House Farm Bill Delays and Dysfunction Cost Government, Taxpayers Billions

Statement by Daniel Z. Brito, Union Of Concerned Scientists

Published Sep 30, 2013

WASHINGTON (September 30, 2013) – The Farm Bill, which Congress failed to reauthorize in 2012, is currently operating on a temporary extension of some programs and the extension is set to expire today. This important legislation is now entangled in the budget battle and the upcoming debt limit showdown, as the measure necessary to allow the House and Senate to formally negotiate a full renewal was included in the rule that allowed expedited House consideration of the Continuing Resolution on Saturday.

From the perspective of fiscal responsibility, Congress’ approach to the Farm Bill this year has been counterproductive. While they have been preoccupied with fiscal crises, Farm Bill programs that would actually save U.S. taxpayers money over the long term were left unfunded in the temporary extension, while more costly giveaways to agribusiness interests remain intact.

Below is a statement by Daniel Z. Brito, senior Washington representative for UCS’ Food & Environment Program:

“Right now the House of Representatives is acting out the definition of the phrase ‘penny wise and pound foolish.’ They are delaying smart investments in modest programs that would promote public health and save taxpayers billions, like the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), which increases Americans’ access to healthy food in their communities, but went unfunded in fiscal year 2013. On October 1, Congress’s inaction will similarly put the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program out to pasture. This low-cost program provides coupons for low-income seniors that can be redeemed for fresh produce at farmers markets.

“Our recent report, "The $11 Trillion Reward: How Simple Dietary Changes Can Save Lives and Money, and How We Get There," shows how Farm Bill programs like FMPP can increase access to fruits and vegetables—foods that can significantly reduce the incidence of cardiovascular diseases, the leading killer of Americans. Our analysis found that increasing the public’s consumption of these foods would save an astounding $17 billion in healthcare costs.

“The continuing crisis and confusion around the Farm Bill and the programs left stranded in the extension must end. Actions by the House have needlessly dragged out a process that is already well past due.

“Congressional leaders need to stop stalling progress toward a food system that encourages healthier eating. They owe it to farmers, taxpayers, and consumers to do their job and negotiate a bipartisan Farm Bill reauthorization that will increase all Americans’ access to healthy food while saving the government billions.”