The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


National Farmers Union, CFTC chairman, food aid advocates decry House approps bill

The National Farmers Union, Rep. Rosa De Lauro, D-Conn., Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler and domestic and international food aid groups have issued negative reactions to the fiscal year 2013 Agriculture appropriations bill approved by the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday.

The bill includes $19.4 billion in discretionary funding, which represents a cut of $365 million from last year’s level, and $1.7 billion less than President Barack Obama’s budget request for the Agriculture Department, the Food and Drug Administration, the CFTC and the Farm Credit Administration.

National Farmers Union

Roger Johnson
“Compared to some of the proposals that this committee has produced in recent years, the [fiscal year] 2013 appropriations bill is less severe in its percentage cuts,” said NFU President Roger Johnson.

“The bill still contains unacceptable provisions that would effectively remove any possibility that rules to restore fairness for livestock and poultry producers could be implemented, including a clearer definition of competitive injury,” Johnson said. “These common sense regulations should be put in place immediately, and it is extremely disappointing that language to prevent that is in the subcommittee’s bill. This language should be removed before the appropriations bill becomes law.”

Johnson also noted that the bill cuts $25 million from the CFTC budget.

“Now is not the time to be cutting from an agency that has an important role to play in preventing the next financial meltdown. Our economy needs stronger rules and more referees — not fewer,” said Johnson. “The bill passed by the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee is in need of considerable improvement in order to better serve family farmers and ranchers.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.

Rep. Rosa DaLauro, D-Conn.
“The lower allocation put forth by the majority breaks the budget agreement both sides came to last August, and that has real consequences,” DeLauro, a former chairman of the subcommittee, said in a news release.

“It will have a dramatic impact on the priorities embodied in this appropriations bill, especially in the critical areas of nutrition, food and consumer safety and financial protection,” DeLauro said. “Programs such as Women Infants and Children (WIC), Commodity Supplemental Food program (relied upon by low income seniors to put food on the table) and the Food for Peace program, which literally saves lives, all face cuts that will severely impact the people they serve."

“We also need to ensure the FDA has the resources necessary to protect the American people,” she continued. “It is the cornerstone of our food and product safety system, and yet the chairman’s bill funds it at $16.2 million below last year."

DeLauro also noted that the subcommittee had rejected an amendment she proposed to provide more money to the CFTC, and said she “will continue to keep fighting to ensure there is finally accountability for Wall Street and big oil.”

Commodity Futures Trading Commissioner Gary Gensler

Gary Gensler
Gensler said the cut to the CFTC budget “effectively put the interests of Wall Street ahead of those of the American public by significantly underfunding the agency Congress tasked to oversee derivatives — the same complex financial instruments that helped contribute to the most significant economic downturn since the Great Depression.”

“The CFTC’s hardworking staff is just 10 percent more in numbers than at our peak in the 1990s, yet Congress has now directed the agency to oversee the swaps market that is eight times larger than the futures market,” Gensler added.

“Picture the NFL expanding eightfold to play more than 100 football games in a weekend, leaving just one referee per game, and, in some cases, no referee,” he said. “Imagine the mayhem on the field, the resulting injuries to players, and the loss of confidence fans would have in the integrity of the game. We would not want similar mayhem and loss of confidence in markets so critical to farmers, ranchers and end users that may result from this bill’s significant underfunding of the CFTC.”

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, and Feeding America

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio
Kaptur, a longtime member of the subcommittee, said that the cuts to the commodity distribution program would reduce the number of people who can get food packages by 43,000 and urged members to go to food banks in their communities “and stand in line and watch.”

Feeding America, the nation’s largest chain of food banks, said the cuts would eliminate nutrition assistance for tens of thousands of low-income seniors, women, infants and children.

“This House bill, as compared to the bill passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee in April, includes a nearly $14 million cut to the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which provides boxes of food staples to mostly elderly participants,” Feeding America said.

The group, which includes more than 200 food banks, also noted that the bill includes the cut to WIC and a $2.4 million cut in funding that helps food banks store, transport and distribute food.

Catholic Relief Services

Bill O'Keefe
Catholic Relief Services noted that the bill had cut more than 20 percent — more than $300 million from the current $1.47 billion level — of the funding for Food for Peace, a program that provides both long-term and emergency international food assistance.

As a result of this cut, up to 8.5 million people will no longer be served by Food for Peace programs, said Bill O’Keefe, CRS senior vice president for advocacy.

Additionally, the panel added a provision that would allow the government to divert up to 80 percent of Food for Peace funding dedicated to long-term anti-hunger programs for emergency use, O’Keefe said.

House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jack Kingston, R-Ga., said that provision would make it easier to administer the program, but O’Keefe said allowing the diversion of 80 percent of the funds from long-term hunger programs would reduce them to $80 million or less. Developmental programs designed to boost agricultural production and improve nutrition in regions like the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, as well as in countries like Haiti, South Sudan, Bangladesh, and Guatemala, would be impacted and some would disappear, he added.

O’Keefe pointed out that funding for Food for Peace has not been this low since 2004, when commodity prices were much lower. This level of funding could purchase 2.7 million metric tons of commodities in 2004 but less than half of that amount today, he concluded.

World Food Program USA

WFP USA, a group that encourages funding for the U.N. World Food Program, also decried the cuts.

The U.S. government has traditionally been the biggest donor to the WFP, the group noted, but said “the effectiveness of emergency response is now challenged by the reality of shrinking budgets and the unlikelihood of supplemental funding requests.”

“When faced with funding shortfalls, humanitarian organizations like the U.N. World Food Program must prioritize life‐saving interventions and reduce investments in preventative programs,” WFP USA said in a document it released. “Over time, this can lead to significant reductions in people's resilience, making each recurring crisis deeper and more costly to address.”

“In addition, people suffering moderate food insecurity may face reduced food assistance, forcing them to adopt short‐term coping mechanisms to survive,” the group said.