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Sustainable Agriculture PerspectiveNational Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

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President’s FY 2020 Finances: Sustainable Agriculture Perspective

March 19, 2019


Cowl of the President’s FY 2020 price range.

For annually President Donald Trump has been in workplace, he has put forward an annual price range request to Congress that included substantial cuts to federal meals and farm programming. This yr was no totally different. Final week, the President released his fiscal yr (FY) 2020 finances, which advisable slashing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) finances by 3.6 billion dollars (a roughly 15 % reduce compared to FY 2019 estimated ranges). The proposed cuts embrace each discretionary funding, which is about by way of the annual finances and appropriations processes, and in addition proposed legislative modifications and cuts to packages approved and funded within the 2018 Farm Invoice.

In passing a 2018 Farm Bill that included $1.8 billion in further spending (relative to baseline over the subsequent 5 years), Congress acknowledged that American household farmers wanted help in combating a sluggish farm financial system and sudden losses stemming from excessive weather. Nevertheless, farmers aren’t the only ones who would endure if the President’s finances cuts have been enacted. The proposed price range would also make excessive cuts to conservation packages, agricultural research, food security assistance, and vitamin packages, and would have devastating impacts on families and communities across the nation, both in rural and concrete areas.

Fortunately,  the actual power of the purse resides with Congress, not with the President. Nevertheless, the President’s finances proposal does serve an essential objective by telegraphing the priorities of the Administration and giving the nation perception into what packages and initiatives they is perhaps prepared to help. As one of many main advocates of federal policies that help sustainable agriculture, the Nationwide Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) was extraordinarily dissatisfied and concerned by the Administration’s FY 2020 request. NSAC subsequently urges Congress to do as they’ve accomplished the past two years operating, and reject the President’s shortsighted proposals as they begin drafting their FY 2020 appropriations bills.

Finances Overview

Annually, the first step of the annual appropriations process is for the President to release a price range request to Congress that presents the framework of the White Home’s vision for the subsequent fiscal yr. The President launched some details of his price range final week, and adopted up this week with the remaining details on the Administration’s full slate of funding proposals for the subsequent fiscal yr.

The President’s price range consists of cuts to each discretionary and obligatory funding (additionally known as Modifications in Obligatory Program Spending, or “CHiMPS”). Inside NSAC’s prime funding priorities, a few of the most severe cuts to discretionary funding have been made to the Sustainable Agriculture Analysis and Schooling (SARE) program, the Meals Safety Outreach Program (FSOP), and rural improvement packages. The finances consists of cuts as excessive as fifty % for each SARE and FSOP (in comparison with FY 2019 ranges), and eliminates discretionary funding for almost all rural business improvement packages, including the highly in style Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program.

Among the many most draconian CHiMPS within the President’s price range was a proposal to get rid of all funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the nation’s solely complete conservation program supporting long-term conservation activities.

Along with funding threats from CHIMPS, farm invoice packages may additionally face further finances cuts by means of “sequestration” – automated funding cuts mandated by Congress in the Finances Management Act of 2011. Yearly since 2013, the White Home Office of Management and Finances has determined, by method, the dimensions of the sequestration reduce. Usually, the funding reduce is about between six and seven %, and applies throughout the board to all non-exempt federal packages – together with many obligatory farm invoice packages. Meals and vitamin help packages, crop insurance subsidies, and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) are all exempt whereas commodity, conservation, trade, rural improvement, research, renewable power, horticulture, and starting, minority, and veteran farmer packages are all vulnerable to further automated cuts.

The sequestration fee for FY 2020 has not but been set, subsequently it isn’t reflected the President’s finances proposals.

Unpacking the President’s FY20 Price range

On this submit, NSAC outlines the Administration’s proposed FY 2020 price range as it pertains to the sustainable agriculture group. Concern areas coated in this evaluation embrace:

Conservation

The Administration’s finances proposal consists of sweeping cuts to federal conservation packages, undermining the work of Congress to uphold and strengthen these packages within the 2018 Farm Bill. Moreover, for the last two fiscal years, Congress has stood robust in rejecting any cuts to obligatory conservation funding by means of the appropriations process. It is disappointing that the Administration would proceed to suggest cuts to these very important conservation packages that assist tens of hundreds of farmers annually to reinforce their soil, scale back water pollution, and shield wildlife habitat and different natural assets.

