-Mid-Term Elections SLow Potential for New Farm Bill Election
-Changes in Ag Committee Leadership
-Republicans' 'Contract With America' Threatens Family Farmers
-New Ag Committee Leaders Hint About Other Program Changes
-America's Food System at Risk
MID-TERM ELECTIONS SLOW POTENTIAL FOR NEW FARM BILL
The results of last Tuesday's mid-term elections are expected to
steer the 1995 farm bill in a more conservative direction than many
family farmers and sustainable agriculture advocates are demanding.
Republicans won majorities in both the House and the Senate Q
which will result in new agriculture committee leadership when the
104th Congress convenes January 1, 1995.
Some of this new Congressional leadership is expected to favor more
cuts in farm program spending, fewer-than-anticipated
environmentally-friendly farm programs, and less federal
involvement altogether in agriculture.
"Basically, any farm policy proposal that looks like more government
won't stand a chance in the 104th Congress," predicts Ferd Hoefner, a
federal lobbyist for the Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture.
CHANGES IN AG COMMITTEE LEADERSHIP
The majorities won by Republicans in both the House and the Senate
will turn Agriculture Committee leadership over to the GOP for the
first time in nearly 40 years. "This affects every Subcommittee as
well as its staffing for their Committees," says Kathy Ozer, president
of the National Family Farm Coalition. "The turnover and changes
could be even greater ... Newt Gingrich has stated publicly his desire
to totally reform the Committees."
Following is the breakdown of changes on the Congressional
In the Senate. Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) is slated to replace Patrick
Leahy (D-Vermont) as chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture,
Nutrition and Forestry. Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi) may take over
Dale BumpersU (D-Arkansas) spot as Senate Ag Appropriations chair.
In the House. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) is expected to replace Kiki de
la Garza (D-Texas), who has guided the previous two farm bills, as
chairperson of the House Agriculture Committee. Likewise, Joe Skeen
(R-New Mexico) should take over as Agriculture Appropriations head
from Richard Durbin (D-Illinois). There are a total of nine open seats
on the House Agriculture Committee; four members retired and
another five lost in elections.
House Ag Committee members not returning next year are: Jill Long
(D-Indiana), Bill Sarpalius (D-Texas), Dan Glickman (D-Kentucky),
Tom Barlow (D- Kentucky), Jay Inslee (D-Washington), Glenn English
(D-Oklahoma), Tim Penny (D-Minnesota), Tom Lewis (R-Florida) and
Robert Smith (R-Oregon).
RWeUre losing lots of farm bill experience,S said a House staffer. In
fact, only a handful of House Agriculture Committee members who
helped craft the 1990 farmb ill will return to jointhe 104th Congress
in developing legislation in 1995 for farmers.
REPUBLICANS' 'CONTRACT WITH AMERICA' THREATENS FAMILY
Republicans offered in their "Contract With America" during this
yearUs election to reduce taxes through cuts in entitlement spending,
When asked which entitlements the GOP would cut to finance its
"Contract with America," William Kristol, GOP strategist, responded
during an NBC RMeet the Press Interview," RFarm subsidies. IUd be
perfectly happy to phase out, and I think Bob Dole next year .... will
take a courageous position and look at radically reducing farm
Dole insists, however, that RAny attempt to characterize my position
on next yearUs farm bill is premature since the 1995 farm bill
strategy has not been discussed.S
Other possible agriculture program cuts proposed in the GOP Contract
With America include $830 million from Agriculture Research
Service projects, $600 million from resource conservation, $500
million from Extension, and $420 million from FmHA farm loan
NEW AG COMMITTEE LEADERS HINT ABOUT OTHER PROGRAM
In addition to Republicans' Contract proposals, Representative Pat
Roberts and Senator Richard Lugar hinted during a recent interview
that they would favor the following farm program changes in 1995:
%reductions in the number of acres covered by program payments --
increase flex acres;
%limits on support payments to wealthy farmers;
%investigation and potential reform of the meat and poultry
%enactment of fewer, less stringent environmental regulations; and
%less spending for food stamp and other food assistance programs.
