Farm Bill

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. 


We support these bills

Because the farm bill expires on Sept. 30, 2018, members of Congress have introduced bills that they want to be included in the final farm bill. The Center for Rural Affairs has signed on in support of several bills.

How you can help: Do you care about conservation? Beginning farmers? The bills below would offer many valuable supports for conservation, crop insurance, and beginning farmers. But Congress won’t pass them unless they hear from you!

Please give your elected representatives a call and share with them the issues that are important to you and which bills you would like them to support. The Congressional switchboard is 202.224.3121. Your message can be as simple as:

“Hello, my name is ____ and I live in [town where you live, so they know you are a constituent]. I want the next farm bill to have strong support for conservation and beginning farmers. I urge Rep. ______ to sign-on in support of the SOIL Act, H.R. 5188, which provides strong support for our working lands conservation programs and for beginning farmers. Thank you for your time!”

Every call counts. Just be sure that, if you want to express support for multiple bills, that you make multiple calls, one per bill. If you do call, drop us a line to let us know! You can reach us at: annaj@cfra.org or coraf@cfra.org.

Strong working lands conservation programs

The Give our Resources the Opportunity to Work, or GROW Act (S. 2557), was introduced by Iowa Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) as well as Sens. Casey (D-PA) and Brown (D-OH). This bill:

  • Preserves funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP);
  • Emphasizes practices to build soil health and protect water quality;
  • Improves farmers’ and ranchers’ ability to access to conservation, including by increasing the level of funding reserved for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers under CSP & EQIP; and
  • Targets CRP enrollments to marginal lands to increase the conservation impact.

Read more about the GROW Act here.

The Strengthening Our Investment in Land, or SOIL Act (H.R. 5188), was introduced by Rep. Walz (D-MN) and is co-sponsored by Rep. Pocan (D-WI) and others. This bill:

  • Preserves funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentive Program; and
  • Emphasizes practices to build soil health and protect water quality.

Read more about the SOIL Act here.

Crop insurance that supports conservation

The Crop Insurance Modernization Act of 2018 (H.R. 4865) expands access to risk management tools and creates a stronger link between federal risk management programs and conservation priorities. This bill was introduced by Rep. Nolan (D-MN). Read more the Crop Insurance Modernization Act here.​

American Prairie Conservation Act of 2017 (S. 1913, H.R. 3939) works to preserve increasingly rare and ecologically vital grazing lands by limiting crop insurance premium subsidies on newly broken prairie. This bill is sponsored by Sens. Thune, Klobuchar, Rounds, Bennet, and Heinrich, and by Reps. Noem, Walz, Peterson, Crawford, Nolan, and Ellison. Read more about the American Prairies Conservation Act here.

Beginning Farmers and Local Food Systems

Next Generation in Agriculture Act (S. 2762) helps new and aspiring farmers access land, build skills, manage risk and financial security, and invest in conservation. Sponsored by Sens. Heitkamp, Collins, Jones, Smith, and King. Read more about the Next Generation in Agriculture Act here.

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act (H.R. 4316) helps new and aspiring farmers access land, build skills, manage risk and financial security, and invest in conservation. Sponsored by Reps. Walz, Fortenberry, Blumenauer, Maloney, and others. Read more about the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act here.

The Local Food and Regional Market Supply (FARMS) Act (S. 1947, H.R. 3941) supports job creation by improving programs and policies that help grow local and regional food economies; helps family farmers reach new and growing markets and helps consumers access fresh, healthy food. Sponsored by Sen. Brown and by Reps. Pingree, Fortenberry, Maloney, and others. Read more about the Local Food and Regional Market Supply Act here.

Improve the impact of voluntary conservation practices

The Healthy Fields and Farm Economies Act (H.R. 4751) authorizes a Measurement, Evaluation, and Reporting (MER) system to assess the natural resource impacts of voluntary USDA conservation programs and increase their effectiveness and efficiency. This bill is sponsored by Reps. Faso, Fudge, and others. Read more about the Healthy Fields and Farm Economies Act here.

Click here to see A Farm Bill for Rural America, our 2018 farm bill platform.

Read our blog on the president’s budget here.

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.

Want to learn more or get involved? Contact us at annaj@cfra.org or coraf@cfra.org, or take our short survey to let us know what you’d like to see in the upcoming farm bill.

Farm Bill Notes

 

A farmer's view: a look at the Conservation Stewardship Program

This report examines the efficacy of the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. These states were selected based on their high rates of CSP contracts and acres enrolled in the program, as well as their role as agriculture-centric states. Through surveying participants in these regions, we acquired valuable data from farmers and ranchers regarding their enrollment and satisfaction with the program.

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We surveyed farmers: conservation is important

Many farmers and ranchers value the opportunity the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) offers to enhance their existing conservation efforts, according to a survey we completed last year. Eighty-seven percent of respondents, all living in an area with a strong agricultural presence, stated CSP should be supported as a priority in the farm bill.

Dear Congress: Please use the farm bill to invest in rural business

We are writing, as grantees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP), to ask you to support $3 million in mandatory funding each year for RMAP in the farm bill. Your investments in rural small businesses today will continue to provide valuable benefits to rural communities across America for years to come.

Senate farm bill, unpacked

The Senate passed its version of the farm bill last week, by a vote of 86 to 11. The bill included a very important improvement with the inclusion of Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) proposals to make farm program payments fairer and close loopholes in the definition of “actively engaged in farming.” Here, we explain where we are with the farm bill and what it means for rural America.