Though the farm bill did make some modifications to conservation spending, together with slicing funding for CSP, it maintained current funding ranges across the general Conservation Title. The 2018 Farm Bill additionally retains each CSP and the Environmental High quality Incentives Program (EQIP) as stand-alone working lands packages, and made essential coverage enhancements to extend every packages’ flexibility, access, and conservation benefits. Flying within the face of Congress’ effort to maintain the nation’s progress on agricultural conservation, the Administration recommends that CSP be eliminated out proper. If enacted, this is able to prohibit farmers from enrolling in any new CSP contracts, resulting in a minimize of greater than $7 billion over the subsequent 10 years.

The finances also proposes a $40 million annual reduce to the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). Within the lately passed farm invoice, Congress chose the other path – selecting to virtually absolutely restore cuts made in the course of the 2014 Farm Bill by growing ACEP funding to $450 million per yr for agricultural and wetland easements. The Administration’s price range suggestion would end in approximately 15,000 fewer acres protected by agricultural easements by means of ACEP.

The President’s price range additionally puts forward several legislative suggestions that may undermine the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The finances proposes to get rid of all funding for incentive funds, that are crucial to help the continuous CRP (CCRP) enrollment choice, and reduces all rental payments to 80 % of the typical county rental fee. This degree of rental funds for CCRP can be 10 % decrease than the rate approved by the farm bill. 

Lastly, the President’s price range features a proposal to chop more than $70 million (10 %) from FY 2019 levels for Conservation Technical Help (CTA). CTA funding supports NRCS subject employees in working one-on-one with farmers to develop and implement conservation plans that tackle learn how to greatest conserve assets on their farms. Employees capability to do that work at NRCS is already extremely restricted; the proposed cuts would effectively cripple CTA’s potential to help NRCS in offering on-the-ground conservation help to farmers.

Vitamin Assistance

In this yr’s price range, the Administration continues previous assaults on anti-hunger and vitamin packages, which are crucial to feeding rural and urban youngsters, seniors citizens, and households all across the country. Although Congress has repeatedly rejected sweeping cuts to the Supplemental Vitamin Help Program (SNAP), the President has requested this system’s price range be slashed by $220 billion over 10 years.

Included in the proposed SNAP cuts are provisions to tighten restrictions and work requirements for struggling unemployed and underemployed people. In the lately handed 2018 Farm Invoice, Congress soundly rejected an analogous proposal to limit SNAP benefits. Congress additionally rejected the Administration’s proposed “Harvest Box” program, an try at weakening SNAP and changing a few of its benefits with the Administration’s unproven new program model. The program was so criticized by specialists and SNAP stakeholders alike that Congress refused to even authorize a pilot for the Harvest Field program within the farm bill. The fact that the President would continue to push ahead proposals already long-dismissed by Congress suggests that his proposed price range is extra about posturing than policymaking.

Along with the Administration’s attack on SNAP, the White House additionally recommends a $1.7 billion reduce to high school feeding packages over ten years. This minimize is proposed to be achieved via modifications to the extremely successful Group Eligibility Provision. If accredited, this modification would undoubtedly complicate any potential efforts to maneuver ahead with a brand new Youngster Vitamin Act Reauthorization during this Congress.

Research and Food Security

At first look, the President’s finances seems to extend funding for agricultural analysis. The Agriculture and Meals Analysis Initiative (AFRI), as an example, receives $500 million in funding – an $85 million improve from what Congress appropriated for FY 2019. The price range additionally consists of $50 million to fund new aggressive grants to modernize research amenities at Land-Grant Universities.

Upon nearer inspection, nevertheless, the finances proposes a internet decrease to ag analysis funding – together with cuts to key packages that help sustainable and organic analysis and farming. One of the dramatic cuts made was to the long-standing Sustainable Agriculture Research and Schooling (SARE) program, the nation’s only farmer-driven analysis program. Funding for SARE was slashed to $19 million, a reduce of just about 50 %. In FY 2019, SARE funding reached a report degree $37 million, making progress in the direction of the $60 million approved in the farm invoice and supported by others inside the broader research group.

Additionally,
the finances proposes to:

Along with the draconian cuts to ERS, what is probably extra telling is simply what research actions can be halted beneath the President’s plans and what would truly stay of what has turn into a world renown statistical establishment. Not solely would the dimensions of the company shrink, but the scope of analysis can be whittled right down to principally commodity forecasting. All other financial policy analysis can be terminated, including analysis on international commerce, agricultural research investments, food security, bioenergy and renewable power, drought resilience, local and regional meals markets, starting farmers, rural financial system, meals security, conservation packages, and meals and vitamin assistance.

Moreover, the price range requests a staggering $25 million to relocate ERS and its sister analysis company, NIFA, outdoors of the Washington Capital Region. Regardless of inclusion of report language in last yr’s funding invoice directing USDA to offer an in depth cost-benefit analysis and justification for such a move, the Administration made no try and placate the various considerations of those raised each by Congress and the broader research group.

Whereas virtually sure to be rejected by Congress, the President’s proposals shine helpful insight into the motives behind the Administration’s plans to reorganize and relocate the company. Counter to the declare that this transfer will save taxpayer dollars whereas also defending the integrity of USDA research, it is now crystal clear that the move is undoubtedly a politically-motivated try and get rid of altogether the very company chargeable for evaluating (and maybe casting doubt upon) the President’s policies and the well being of our country’s meals and agricultural financial system.

NSAC and our allies have long been rallying towards this misguided relocation – and now evidently an outright elimination – of USDA’s core analysis businesses and can continue to induce Congress to halt this ill-conceived try and remove crucial analysis.

Starting and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers

The 2018 Farm Bill included hard-won provisions that may present a lot needed help for coaching and technical help for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers into the longer term. Probably the most vital change was the institution of the Farming Alternative Training and Outreach (FOTO) program, which combines and permanently protects the Starting Farmer and Rancher Improvement Program (BFRDP) and the Outreach and Assistance to Socially Deprived and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (aka “Part 2501”).

Given the overall trajectory of the President’s finances, we have been relieved that no obligatory funding was minimize from FOTO. Nevertheless, no further funding was proposed to restore each packages to their historic funding levels, as NSAC has advocated. The 2018 Farm Bill offers FOTO with $30 million in grant funding for FY 2020 – cut up evenly among BFRDP and 2501. This amounts to a $5 million reduce to each BRFDP and 2501 in comparison with historic funding ranges beneath the 2008 Farm Invoice. NSAC has beneficial that a further $10 million in discretionary funding, cut up equally between the 2 packages, be allocated for FOTO in FY 2020. This is able to restore both packages to their historic funding ranges.

Rural Improvement

Rural improvement packages fell to the same fate in the President’s proposed price range as so many others. Regardless of clear opposition from Congress and core stakeholders, the President continues to press for draconian cuts. The Administration’s FY 2020 price range proposes to get rid of almost each single discretionary funding in rural business improvement packages, including funding for the: Rural Business Improvement Grants program, Rural Cooperative Improvement Grants, the Applicable Know-how Transfer for Rural Areas program, Rural Power For America Program, and the Value-Added Producer Grants (now a subprogram of the brand new Local Agriculture Market Program).

There’s, nevertheless, one shiny spot in the President’s finances on the subject of rural improvement packages: a proposed improve of $80 million (from $920 million to $1 billion) for the Enterprise and Business Mortgage Assure Program. This program is a important source of investment capital for rural enterprise improvement and includes a five % set-aside for local and regional food tasks. A funding improve of $80 million for the program would end in $50 million for mortgage ensures to help local and regional food system business investments in rural communities.

Local and Regional Food Techniques

Not surprisingly, given the President’s strategy to SNAP, his price range proposal also moves to get rid of all funding for the Farmers Market Vitamin Program for Ladies, Infants, and Youngsters (WIC-FMNP). WIC-FMNP is a critically necessary program that helps weak populations across the nation entry healthy meals. Eliminating WIC-FMNP would improve starvation and lead to declining well being outcomes for the American ladies and youngsters who’re supported by this very important program.

The finances doesn’t, nevertheless, suggest to get rid of any of the obligatory farm invoice funding for the Food Insecurity Vitamin Incentives Program or the brand new Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP). As aforementioned, LAMP consists of VAPG as a subprogram, as well as the Farmers Market and Native Meals Promotion Program (FMLFPP). Nevertheless, the finances doesn’t request any discretionary funding for LAMP usually or FMLFPP specifically. As part of its packaging beneath LAMP, FMLFPP acquired an almost 20 % reduce to its annual funding. NSAC plans to continue working with our champions in Congress to restore this minimize via the FY 2020 appropriations course of.

Farm Loans

The President’s price range maintains funding for FSA farm possession loans at FY 2019 levels, proposing $2.75 billion for assured loans and $1.5 billion for direct loans. FSA loans help farmers who’re unable to safe credit from personal lenders vital to buy farmland.

