Bill Backs Corporate Interests Over Family Farmers, Rural Communities & the Environment
A deeply flawed U.S. House Farm Bill represents corporate interests, particularly industrial livestock operations, at the expense of independent farm families and the environment, and should be swiftly rejected when it comes to a vote this month, the Land Stewardship Project, along with 33 other groups, wrote in a letter delivered to Congress today.
The groups highlighted the urgent need to spend public funds wisely to reach more family farmers who are protecting the environment while struggling in a troubled farm economy tied to low prices and over-production. The partisan Farm Bill (H.R. 2), written largely behind closed doors by the House Agriculture Committee Chair, ignores needed reforms to programs exploited by industrialized concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), while eliminating important programs and protections for family farmers.
“At a time when family farmers are struggling, we should make it easier for them to thrive, not harder,” said Barb Kalbach, a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and a family farmer from Dexter, Iowa. “It’s clear that this Farm Bill is only interested in consolidating the agricultural industry and propping up factory farms, which will push more family farmers out of business. We expect the support of Congress—not legislation that works against us.”
"The corporate-controlled, industrial model of livestock production can’t survive without taxpayer support,” said Rhonda Perry, a livestock producer and program director of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center. “Taxpayers should not be footing the bill and fueling the industrialization of the livestock industry at the expense of family farmers, taxpayers, rural communities and the environment. Instead, we should be targeting our public conservation dollars to independent family farm operations and providing a long-term investment in our economy and natural resource base."
Specifically, the groups pointed to the House Farm Bill’s failure to:
• Reform the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) by eliminating the use of critical conservation funds for CAFOs. Unfortunately, corporate industrial livestock special interests successfully worked to open up EQIP conservation funds to CAFOs, which house thousands of animals and generate massive quantities of manure, and to increase EQIP’s funding cap to $450,000.
• Protect the nation’s most popular farm conservation program. The bill eliminates the Conservation Stewardship Program and replaces it with vaguely defined “stewardship contracts” under the EQIP program, opening up additional conservation funding to support CAFOs.
• Limit the use of Guaranteed Farm Loans for building and expanding corporate CAFOs. The House bill increases the Guaranteed Loan limit to $1.75 million, ensuring more loan dollars will go toward the financing of larger CAFOs, while burdening contract farmers with more debt.
“Conservation is an important piece of the Farm Bill that works for the good of family farmers and the general public,” said Bill Gorman, a farmer from Goodhue, Minn., and member of the Land Stewardship Project. “It makes no sense to cut programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program. We need a Farm Bill that is for family farmers, not one that leads to more consolidation and helps corporate ag.”
The groups also criticized the House bill for new, restrictive requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients, affecting both rural and urban families struggling to feed themselves and buy the food family farmers grow.
The letter was organized by the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment (Dakota Rural Action, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Land Stewardship Project, Missouri Rural Crisis Center, Food & Water Watch and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy).
The letter with a full list of organizational endorsements can be read here.