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Promising New Programs Part of House Farm Bill

Thanks to citizen activism, conservation, research, entrepreneurship, and beginning farm issues received a boost in the bill approved by the House ag committee

While disappointing in some significant respects, the farm bill passed out of the House of Representatives includes some promising new programs for rural America in response to the involvement of thousands of engaged rural Americans. We appreciate your efforts.

essay-House Farm Bill Would Increase Subsidies to Largest Farms

The House Agriculture Committee unanimously passed a farm bill that actually makes farm program payments to mega farms larger

The vote by the House Agriculture Committee to increase subsidies to the nation’s largest farms is a disservice to rural America.

Its version of the farm bill raised the true limit on direct payments made regardless of farm prices from $80,000 to $120,000. Mega farms get an additional $40,000 each year to drive their neighbors out of business. The increase is only for married mega farmers. Widows and bachelors take a small cut.

feature-New Report Compares Farm Payments to Rural Development Funds

The central issue in the 2007 Farm Bill debate is: Should the federal government provide bigger subsidies to the nation’s biggest farms to drive their neighbors out of business? Or, should the Farm Bill focus on supporting family-size farms and investing in the future of rural communities?

To inform those questions, we recently released An Analysis of USDA Farm Program Payments and Rural Development Funding In Low Population Growth Rural Counties, a new report that compares farm subsidy payments received by the largest farm businesses with the rural development grants received by counties experiencing the most severe demographic and economic distress.

ACROSS THE STATES

North Carolina: The State House voted 108-0 to ban the construction of new waste lagoons for hog farms. Despite being the second-largest producer of pork, North Carolina has had a moratorium on new lagoons for 10 years. The recent vote makes it permanent. All existing lagoons are grandfathered in. (Read more in this month’s Corporate Farming Notes.)

Maine: The largely-rural state recently enacted new legislation that authorizes tax credits to refund college loan payments for any Mainer who obtains a degree in the state, and then lives in and pays taxes in the state after graduation. Termed Opportunity Maine, the legislation offers an answer to the student debt crisis while also giving young people a reason to stay in the state.

Arts and Culture Help Establish Community Roots

Arts-based development embraces more than economic benefits; the arts define us and our culture and anchor us to one another

For the past two months, I have quoted the benefits of arts-based community development for rural communities. I used statistics describing the economic benefits of art and other cultural entertainment to help communities grow and prosper. You can find these statistics at www.artsusa.org.

Arts for America published the economic study to help promote communities and the benefits they can obtain by engaging people in the arts. I have received email from all over the country telling me how communities and regions are using arts and cultural awareness to everyone’s economic benefit.

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