Bad outweighs good in farm bill, environmental group warns

The Environmental Working Group said Friday that it is opposed to the $956 billion farm bill heading for a vote in the Senate on Monday.
 
The group said that while the bill makes some positive changes that will foster better environmental stewardship, it could significantly increase farm subsidies and encourage the kind of overproduction that has devastated natural areas in the past.
 
“Thanks to the leadership of Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowACLU calls on Congress to approve COVID-19 testing for immigrants Senators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls Democrats warn Biden against releasing SCOTUS list MORE (D-Mich.), the farm bill that passed the House this week and will likely pass the Senate next week has some positive features, including new conservation requirements for farm businesses that collect crop insurance subsidies and more funding for local and organic farmers,” the EWG's Scott Faber said. 
 
“But those important provisions are outweighed by new, expanded and largely unlimited subsidies that do too much to help the largest and most successful farm operations at the expense of family farmers and the environment,” he added.
 
The group said that will traditional farm subsidies like direct payments are eliminated in the farm bill, new price and revenue-based supports will “almost certainly” cost more than expected. This could more than erase the $14.3 billion in cuts in the bill to subsidies.
 
The group also blasted Congress for removing more stringent payment limits on specific types of subsidies, for including nearly $6 billion in crop insurance subsidies and for removing a provision that would require lawmakers to disclose what crop insurance aid they themselves get.
 
The group is also opposed to the $8 billion in food stamp cuts in the bill and to the $4 billion cut in conservation funds. 
 
The farm bill is also opposed by conservative groups including the Club for Growth and Heritage Action as well as by anti-hunger groups. The bill is broadly supported however by the full range of farm lobbyists with the exception of the meat industry which is angered over meat labeling regulations not blocked by the legislation. 
 
The bill passed the House on a strong 251-166 vote after three years of effort. It is expected to pass the Senate and be signed by President Obama.