We Are Rural: Advocacy

After a two-year debate, a new farm bill cleared the House and Senate as our annual report headed to the printer. It was a heck of a fight. We won some and lost some. Many of you weighed in throughout to speak up for investments in beginners, small businesses, and natural resources.

Thanks to you – our grassroots supporters – and Senator Grassley (R-IA) and Representative Fortenberry (R-NE), we won historic farm program reform for the first time ever in both the House and the Senate. The reforms you helped win were designed to reign in unlimited farm subsidies to the nation’s largest and wealthiest farms.

Regrettably, the provision was stripped in back room deal-making in the final hour of negotiations. Stay tuned for how you can help us keep up the fight in 2014.

Despite this loss, there are several key wins in the final farm bill. That includes support for beginning farmers and ranchers, assistance for rural small businesses, and grants to build value-added markets.

In 2013, we also brought national attention to the alarming loss of native prairies and grasslands. Data quietly published by the Farm Service Agency showed nearly 350,000 acres of new land converted to cropland, including over 54,000 acres in our home state of Nebraska. We jumped on the data and used it to build support for a “sodsaver” provision in the farm bill.

Finally, thanks to a group of farmers and ranchers who met with key policymakers, we won policy to link basic conservation standards to federal crop insurance. You helped make all of this possible. Here’s to fighting the good fight together in 2014!

Annual Report Advocacy Highlights of 2013:

  • Rep Jeff Fortenberry accepts his policymaker awardRep Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) received the “George Norris Policymaker Award,” from Traci Bruckner (left) and Steph Larsen (right). For the first time, the Center recognized a policymaker for extraordinary efforts to push for policy supporting family farmers and ranchers, rural entrepreneurship, and conservation of our natural resources. (Photo by Jennifer Allen, with Rep Fortenberry's office.)
  • Good friend and beginning farmer Anna Jones-Crabtree, was appointed to serve on USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Advisory Committee. Our advice: listen up, Secretary Vilsack!
  • Grant and loan funds were awarded to 123 microenterprise and anti-poverty organizations in 41 states through the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, part of the 2008 farm bill and still around thanks to you!

You'll find the Center's full 2013 Annual Report here (pdf).