By Jerry Hagstrom
DTN Political Correspondent
WASHINGTON (DTN) -- In an extraordinary display of unity, 392 farm, nutrition and conservation groups have written to the chairmen and ranking members of Congressional Budget Committees urging no cuts in any programs under the jurisdiction of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees.
Some of the letter signers range from the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau and other crop insurance groups to the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) and the National Association of Conservation Districts.
The timing of the letter is particularly important because Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is scheduled to testify before the Senate Agriculture Committee and the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee this week, while the House Agriculture Committee begins a review of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
The letter defends all programs in the farm bill including farm subsidies, food stamps and conservation programs. The letter signals that the farm-to-table coalition which has passed and defended farm bills for decades is alive and well.
"Just over one year ago, Congress passed, and the president signed into law, sweeping changes to our nation's food and farm policy that included significant deficit reduction," the letter stated.
"The 2014 farm bill required over three years of debate in both chambers of Congress and ultimately ended with the consolidation of over 100 programs and cuts to mandatory spending across many titles, including the elimination of the direct payment program. These cuts came in addition to those already in effect due to sequestration.
"This bipartisan legislation was estimated to contribute $23 billion to deficit reduction over 10 years when including sequestration," the letter continues.
"These difficult cuts were made across the farm safety net, conservation programs, and nutrition programs. The policy changes and reforms associated with these cuts are only now being fully implemented by the United States Department of Agriculture. As such, no additional cuts to these programs should be considered, at least until these policies have time to take place and be thoroughly evaluated.
"We, therefore, oppose re-opening any title of the farm bill during the consideration of the 2016 budget resolution and strongly urge you to refrain from including reconciliation instructions for either the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry or for the House Committee on Agriculture. These committees have already done the hard work of delivering bipartisan cuts, and the farm and food community has experienced substantial cuts as a contribution to the goal of deficit reduction."
Click here to read the letter: http://bit.ly/…
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