In general, GOP leaders plan to take a more conservative approach on
such issues as property rights, clean water act changes and food
Advocates of sustainable agriculture have been working to develop
1995 farm bill policy options that encourage farmers to adopt
voluntary conservation programs that preserve the earth's natural
resources and ensure that future generations of family farmers will
have good land to farm and safe food to supply to America's
consumers. But the KIPLINGER AGRICULTURE LETTER notes "funding
for incentive type voluntary programs will be scarce" under a GOP-
crafted farm bill
AMERICA'S FOOD SYSTEM AT RISK
The future of America's family-produced food system is at risk. The
latest Census of Agriculture, released one day after mid-term
elections, found that the trend toward fewer, larger farms has
succeeded in wiping out millions of America's farmers. In fact, in
1992 fewer than 2 million farms remained in production; the lowest
number of farms in existence since 1850.
Family farm advocates predict this number will decline further in
1994. The combined effects of this and last year's catastrophic floods
and drought, as well as low farmgate prices for corn, soybeans and
livestock are forcing many producers out of business. This year,
soybean and cattle prices have reached seven-year lows, while pork
has hit a 14-year low, "due in large part to output from new, huge
factory farms" noted the ASSOCIATED PRESS in a November 9 article.
"These are some of the lowest prices we've had in quite some time,"
said Gary L. Benjamin, agricultural economist at the Federal Reserve
Bank of Chicago. "It's going to take a toll on earnings."
Federal agriculture policies that ensure family farmers' financial
survival must become the fundamental goal of next year's farm bill.
More small family farms are the key to a sustainable food system
and economically viable rural economies.
Therefore, FARM AID is calling on new members of the 104th
Congress to include in its "Contract With America" a bi-partisan effort
to provide opportunities in the 1995 farm bill for the nation's family
farmers. "When enacting future farm policies, the new Congress
must take steps to enhance net farm income and ensure a safe,
abundant food supply for all consumers," says FARM AID Executive
Director Carolyn Mugar.
Sources: Suzanne Steel, "New Faces Shouldn't Disrupt Farm Policy,"
COLUMBUS DISPATCH, November 10, 1994; Robert Greene, "Farm
Bill," AP, November 12, 1994; "No Big New Budget Cuts for U.S.
Agriculture Seen," REUTER, November 9, 1994; Gordon S. Carlson,
"Agriculture Should Fare Well in New Congress," FEEDSTUFFS,
November 14, 1994; "On the '95 Farm Bill," KIPLINGER AGRICULTURE
LETTER, November 11, 1994; "MSAWG Washington Report,"
November 16, 1994; "U.S. Vote Puts Newcomers on Agriculture
Committees," REUTER, November 9, 1994; Charles Conner, "GOP Gains
May Cost Farming Programs," COMMERCIAL APPEAL, November 10,
1994; Maggie McNeil, "Blueprint for New U.S. Farm Policy Inching
Forward," REUTER, November 12, 1994; Kathy Ozer, "1994 Elections,"
November 9, 1994; Randoplh Schmid, "Fewer Farms," AP, November
11, 1994; Robert Greene, "Is October Price Drop a Signal of Lower
Farm Income?" FINANCE & COMMERCE, November 9, 1994; Telephone
interviews with Ferd Hoefner, Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture,
November 11, 1994; Kathy Ozer, National Family Farm Coalition,
November 16, 1994.
We welcome comments and suggestions: contact Harry Smith at
FARM AID, (617) 354-2922. We encourage the reproduction of
FARM AID NEWS. Produced by The Institute for Agriculture and
Trade Policy (IATP) for FARM AID. Editors: Gigi DiGiacomo and
Harry Smith. For information on other agriculture bulletins, contact
IATP: (612) 379-5980.