NFU urges increased funding for farm safety net
Given the persistent and ongoing economic challenges in farming and rural economies, National Farmers Union (NFU) is calling on Congress to increase funding for farm programs in the farm bill and pass the legislation as soon as possible. The NFU Board of Directors recently passed a resolution to this effect, outlining requirements for a farm bill that family farmers and ranchers can support.
“American farmers are not only suffering from price pressure that has reduced net farm income by half over the last four years, but devastating wildfires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters continue to punish agricultural communities,” said the Board. “Trade policies continue to promote the sale of farm products at prices below the cost of production. Farm bill legislation in 2018 must strengthen the safety net so that farmers and ranchers can manage risk, stay in business and continue to feed our country.”
The Board laid out a series of 14 recommendations that Congress should follow to provide a sufficient farm safety net, support rural communities, protect natural resources, improve beginning farmers’ and ranchers’ opportunities for success, and ensure the nation’s most vulnerable people have enough to eat.
“The farm bill, rightly so, touches all aspects of our food system,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “As such, Congress must write and pass a farm bill this year that adequately supports each part of the food system—from the family farmers who grow our food, to the land they do it on, to the rural communities they support, and all the way to the consumers who rely on safe, affordable food. Providing adequate support begins with a recognition of the dire economic conditions of the farm economy, the impacts of food production on the land, and the moral imperative of our country to ensure its most vulnerable citizens have access to food.”
Among the NFU Board’s recommendations were a set of changes to the Farm Bill’s commodity title, Title 1, which has not provided adequate relief for farmers amidst the recent, dramatic slide in net farm income. It called for “increased and robust reference prices under the Price Loss Coverage program,” technical corrections to the Agricultural Risk Coverage program, and an “incentives-based inventory management program to manage milk supplies based on market demand.” The Board also called for mechanisms to address oversupply of grain and dairy, and for meaningful assistance to cotton producers.
Recognizing the role family farmers play as stewards of our natural resources, NFU recommended a strong conservation title that provides “additional acreage under the Conservation Reserve Program,” maintains “funding for working lands conservation programs that promote active stewardship and locally led conservation activities,” and funds “climate mitigation research and technical assistance at national and local levels.”
Central also to the family farm organization’s concerns are the farm bill’s impacts on rural communities. The NFU Board urged Congress to include “robust funding for programs that promote economic, infrastructure and clean energy development in rural communities,” and to prioritize development of local cooperatives.
To ensure the success of beginning and future farmers and ranchers, NFU called for implementation of programs within the farm bill that improve beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmers’ and ranchers’ access to land, capital, efficiency and markets.
Finally, and of equal importance, Farmers Union called for strong nutrition programs in order to provide a safety net against hunger.
“The family farm is the keystone of a free, progressive, and democratic national society as well as a strong America, and is the basis of a safe, secure, and stable food system,” wrote the NFU Board. “It provides opportunities for individual enterprise to all families in our society to achieve economic and social stability, as well as soil, water, and environmental stewardship of our natural resources and unparalleled production efficiency. “
“National Farmers Union’s Board of Directors, in its continued efforts to protect family farms, calls on Congress in 2018 to provide strong support and increased funding in the best interests of family farms, rural communities and consumers.”