Nevertheless, the President also proposes to lower financing for farmers to cowl annual working costs. The price range consists of roughly $3.2 billion for direct and guaranteed operating loans – 9 % much less loan financing than FSA is permitted to offer in FY 2019. Most of this lower might be to assured loans, and underneath the President’s plan, business banks would have a more durable time securing an FSA guarantee for loans they’re unwilling to make in any other case.

The decrease in help for annual operating costs is especially concerning given the prolonged financial downturn, Undoubtedly, decreased entry to credit score may have probably the most devastating effect on these least capable of financially weather the present economic storm. Provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill would further exacerbate the discount in credit availability as the bill will increase the whole amount of loan financing anybody farmer can receive.

In follow, which means FSA is now capable of make or guarantee a lot larger loans, which can mean fewer loans for smaller operations – especially if the pot of complete mortgage funding shrinks. Beneath the President’s proposal, it’s inevitable that fewer farmers would be capable of entry the FSA financing necessary to maintain their farms in enterprise. NSAC is deeply involved concerning the influence that these greater loan limits could have on small and medium sized family farms, as well as beginning farmers and farmers of colour.

In a current farm bill implementation listening session, we delivered our considerations and proposals directly to USDA. NSAC will continue to induce Congress to reject the President’s proposed cuts, and to as an alternative make sure that FSA has the funding they need to meet anticipated loan demand in the coming yr.

Crop Insurance coverage and Commodities

Vital reforms are really helpful within the President’s proposed price range in relation to the supply of crop insurance coverage and commodity packages; several of which were not included within the 2018 Farm Bill. Core reforms proposed by the White Home embrace:

  • Decreasing the typical premium subsidy for crop insurance coverage from 62 to 48 %.
  • Limiting commodity, conservation, and crop insurance subsidies to these users that have an Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGI) of $500,000 or less.
  • Capping underwriting positive factors at 12 %.
  • Tightening commodity cost limits, together with eliminating the separate cost restrict for peanut producers.
  • Limiting eligibility for commodity subsidies to at least one supervisor per farm.

Whereas NSAC supports efforts to reign in egregious subsidy loopholes, we disagree with the slash and burn strategy taken by the finances in lieu of making use of focused reforms to crop insurance coverage premium subsidies. If Congress have been to move forward with the President’s proposals, subsidies can be minimize for all farmers regardless of the dimensions of their operation. Such a heavy-handed strategy might finally unravel the farm security set. Throughout the farm invoice debate, NSAC has advocated for a extra precise strategy to reform that may improve entry to danger administration choices obtainable to farmers while additionally ending the period of limitless crop insurance subsidies.

Given the immense protests from the agricultural group relating to the President’s crop insurance coverage and commodity proposals, it’s arduous to imagine that appropriators would significantly think about opening up the farm invoice to enact them. NSAC plans to proceed our reform work via the farm invoice implementation process, and to urge the Administration to close egregious loopholes with regard to cost limits and the definition of “actively engaged” in agriculture.

What’s Next?

Because the annual appropriations process strikes forward, it’s important to keep in mind that the President’s price range proposal is strictly that – a proposal. Congressional appropriators are underneath no obligation to take all and even part of the President’s recommendations. As agriculture appropriators have proven in previous years, they’re more than prepared to strongly reject the President’s proposals. NSAC and our members shall be working to make sure that Congress once once more rejects the President’s proposed cuts, and that they preserve sustainable agriculture’s hard-fought 2018 Farm Bill wins.

In the coming weeks, the Home and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees will host hearings with USDA officials, giving them the prospect to current views on the President’s price range proposals. These hearings will effectively kick-off the congressional appropriations process. Following the drawn out appropriations struggle of FY 2019 (which triggered the longest government shutdown in historical past), we hope that appropriators can be determined to maneuver forward with the FY 2020 process as shortly as potential.

Before the appropriations subcommittees can write and release their individual FY 2020 bills, nevertheless, they should improve the annual discretionary spending caps for both protection and non-defense packages. Congress previously raised the finances caps for FY 2018 and FY 2019, and will need to take action again with a view to forestall automated spending cuts

As the FY 2020 appropriations cycle continues to
move ahead, NSAC will work with Congress to ensure that we construct upon, somewhat
than undermine, investments in food and agriculture packages – including the progress
made by food and farm advocates within the 2018 Farm Bill.


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