Hey, Congress – a farm bill expiration is more than a missed deadline

The farm bill is set to expire on Sept. 30, 2018. Without it, millions of rural Americans will lose access to programs they depend on for security and stability. A host of farm bill programs have a large impact on daily life in rural areas.

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)

The Conservation Stewardship Program provides resources for farmers to implement long-term conservation practices that improve soil and water quality. This popular program has more than 70 million acres enrolled across the nation and incentivizes the stewardship of our natural resources.

Unless Congress acts, the Conservation Stewardship Program cannot enroll new contracts after Sept. 30.

We surveyed nearly 800 farmers on this program. Check out the results at A farmer’s view: A look at the Conservation Stewardship Program.

Conservation Reserve Program-Transition Incentives Program (CRP-TIP)

This program invests in the future of agriculture. It provides incentives for retired or retiring producers to sell or lease land that is about to exit the Conservation Reserve Program. The land can be leased or sold to beginning, socially-disadvantaged, or veteran farmers. Opening a pathway for young farmers to acquire land is imperative to maintaining a resilient food and agricultural system.

Unless Congress acts, this program expires on Sept. 30.

We took a look at this program in four states: Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota. Read about enrollment and usage in Pathways to land access.

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP)

Essentially a lifeline, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program provides an array of resources and assistance for producers who are planting the seeds for agriculture or ranching careers. Technical assistance, such as business planning, and opportunities for training and networking, like our veteran farmer conference and tour, are critical to ensure beginning producers have the assistance they need for a productive operation.

Unless Congress acts, this program expires on Sept. 30.

Cora, our policy associate, wrote about her experience at our inaugural veteran farmer conference. Read her account at What it means to “answer the call.”

Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (Section 2501)

Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, or Section 2501, creates a pathway for socially-disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers to learn about and access various U.S. Department of Agriculture resources. This support helps individuals establish and grow operations, and includes farm loans, conservation planning, and more.

Unless Congress acts, this program expires on Sept. 30.

Hilda and Carlos have participated in this program and share their account with our staff. Read about their experience at 2501 program helps Hilda and Carlos gain access to valuable farming resources.

Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP)

Small businesses are the foundation of many rural communities: they employ local residents and invest in local economies. The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program grants funds to organizations, such as the Center for Rural Affairs. The funds are then used to provide microloans to rural small business owners and to offer training in business planning and financial management. As a result, these businesses create new jobs and expand their services.

Unless Congress acts, this program expires on Sept. 30.

Anna Johnson, our policy manager, broke down information about this program on our blog: Authorized and funded by the farm bill, small business assistance program is in jeopardy. Grant recipients from across the country urge Congress to support this program. In addition, Nebraska small businesses that are program beneficiaries ask Congress to restore funding.

Value-Added Producer Grants Program (VAPG)

The Value-Added Producer Grants Program provides grants for producers who wish to produce and market agricultural goods that sell for a higher price than their raw materials. For example, producing cheese instead of just selling milk. This program has been proven to reduce risk of business failures by 89 percent and provides additional revenue during a lagging farm economy.

Unless Congress acts, mandatory funding for this program expires on Sept. 30.

A recent report took a look at more than 1,000 businesses that use this program. During last year’s application period, Sandra, our project associate, talked with beneficiaries of this program.

National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP)

While organic producers often benefit from higher price points, the annual organic certification process comes with a cost that can hit smaller producers particularly hard. The National Organic Certification Cost Share Program provides up to 75 percent of certification costs – up to a maximum of $750 for an operation – to organic producers to help defray the cost of organic certification.

Unless Congress acts, this program expires on Sept. 30.

Read about organic production in Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska: Organic agriculture: consumer demand and economic opportunity.

Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Program (FMLFPP)

Farmers markets play an important role in rural communities nationwide by providing direct access to healthy, nutritious food in areas that may struggle with food security. The Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Program supports development of resilient local food systems, such as through establishing farmers markets, in communities like the Omaha Reservation pictured below.

Unless Congress acts, this program expires on Sept. 30.

Learn more about our farmers market and food security work from our executive director. And, check out our deep dive into the Santee Sioux Nation food system.  

Congress won't pass an extension unless they hear from you. Can you take a few minutes to call your senators and representative and let them know that rural America needs a farm bill extension? Dial 202.224.3121.