|Fiscal Cliff Deal A Disaster for New England Farmers
Shelburne Falls, MA – January 3, 2013 New England farmers received a sour New Year’s surprise when a short-term extension of the 2008 farm bill was attached and passed along with the fiscal cliff deal. The terms of the deal originated with Minority Leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who along with Vice President Biden, sidestepped months of hard work by the Senate and House Agriculture Committees.
“This extension is a disaster for New England farmers and consumers,” said Roger Noonan, President of the New England Farmers Union. “Programs that support renewable energy, farmers markets, beginning farmers, organic and specialty crop research were all stripped of mandatory funding for 2013,” he said.
The extension bears little resemblance to the bi-partisan bills hammered out in the agriculture committees. The bill does not include the new Dairy Margin Insurance Program, nor does it include a Dairy Market Stabilization program that was included in both the Senate and the House Agriculture Committee farm bills. It does extend the Milk Income Loss Contract Program through September 30, 2013. The MILC program feed cost adjustment was also extended at the behest of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
The terms of the extension have angered many House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders, including the Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). “Rather than embrace the Senate’s bipartisan farm bill which cuts $24 billion in spending and creates certainty for our agriculture economy, Senator McConnell insisted on a partial extension that reforms nothing, provides no deficit reduction, and hurts many areas of our agriculture economy,” she said. “The Senate Agriculture Committee will once again begin work in the new year to enact a new farm bill that works for our farmers and rural communities as well as American taxpayers.”
Noonan concluded, “We need to get to work with this new Congress to pass a five-year farm bill that provides a meaningful safety net for our dairy farmers, promotes conservation and supports the expansion of local and regional food markets. We will continue to press our farm bill priorities until we succeed,” he said.