The final 2018 farm bill can allow rural communities to thrive

At the Center for Rural Affairs, we know the strength and vibrancy of rural communities. We also know that public policy is a key element for the health of rural communities. When our public policies neglect rural communities, quite simply, they suffer.

The 2018 farm bill offers a unique opportunity to establish policy that serves the interests, needs, and potential of rural communities. This blog addresses specific ways in which the final 2018 farm bill can allow farmers and ranchers to make a decent living and rural communities to thrive. These include protecting payment limitations, strengthening working lands conservation, and encouraging rural vitality. We ask you to do all you can to fight for the inclusion of these proposals in the final farm bill.

Payment limitations. The House farm bill proposes to remove important longstanding limitations on commodity payments that fly in the face of fiscal responsibility. The Senate farm bill, which had broad bipartisan support, takes a much more reasonable approach: to close loopholes that are allowing a few very large farms to exploit government programs and take advantage of the taxpayers. We urge you to do all that you can to protect these important provisions.

Strong working lands programs. We ask that you adopt the Senate proposals to fund conservation programs and strengthen the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Working lands conservation programs such as CSP offer farmers and ranchers the opportunity to preserve soil health and maintain water quality while still maintaining the financial viability of their operations. Protecting these programs is crucial.

Rural opportunity. The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP) offers a path to prosperity for many rural entrepreneurs, by making funding available both for loan capital and for financial training and technical assistance. RMAP funding of $3 million annual mandatory funding should be renewed in the final farm bill.

In addition, the Senate bill proposes combining several programs for rural opportunity, including those that serve beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers and ranchers; farmers and ranchers who sell to local markets; and value-added operations. We support final passage of the proposals and funding for the Local Agricultural Marketing Program and the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program, as included in the Senate bill. We believe that they will achieve greater efficiency for the taxpayer while continuing to provide important economic opportunity in rural areas.

In addition to these high-level farm bill priorities, this publication includes several related specific proposals that we support including in the final farm bill, for the benefits that they will bring to farmers, ranchers, and rural communities.