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Cynical Extension Cuts Conservation, Extends Direct Payments

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The one-year extension of the farm bill likely to come up on the House floor this week would perpetuate funding for the worst aspects of American farm policy and would cut funding for the best.

The extension bill produced by House Agriculture Committee leaders would slash conservation programs by more than $750 million.

Although these programs account for less than one-third of all farm spending and flow to all farmers in all regions of the country, they will “offset” the cost of an extension of the current farm bill and drought assistance.

Among the worthwhile efforts slated for sharp reductions: the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Security Program.

What’s more, the extension bill offers no support for organic farmers, new farmers and farmers’ markets.   Yet it extends “direct” payments – subsidies paid regardless of need to crop farmers – for another year at a cost of nearly $5 billion.

A sensible extension would end direct payments, use some of the savings to help drought-stricken livestock operators and direct the rest to deficit reduction.

But the extension proposed by leaders of House Agriculture Committee does none of that.

Instead, their extension pays lip service to the popular notion of cutting direct payments but actually proposes no cuts to direct payments in FY2013 and a paltry $29 million cut in FY 2014.

By 2014, anything this extension does will be moot:  a new farm bill will presumably be in effect.

The only thing that could be worse than this cynical extension – which won’t be subject to open debate on the floor – would be using it as a pretense to negotiate a five-year farm bill with the Senate, which has already passed its version of the $1 trillion bill.

The House should reject this extension.


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