Soybean growers to Congress: Your inaction is hurting farmers
With the Sept. 30 expiration of the one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill, coupled with the shutdown of the federal government, the American Soybean Association (ASA) lamented another failed opportunity on the part of Congress to provide the nation’s soybean farmers with the certainty they need to remain competitive and plan for the future. Compounding this most recent Congressional dysfunction is the expiration of funding for key U.S. Department of Agriculture programs as a result of the federal shutdown of what are improperly considered non-essential government activities.
Congress has yet again failed its most basic duty: to debate and pass legislation and, frankly, we’ve run out of ways to say we’re disappointed, said ASA President Danny Murphy, a soybean, corn and wheat farmer from Canton, Miss. The farm bill authorized and provides critical funding for myriad programs on which farmers depend, including key conservation programs, indispensable foreign food assistance and market development activities, and industry-advancing research. These and other programs have helped to make American agriculture a bright spot throughout the recession and into the recovery. We’ve created jobs, supported rural communities and fed our neighbors both at home and abroad. All of these programs will come to a grinding halt tomorrow because this Congress is more interested in scoring partisan political points than serving its constituents. Once again, Congress fails to act and American farmers pay the price.
The expiration of the farm bill means multiple programs on which soybean farmers depend will cease. Conservation programs affected include the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Foreign aid programs affected by the farm bill’s expiration include the Food for Peace Program, the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, and the Emerging Markets Program (EMP). Particularly impactful for the soybean industry will be the expiration of funding for the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (Cooperator) Program (FMD).
Shutting down the MAP and FMD programs will bring immediate and harsh consequences for the soy industry, said Murphy. Soybeans are the nation’s most valuable agricultural export. Our overseas market development arms, the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) and the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH), work with foreign buyers and carry out trade servicing and demand building activities. Both USSEC and WISHH count on critical funds from FMD and MAP to operate offices and carry out demand building work around the globe. A cutoff of funds from the Foreign Agriculture Service will force our industry to discontinue program activities. Congress’ shortsighted failure to pass a farm bill isn’t just a political embarrassment; it will cost the industry global market share almost immediately.
Adding to the frustration for farmers is the fact that innumerable USDA agencies will close until further notice as a result of the shutdown of the federal government. Due to the lack of appropriations funding, USDA staff deemed non-essential will be prevented from staffing their offices, which Murphy also says will have a significant impact on soybean farmers. Farmers depend on these agencies, he said. Whether it’s the county Farm Service Agency office, staff at the Risk Management Agency, market access work done by the Foreign Agricultural Service or Office of U.S. Trade Representative, or the work done at the Agricultural Research Service, soybean farmers have a longstanding and valuable working relationship with our federal partners at USDA, and their absence for the foreseeable future will be painfully apparent.
Congressional gridlock has cost farmers yet again, and we demand a stop to the political gamesmanship, added Murphy. It’s time for our elected officials to remember who they represent and get to work passing a farm bill that works for American farmers.