Promising New Programs Part of House Farm Bill

Thanks to citizen activism, conservation, research, entrepreneurship, and beginning farm issues received a boost in the bill approved by the House ag committee

While disappointing in some significant respects, the farm bill passed out of the House of Representatives includes some promising new programs for rural America in response to the involvement of thousands of engaged rural Americans. We appreciate your efforts.

With the help of Representative Tim Walz (D-MN), the Cooperative Conservation Partnerships Initiative is included, a program that can successfully combine conservation efforts with rural economic development. This program will provide enhanced conservation payments on land enrolled in conservation programs that is also utilized for community development.

Unfortunately, the conservation title steals $4 billion from the Conservation Security Program, which pays farmers based on how intensively they manage their farms to protect the environment.

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program will fund programs to provide much-needed technical and financial assistance to beginning farmers and help encourage the next generation of farmers and ranchers. Much of the credit for its legislative success goes to both Representative Walz and Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD).

In the rural development title, many of our victories came through the full committee process intact. Significantly, the Value-Added Producer Grants Program received guaranteed funding to make grants to farmers to tap into new, higher-value markets and process their own products. Additionally, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) ensured the inclusion of language specifically benefiting small and mid-size family farms.

Also approved by the House Agriculture Committee was the Rural Entrepreneurs and Microenterprise Program, which will provide grants for loans, training, and technical assistance for rural microenterprises. Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC) played an important role in ensuring this program was included in the farm bill. With your help, we will continue the fight for rural development funding that can create a positive future for rural America.

The Research Title of the Farm Bill allotted substantial funding for small and mid-sized family farms and entrepreneurial development through the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems. This is an important step to ensure that research funded in the farm bill will contribute to the future of our rural communities.

On the central issue of limiting payments to mega-farms, the House farm bill purports to impose new limits. It does not. In fact, it raises the limit on one type of payment by 50 percent (direct payments) and completely removes any limit at all on another type of payment (marketing loan benefits). Read our essay this month for an in-depth analysis of this crucial issue.

On the whole, the 2007 farm bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee contains significant victories that will benefit family farms and rural America. The credit for these victories goes to rural Americans who have contacted their elected representatives during the farm bill process. Of course, we still have significant battles to fight and obstacles to overcome, so keep up the great work on the action alerts! We eagerly await the Senate farm bill process, which we expect to deliver even more victories for rural America.

Contact: Dan Owens, dano@cfra.org or 402.687.2103 x 1017 for more information.

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