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At the intersection of food, soil, climate, farming and water.

Taking Agriculture In The Wrong Direction: The U.S. House of Representatives

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed their agricultural appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12).  The bill’s extreme and irresponsible cuts set a low-water mark for fairness, vision, and consistency of purpose.

A House whose leaders say they want to support jobs and economic growth voted to cut all FY12 funding for USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which coordinates one of the nation’s fastest growing segments of agriculture – small and mid-sized farmers and food business entrepreneurs.

It decimated conservation programs.  In April’s vote on agricultural funding for FY11, Congress cut over $500 million from conservation programs whose funding was mandated in the 2008 Farm Bill (as opposed to leaving funding levels to the annual discretion of appropriators).  Ignoring that imperative and the rationale behind it – that conservation not only creates jobs now but protects the means of agricultural production for future generations – unimaginably the House last week cut another $1 billion more from mandatory conservation programs.

The House also voted to prevent USDA from issuing its rule implementing the livestock marketplace fair competition rule as Congress had directed in the 2008 Farm Bill.  With consolidation in the meat industry continuing to force small livestock producers and small meat processors out of business, amazingly this vote stands firmly in protection of monopolistic and discriminatory practices!

The House cut funding to implement the recently-passed food safety law.  It denied funding for USDA to develop its response to climate change.  And the list goes on.

This destructive bill passed on a 217-203 vote, with all Democrats and 19 Republicans voting against it. It will be up the Senate, whose Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee is led by Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl, to bring balance, vision, and a commitment to healthy agriculture and rural communities in its FY12 funding bill later this summer.