As Congress enters the final stages of moving forward a final Farm Bill, we must all remember that the Farm Bill is the vehicle by which Congress makes crucial investments in the rural economy. The final bill should invest in fostering a new generation of family farmers and ranchers as well as preserving the natural resources necessary for creating a better future for those beginners and for small town and rural America.
The Farm Bill can and should address the stern challenges beginning farmers and ranchers face through programs that help them access land, capital, training and mentoring. The final bill should sustain direct funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, that provides training and technical assistance, at no less than $20 million per year, with an ongoing set-aside for veterans, socially disadvantaged and limited resource farmers and ranchers, without diverting funds to unrelated programs. It should also provide at least $50 million in direct funding for the Conservation Reserve Program - Transition Incentives Program to help new producers gain access to farm and ranch land while retaining conservation values.
The final Farm Bill should also hold additional conservation cuts to no more than those in the Senate bill, and keep cuts to ten percent or less overall for each working lands conservation program - Conservation Stewardship Program, which rewards those farmers who practice whole-farm stewardship of land and natural resources, and Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which helps farmers and ranchers implement needed conservation practices.
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