Beginning Farmer Legislative Update for April 2013

Beginning Farmer Legislative Update April 17, 2013 According to sources involved in the legislative negotiations on beginning farmer issues, a new beginning farmer “marker bill” is expected to be introduced in the both the House and Senate this week. A "marker bill" is one that is not ever expected to come to the floor for a vote, but sets the stage for future legislation -  in this case for beginning farmer provisions in a New Farm Bill. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2013 is expected to be (re)introduced in the U.S. House and Senate within the next couple of days. This “marker bill” will be a great opportunity to build momentum and support behind a host of beginning farmer provisions that we hope to secure in a comprehensive farm bill this spring or summer.  Look for updates in the coming weeks as this advances.  The Act will look very similar to the BFROA of 2011 but with changes that take into consideration the farm bill proposals of last year. Please see details below.

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP): Like 37 other farm bill programs that don’t have a baseline beyond the 2008 Farm Bill, the BFRDP is currently frozen.   Funding was not included in the short-term farm bill extension passed in January or the Continuing Resolution passed in March to keep the government funded. The stark reality is it looks like we’ll lose a year of BFRDP operation.  That’s not a for sure, but even if a farm bill does pass in short order this spring it would be very challenging for NIFA to develop and RFA, accept applications, complete the review process and award projects before Sept. 30, 2013 – the end of the fiscal year.

New Beginning Farmer Microloan Program: Offered through FSA is a new microloan program, announced by the USDA Sec Tom Vilsack earlier this year.  The new microloan program has a smaller cap and simplified eligibility requirements.  It is expected to be advantageous to beginning farmers and small-scale producers. The micro-loan program is available at county FSA offices.  Here are a couple links on the new microloan program:

–          USDA/FSA Microloan Program Overview.

–           http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/usda-microloan-program/

New farmer conservation measures:For the coming year conservation measures for beginning farmers are still in place.  Both the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) continue to have set-aside pools dedicated to beginning farmers and ranchers.

CSP to enroll 12 million acres in 2013: Conservation Stewardship Program funding was renewed this spring and 12 million acres are expected to be enrolled in 2013.  CSP sign-up is continuous so farmers (beginning and existing) are encouraged to visit their local or county NRCS office to check out the program and submit an application.   For more on CSP check out the Land Stewardship Project CSP factsheet or go to http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/csp/

While there is good news on CSP the overall problem facing conservation programs is the impact of sequestration which cuts both EQIP and CSP around 6 percent and also reduces the technical assistance resources that are the NRCS staffing and program support.

Many thanks to Adam Warthensen from the Land Stewardship Project for providing much of this information. If you have questions, comments, concerns of feedback please contact Adam at  adamw@landstewardshipproject.org or Taylor Reid of Beginning Farmers LLC at beginningfarmers@gmail.com

Expect more updates soon.

1 Comment on Beginning Farmer Legislative Update for April 2013

  1. Latest Update: Looks like the legislation won’t be introduced until next week.

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