From the desk of the executive director: Farm bill renewal is in sight

Congress is in the process of writing another farm bill. Political distractions are running high in Washington. But distracted or not – the current farm bill expires in September 2018. 

If Congress fails to act, key farm bill initiatives that support beginning farmers, local and regional market development, and rural small businesses will come to a screeching halt. An opportunity to reform federal crop insurance and improve conservation programs also hangs in the balance. 

Our policy platform for the new farm bill stands around three pillars. 

Protect and improve farm conservation programs – Stewardship of our land and water for future generations is a core tenet of our work at the Center. Programs that support working lands conservation – soil, water, and habitat conservation on land that is also cultivated or grazed – help to steward our natural resources, while also keeping land in production to support local farms and local economies. We’ll work to retain major gains made in conservation programs in the last two farm bills, while also streamlining programs so they work better together. 

Reform commodity programs – Under current policy, the very largest farms can collect crop insurance subsidies without limit. If one operation farmed the entire state of Iowa, the federal government would subsidize their crop insurance on every single acre. That blocks beginning farmers out of the system and ensures that as the largest farms grow, they collect even more subsidies. We support a $50,000 cap on crop insurance premiums. One government report showed this cap would reduce subsidies to the largest 2.5 percent of farms, helping level the playing field for everyone else. Along with reforms to expand access and enhance conservation, we can make crop insurance work in alignment with our values and priorities. 

Protect investment in beginning farmers and entrepreneurial development – Entrepreneurial development is a proven strategy to create opportunity in rural America. A large set of programs that support entrepreneurial development, beginning farmers, local and regional market development, rural small businesses, and small towns are all set to expire at the end of the current farm bill. Extending, improving, and building on these programs is a central pillar of our policy platform and a key strategy for driving change in small towns across the nation. 

Over the course of the coming months, we will call on you to reach out to members of Congress to support specific policy proposals that align with these three pillars. Your voice in prompting members of Congress to act will be critical.