Special Feature: Farm Bill Passes

 
 
CBJonline Special FeatureCBJonline Special Feature

February 4, 2014

 

NCBA CLUSA Supports Congressional Passage of Farm Bill

Reauthorization measure passes Senate; sent to President with NCBA CLUSA led provision for Interagency Working Group at USDA


Congress sent the long awaited Farm Bill to President Obama’s desk today, effectively reauthorizing many of the farm and nutrition-related programs carried out by USDA, including many that impact and benefit cooperative businesses.  The U.S. Senate passed the bill, H.R. 2642, formally titled the Agriculture Act of 2014, by a 68-32 vote this afternoon.  The U.S. House of Representatives previously passed the bill last week by a 251-166 vote.  The $956 billion bill sets the nation’s farm policy for the next five years through 2018 and provides for commodity support, conservation, international food aid, nutrition assistance, farm credit, rural development, forestry, energy, horticulture, and crop insurance, among others.  The bill would lower overall spending by $16.6 billion following its enactment. 
 
“We are pleased to hear that Congress has approved a new Farm Bill and we look forward to continuing our work with the USDA and others to fully implement the policies and programs approved by this legislation,” said Michael Beall, president of NCBA CLUSA.  “We are grateful for the tireless effort putting this bill together and the bipartisan support of this compromise from those in Congress.  We especially would like to thank Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), for her and her staff’s work in including and preserving an NCBA CLUSA requested provision that creates an interagency working group chaired by USDA that is focused on cooperative development and coordination with other federal agencies.  We look forward to convening our members and supporters to work with USDA every step of the way on this working group to ensure that the needs of cooperative development are heard and supported by USDA and any other federal agency.” 
 
The bill amends the Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program in the current law’s Assistance for Rural Entities title by providing that no later than 90 days after its enactment, the USDA Secretary shall coordinate and chair an interagency working group to foster cooperative development and ensure coordination with Federal agencies and national and local cooperative organizations that have cooperative programs and interests.  NCBA CLUSA, prior to this bill’s passage, drafted a letter in support of keeping this important provision.
 
The bill preserves authorized funding for the RCDG program, which receives annual appropriations to support Cooperative Development Centers to improve the economic condition of rural areas by assisting individuals or entities in the startup, expansion or operational improvement of rural cooperatives and other business entities.  It also retains the current law’s requirement that the USDA enter into a cooperative research agreement with one or more qualified academic institutions in each fiscal year to conduct research on the effects of all types of cooperatives on the national economy.  This work has been ongoing at the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives for several years and this bill would allow this work to continue.
 
The bill also reauthorizes the Food for Progress Act through 2018 which helps developing countries and emerging democracies introduce and expand free enterprise in the agricultural sector. U.S. agricultural commodities donated to recipient countries are sold on the local market and the proceeds are used to support agricultural, economic or infrastructure development programs.  NCBA CLUSA has long supported  Food for Progress and is leading programs in East Timor, Uganda, and Senegal that are improving lives of hundreds of thousands of farmers and their cooperatives.
 
The bill also contains many priorities important to the National Farmers Union, an NCBA CLUSA member, such as the bill’s commodity programs, country of origin labeling requirements, crop insurance, dairy provisions, and funding for energy programs.
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About NCBA CLUSA
The National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA) is the trade association for cooperative businesses in the United States and an international development organization. NCBA CLUSA provides cross-sector education, technical assistance, and advocacy that helps co-ops thrive. For nearly 100 years, NCBA CLUSA has sought to advance and protect cooperative enterprises, highlighting the impact that cooperatives have in bettering the lives of individuals and families. In the last 60 years, NCBA CLUSA has grown its international development portfolio to over $34 million of active programs in 15 countries.

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