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Farm Bill Falls Far Short Of Vital Reform

Contact: 
(202) 667-6982
ssciammacco@ewg.org
For Immediate Release: 
Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Washington, D.C. - The bill produced by the farm bill conference committee falls far short of the reforms needed to create federal food and agricultural policy that can meet the challenges of the 21st century, the Environmental Working Group said today.

“We are sorely disappointed with the conference committee report,” said Craig Cox, EWG Senior Vice President of Agriculture and Natural Resources.  “The bill is seriously flawed and misses an important opportunity to produce agriculture policy that meets the needs of family farmers and the environment and helps families put nutritious food on their tables.”

“At a time of record farm income the agriculture committees once again chose to increase unlimited subsidies to the most profitable and financially secure farm businesses at the expense of hungry children and the environment,” said Ken Cook, EWG President. “The cuts to conservation programs are particularly egregious at a time when we are putting unprecedented pressure on our land and water resources.”

If it becomes law, the conference report would:

  • Make it harder for hungry Americans to get help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, needlessly cut conservation programs and woefully underfund other critical priorities.
  • Squander the welcome and much needed decision to end direct payments by using most of the savings to enact a new suite of subsidy programs. These new subsidies are worse for taxpayers and the environment than the subsidies they are replacing.
  • Add to the already bloated crop insurance program.  The conference report fails to make common sense reforms that could have easily created a sound and fiscally responsible safety net while generating the savings needed to strengthen programs that feed hungry children, protect the environment and increase access to healthy food.
  • Keep taxpayers in the dark about who is benefiting from the billions of federal dollars spent on crop insurance subsidies and underwriting gains.
  • Stunningly reject the bipartisan provision—included in the bills passed by both the Senate and House —that limited payments to individual farms to $50,000.  Instead, the conference report increases the limit to $125,000 and leaves it to the Obama administration to close loopholes that allow large and highly profitable farm operations to escape even the higher payment limits.

The conference report has a few bright spots.  Most importantly, it reattaches conservation compliance provisions to crop insurance premium subsidies. This critical step—taken largely thanks to the leadership of Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and the good work of Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Jon Tester, D-Mont.—will safeguard the gains made since 1985 in protecting soil and wetlands.

The enactment of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program promises to move conservation programs in a far more effective direction. And thanks to the dedication of Sens. Stabenow and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Me., the conference report strengthens local and regional food systems.