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OEC Urges U.S. House to Revamp & Reconsider Farm Bill

Ohio Environmental Council, June 21, 2013

House votes down a flawed version of the Farm Bill, which lacked a much-needed Conservation Compliance provision and included deep cuts to nutrition funding.

Columbus, OH – The Ohio Environmental Council is urging the U.S. House of Representatives to reconsider several key provisions of a failed Farm Bill. The eco group wants Congress to quickly adopt a comprehensive 5-year Farm Bill with strong conservation compliance provisions and a solid safety net for America’s farmers and America’s hungry.

On the heals of a stinging 195-234 defeat this past week of this important legislation, the OEC is urging lawmakers to reconsider two key provisions to help protect lakes and rivers from farm-field runoff and to help needy families receive basic nutrition.

1) The Conservation Compliance provisions are a common sense set of eligibility rules to assure the conservation of natural resources in exchange for the generous crop insurance subsidies the government provides to farmers.

The proposal would have required farmers that request such subsidies comply with a basic level of conservation in their farming operations in order to qualify for the crop insurance subsidies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Senate-passed version of the Farm Bill included this provision. The House version, voted down on Thursday, did not.

2) The USDA Nutrition programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women’s Infants and Children (WIC), The Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP), and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) and others provide needed assistance to America’s hungry, most of whom are working families.

The failed House version of the Farm Bill included a massive $20 billion cut in funding for nutrition programs. The recently-passed Senate version of the farm Bill contained a far more modest $4 billion cut.

“Farmers are asking for taxpayer support. In exchange, more farmers should be willing to adopt soil and water conservation practices and to share their bounty with needy families. We hope the House Agriculture Committee will return to work immediately and rework its version of the Farm Bill to incorporate sensible provisions to assure soil and water conservation and adequate nutrition support. These all-American efforts are good for farmers, good for struggling families, and good for the good earth,” said Joe Logan, Director of Agricultural Programs for the Ohio Environmental Council.

The Farm Bill helps farmers upgrade equipment and practices that help control soil erosion, reduce polluted farm-field runoff, and preserve wildlife habitat. Common examples include conservation tillage equipment, grass filter strips, cover crops, and setting aside wetlands and forested areas for wildlife.

“The Farm Bill traditionally has provided support for soil and water conservation, rural development, renewable energy, and other worthwhile initiatives. We support the passage of a comprehensive five-year Farm Bill this year. The U.S. Senate already has spoken. We urge House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to get the job done and pass a Farm Bill that includes these key provisions.”

Logan is a fifth-generation grain and beef farmer from Trumbull County, Ohio.