What Should the Final 2013 Farm Bill Look Like?

[Photo above by Jared Kofsky, with thanks!]
There are good provisions in both the House and Senate versions of the farm bill. It is critical that these provisions be carried into the final Farm Bill. 

A conference committee made up of Senate and House members has been meeting off and on to hammer out the differences between the two bills. Rumors fly, and the latest is they may be getting closer to an agreement.  Here's our scorecard on the most important provisions

It should INVEST IN RURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

  • Encourage producers to earn more and expand their markets through the Value Added Producer Grants Program. This is funded in both the Senate and the House. (This is in both bills so should be ok, but a little more in the Senate than the House.)
  • Provide loans and training to small businesses through the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program. (Funded in the Senate bill but not the House bill.)

It should INVEST IN THE NEXT GENERATION OF FARMS AND RANCHERS

  • Provide the tools, training, and mentoring that beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers need to succeed by funding the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. (Funded in both bills so should make it into the final farm bill.)
  • Increase funding for the Conservation Reserve Transition Incentives Program to give beginners access to land coming out of the Conservation Reserve Program. (We want the Senate level as it is higher than the House.)

It should REFORM FARM SUBSIDIES & LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD

  • Close loopholes on farm program payments to make the payment limitations effective so they are targeted to small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers instead of mega-farms and investors. (This provision is included in both the Senate and the House version but we are worried it could be stripped in conference committee negotiations.)
  • Include income limitations to qualify for federal crop insurance subsidies as the first step to reform. (This is included in the Senate version, but not the House version.)

It should PROTECT OUR PRECIOUS AIR, SOIL & WATER

  • Reward farmers for their environmental stewardship by fully funding farm conservation programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program. (The House version makes a huge cut to this program, while the Senate version provides a minimal cut. We want the Senate version.)
  • Preserve marginal landscapes by removing federal crop insurance subsidies for farmers who break new sod for crop production. (The Senate version includes a national Sodsaver provision, while the House version would only apply to the Prairie Pothole Region.)
  • Re-link federal crop insurance support to conservation of wetlands and fragile soils. (Conservation Compliance is in the Senate but not the House version.)

If you have a senator or a representative on the conference committee, let them know you want to see these provisions in the final farm bill. You can call their office, or go to one of their public events while they are home during the upcoming recess. Download the attachment below to see the conference committee members (back side).

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PDF icon 2013-Farm-Bill-Handout.pdf33.38 KB