Lame Duck: Inaction on Farm Bill Will Halt Innovation

Congress has plenty of unfinished business to tackle during the lame-duck session. Will the Farm Bill be one of them?

Here’s what is at stake if they fail to act during the lame-duck session. Funding for conservation and several important rural programs is in jeopardy, programs that help create a future for beginning farmers and ranchers and rural communities alike.

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program will stop making grants to provide training, mentoring, business and marketing planning, and much more for beginning farmers and ranchers.

When you talk to beginners, the three barriers to entry are capital, access to affordable land, and lack of training opportunities. The beauty of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program is that it provides training that helps beginners build their farm business plan so they can access capital. It also provides linking opportunities, helping break down the land access barrier by matching beginners with those who are retiring.

The Conservation Reserve Pro¬gram Transition Incentives is another program that will screech to a halt with Congressional inaction. This program helps beginners to gain access to land coming out of long-term land retirement contracts under the Conservation Reserve Program. In exchange, the beginners must be willing to put that land back into production under a conservation plan.

The Value Added Producer Grant Program helps farmers and ranchers establish high-value, niche markets. A small amount of funding came through the Continuing Resolution, so it can continue in the short term. But the program still will not have as much as either the Senate or House versions of the Farm Bill provides.

The same is true for the Rural Microenterprise Assistance Program (RMAP). It has a small amount of funding, but the Senate version of the Farm Bill will allow the program to go much further in helping rural small business development.

Congress needs to pass a Farm Bill that funds these forward and innovative programs.