Farm Bill Extension Slashes Investment in Rural America’s Future

Remember the 2012 Farm Bill? Well who would have guessed they would vote and pass a farm bill extension while most of us were bringing in the New Year!

The farm bill extension attached to the fiscal cliff legislation slashes investment in the future of rural communities and family farming and ranching.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and House Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) had negotiated a far better farm bill extension. It included funding for many smaller, targeted programs that invest in proven strategies to create rural jobs, revitalize rural communities, and initiatives to foster a new generation of family farmers and ranchers.

But the final fiscal cliff deal negotiated by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Vice President Joe Biden stripped that funding. McConnell used the funds instead to restore a 3 percent cut in the direct farm payments – the payments made each year, irrespective of farm prices.

Funding was stripped from these: 

  • The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, which funds loans and business planning assistance to rural businesses with up to 10 employees. 
  • The Value Added Producer Grants program which funds establishment of value added marketing and processing enterprises. 
  • The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which makes grants for programs that train beginning farmers and links them with retiring farmers. 
  • The Conservation Reserve Program Transition Incentives Program, which rewards land owners for renting land coming back into production to beginning farmers and ranchers. 
  • The Farmers Market Promotion Program, which makes grants for direct farmer-to-consumer marketing.
  • Organic farming research and extension programs and organic certification costs share.

That means each of these programs will be without funding over the next nine months. The eleventh hour deal also prevents farmers and ranchers from enrolling in the Conservation Stewardship Program in 2013. This is an issue created by the short-term Continuing Resolution passed in September 2012, and one that Senator Stabenow and Representative Lucas agreed to fix. 

So while this nine-month extension continues to dole out unlimited commodity and crop insurance premium subsidies to mega farmers (despite high market prices); conservation of our land and water are put on hold; and rural communities, beginning farmers, and small rural businesses are left twisting in the wind.

The good news is that we will get a shot at fixing this disaster in coming months. We will again need all of you engaged in the debate moving forward.