that's $1 billion more in cuts than the Senate's proposal.
  • Rural development, cut by 64% in the Senate's Farm bill, is cut by 88% in the version passed by the House committee on Wednesday.
As you can see, the House Agriculture Committee's Farm Bill contains a mix of large cuts to vital programs as well as supports for America's farms and farmers. As we learn how the Farm Bill will move forward, we will keep you updated with ways to live into our values and to continue our faith community’s commitment to just food systems and stewardship of God's creation.