Farm Policy

We work with family farmers and supporters like you who care about the structure of agriculture to reform farm policy. Our goal is to create farm policy that keeps families on the land, protects our soil and water for future generations and creates opportunity for a new generation of farmers.

Family farm agriculture plays a critical role in strengthening rural communities and shaping the character of rural life. Quite simply, who farms matters.

Research has found that communities surrounded by farms that are larger than can be operated by a family unit have a few wealthy elites, a majority of poor laborers, and virtually no middle class. The absence of a middle class has a serious negative effect on social and commercial service, public education, and local government.

We don’t have the option of returning to the family farm communities of a generation ago. But we can build strong 21st century rural communities based on their key strength. Family farming afforded people who work – the common person – the opportunity to shoulder the responsibilities of ownership and enjoy its benefits. That strengthened their stake in their community and nurtured their sense of responsibility.

Today, there are new opportunities in farming, ranching and related businesses. Small dairies are remaking themselves with speciaility cheeses and organic milk. In the Midwest, hundreds of small farms are flourishing by supplying the gourmet food supplier Niman Ranch with low-stress hogs raised on straw or pasture. On the Great Plains, family growers are cultivating specialty grains for expanding niche markets. 

We’re still fighting for family farms that raise commodities, as you can see in our advocacy for tighter limits on mega farm subsidies. But we are also working to create the new 21st century opportunities for rural Americans to own the fruits of their labor.

Farm Policy Notes

 

Promises vs. Performance: A Report Card Evaluating Federal Crop Insurance

This policy brief examines the performance of federal crop insurance programs against benchmarks promised by Congressional proponents of making federal crop insurance the nation’s flagship farm safety net program. The intent is to provide an evaluation, or report card.

Each performance category received a grade, as did the program overall. Categories include reliability, transparency, support for beginning farmers, encouraging crop diversity, saving taxpayer money, and overall performance.

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Crop Insurance Report Card

The way crop insurance works needs to change. Its effect on farmers, taxpayers, and the environment places the entire farm system in a struggle over who is the biggest and most moneyed. Farming should be an industry that encourages family and mid-sized farmers to produce food in ways that are environmentally friendly and ethical. 

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Taxing our future dreams

We are not working hard enough to make dreams come true in Nebraska. As a result, we complain about taxes. I want to write about legislators in Nebraska and surrounding states who have started to talk about drastically cutting or eliminating income taxes during the next legislative session.

It seems they have already done this in our neighboring state of Kansas with negative results. Kansas and Nebraska have many similarities including median household income, number of acres under agricultural cultivation and proportion of the population living in rural areas. That is why the Center for Rural Affairs put out the report “Kansas’ Self-Inflicted Budget Wound Continues to Bleed Out, Providing a Cautionary Tale for Nebraska.”

Kansas, A cautionary tale for others

State governments across the nation are looking to cut income tax rates. We are paying close attention to legislators in Nebraska who are publicly discussing their plans for cutting income tax rates. Some say efforts should be coupled with property tax reform. Pairing the two would break the state’s budget at a time when we are projected to face a greater than $350 million shortfall in the next budget cycle. Nebraskans only have to look to our neighbors to the south to see the folly of such imbalanced plans.

Fight for Fairness for Farmers and Ranchers

Tuesday’s election has distracted most of us from, well, just about everything. We have a lot to do in working with the transition team of the new administration, and getting to know new members of the House and Senate.

However, we still have some work to finish in the waning days of the current administration and with the current Congress. USDA has only 72 days before this administration ends to finish absolutely crucial rules intended to protect the rights of farmers and ranchers who raise poultry and livestock.