Congress is at work on next year's budget.
Here's what it means for sustainable agriculture.

Each year in Congress, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees determine the amount of money that certain "discretionary spending" federal programs will receive.  The committees have faced tremendous pressure to cut spending, and over the past two years Congress cut $460 million from discretionary conservation, rural and local food system development, agricultural research, and beginning farmer program funding.  Congress also targeted mandatory conservation program spending, which is by law not meant to be part of this annual appropriations process.  In the debate about next year's 2014 federal budget, which is happening now, Congress must reaffirm its commitment to farmers, rural communities, and the environment by maintaining funding for critical programs.

You can help - make a call today!

Here's how to make the call:

  1. Dial the number for your Congressperson's Washington, DC office. (found in your alert email)
  2. Ask for the staff member who works on agricultural appropriations issues.  If the agriculture staffer isn’t available, leave a message. The email you received contains a key, targeted message to share with your legislators. You can customize it with your own story and message, too.
  3. Thank the staff member for their time.
  4. Tell us how it went!

Get more information on the issues:

Protect our soil, air, and water for the future - stop funding raids from critical conservation programs

Farmers and the environment both benefit from conservation programs.  Farmers count on them to conserve soil for future generations, keep water and air clean, and create habitat for wildlife – all while farming profitably.  A suite of distinct but interrelated farm bill programs -- Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, and others -- work together to help farmers protect and rebuild soil, provide clean water and wildlife habitat, and supply other environmental benefits, while maintaining vibrant and productive farms and ranches. Congress must prevent raids on mandatory conservation spending and not limit mandatory funding for Farm Bill conservation programs.  Since the enactment of the 2002 Farm Bill, $4.4 billion has been taken unjustifiably from Farm Bill mandatory conservation spending through changes in mandatory program spending (or CHIMPS).

Drive innovation in agriculture - support investment in cutting-edge research for farmers and ranchers through SARE

Farmers and ranchers never stop working to improve their operations each season – from trying a new cover crop to bringing in a new breed of cattle, they’re always experimenting.  And the Sustainable Agriculture Research Program (SARE) is right there with them – it’s a successful federal program that funds the crucial on-farm research farmers and ranchers need.  The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program at USDA is at the forefront of innovation in environmentally sound and profitable farming systems, giving farmers and ranchers the tools they need to thrive.  SARE is the only USDA research program with a clear and consistent focus on sustainability.  For over two decades it has been at the forefront of research and widespread extension of farming systems based on profitable and environmentally sound practices.  Congress must fund SARE at $30 million for FY 2014 and fund the federal-state matching grant program component.

source:  USDA

Empower food and farm entrepreneurs - support investment in business development through VAPG

The economic recession has exacerbated depopulation and declining family income trends in rural America.  Small-scale entrepreneurship is the one economic development strategy that consistently works in rural communities, with over half of all new jobs created in most rural areas coming from small business ventures.  The Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program is targeted at small business development and contributes to farmer-led job creation in rural areas.  Despite being a key part of a proven job-creation strategy, VAPG has been cut by more than 30 percent in the last two years.  Congress must invest in this critical program and fund the Value Added Producer Grant Program at $30 million for Fiscal Year 2014.

Source:  USDA

Defend family farmers and ranchers - against rules that prevent fairness in the marketplace and that short-circuit safety measures on GMO crops

Two provisions included in the final 2013 Continuing Resolution (CR) threaten to undermine fair competition and farmer choice in agriculture.  Following a mandate from Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill, in 2011, USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) began to implement a contract fairness and competition rule to prevent unfair, discriminatory, and deceptive practices within the livestock and poultry industries.  The 2013 CR prohibits the USDA from implementing the remaining portions of the rule and forces the agency to rescind the finalized portions. 

The 2013 CR also includes a second provision, which undermines judicial review of biotechnology products.  This provision permits USDA to deregulate genetically modified (GM) crops even in the case of a court ruling invalidating or vacating such a deregulation.  This is a clear violation of the separation of powers and judicial review.  Both provisions undermine basic fairness and choice in agriculture and threaten the livelihood of livestock producers and producers of non-biotech crops nationwide.

This situation is at risk of happening again during this year's appropriations process.  Congress must stand up for farmers and ranchers and oppose any legislation that would limit USDA’s implementation of the important GIPSA fair competition rule or undermine judicial review of genetically modified crops.