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Dear Super Committee: What to Cut, What NOT to Cut
Lobbyists for polluting industries and opponents of environmental regulation have been tripping over one another to come up with self-serving lists of targets for the Congressional Super Committee as it labors to find ways to reduce federal spending and trim the deficit. The nation deserves a more thoughtful approach, one that recognizes that Americans want, and deserve, to live in a place where air and water are clean, where soil and natural resources are conserved for future generations, and where health and safety – not merely profit – stand atop the hierarchy of public values.
EWG believes that many, but not all, of the budget proposals offered by President Obama go in the right direction by recognizing a larger vision of the public good, one that takes into account the interests of all Americans, not just the selfish interests of the wealthiest and those who seek to profit while sacrificing health and the environment.
With that in mind, EWG offers the Super Committee its own lists:
Top 10 Things NOT to Cut – if you care about the environment and public health:
- Good food for kids. Full funding for nutrition programs that help Americans who lack access to affordable, nutritious food, especially the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps), the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, school meals and the Fruit and Vegetable School Snack Program, as well as funding for the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010.
- The EPA. The Environmental Protection Agency’s funding and authority to protect human health and the environment, including the resources it needs to appropriately enforce the Clean Air, Clean Water, Safe Drinking Water and inadequate Toxic Substances Control acts.
- Healthy foods. Programs that promote cultivation and consumption of fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods, including Section 32 Fruit and Vegetable Purchases, including the Department of Defense’s FRESH program, and the Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grants that are targeted to a wide range of specialty crop farmers and consumers.
- Food safety. Programs at the Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture designed to ensure food safety, especially funding for the brand new Food Safety Modernization Act.
- Agricultural conservation. Conservation and research programs that support farming practices that prevent the loss of irreplaceable soil, prevent water and air pollution and conserve water and wildlife habitat.
- Water infrastructure. Funding for state and local efforts to replace the nation’s crumbling, leaky infrastructure of aqueducts, pipes and water treatment facilities that struggle to supply Americans with pure, safe water.
- Clean energy. Funding for basic and applied scientific research at the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy that sow the seeds for tomorrow’s true clean energy breakthroughs.
- Extreme weather. Research and monitoring programs at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA and elsewhere that seek to better understand the dynamics of climate change and to develop strategies to reverse the trends toward warmer temperatures and extreme weather events.
- Toxic-related disease research. Programs at public health agencies that identify, understand and find cures for disease and disability caused by poor diets and environmental contamination, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the National Toxicology Program and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
- Sustainable agriculture. USDA programs that provide new market opportunities and research for beginning, sustainable and organic farmers and ranchers, including the Farmers Market Promotion Program, Value-Added Producer Grants, Beginning Farmers and Ranchers, Sustainable Agriculture Research Education Programs and Organic Extension and Research Initiative.
Top things that the Congressional Super Committee should cut:
- Kickbacks for dirty fuels. Subsidies, tax credits and special breaks for the oil, gas, and mining industries that encourage the fouling of land, water and air.
- Ethanol subsidies. Subsidies and tax credits for first generation biofuels such as corn ethanol that encourage fencerow-to-fencerow crop production, contribute to higher food prices and barely dent the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.
- Cash to wealthy, absentee landowners. Direct payments that go to wealthy farm operations regardless of need and to landowners who do no farming, and loopholes that allow these subsidies to be paid to landowners and farmers who exceed payment limitations or income caps.
- Crop insurance. Heavily subsidized crop insurance programs that enrich insurance companies and farmers already making record incomes.
- Antiquated price support programs. Outdated price support programs for crops that currently command all-time high prices, such as corn, soybeans and wheat.
- Bogus rural energy programs. Energy programs in the farm bill that undermine true energy efficiency and independence at the expense of wind, solar and energy conservation projects, such as subsidizing large pulp and paper companies and funding installation of ethanol blender pumps.
Like our lists? Great. Then let the 12 members of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction (aka the Super Committee) know that you want them to tackle the deficit the right way – because there IS a right way. EWG sent the committee members our recommendations, showing that they can address the budget AND make sure that we protect programs for children, the environment and our health, as well as ensure that there’s a true safety net for farmers who need it.