NCBA CLUSA this week submitted a letter to the House and Senate Committees on Agriculture, urging lawmakers to preserve programs that benefit cooperative enterprise as they begin consideration of the 2018 Farm Bill.
This comprehensive, multiyear piece of legislation reauthorizes many of the farm and nutrition programs implemented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), including those that enable co-ops to create economic opportunity, like the Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program and Food for Peace Act. It also shapes broader policies toward rural development, farm credit, energy, conservation, international food aid and more.
The letter specifically draws attention to Titles VI and III, which respectively govern rural development and international food aid, including the Farmer-to-Farmer program.
“As a matter of public policy, cooperatives should be eligible for all programs authorized in the Farm Bill,” the letter reads. “The bill should also prioritize cooperatives when possible to address critical and emerging policy needs, such as access to in-home care and healthy foods, sustainable jobs and retention of small businesses.”
The letter calls for continuation and/or reauthorization beyond 2018 of the following programs:
- Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) Program at levels no less than $40 million annually
- Trade through Food for Peace. The letter also commends the previous Farm Bill’s objective to modify Title II programs to focus on building resilience, mitigating food crises and reducing the future need for emergency aid.
- Nonemergency food assistance programs at $2.5 billion and no less than $350 million
- Farmer-to-Farmer program at no less than $15 million
- Food for Progress, which sees NCBA CLUSA work with companies like Starbucks and McCormick to empower emerging markets while contributing to the bottom line of U.S. businesses.
- Preserve the Interagency Working Group on Cooperative Development, a provision NCBA CLUSA worked diligently to ensure inclusion of in the 2014 Farm Bill.
- Make worker cooperatives that provide jobs and services to underserved, rural communities eligible under the loan and loan guarantee section of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act.
- Enter into cooperative research agreements with at least one qualified academic institutions per year to study the economic impact of cooperatives nationwide based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau.