A “new” bipartisan bill, The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2013 (BFRA 2013) was introduced, or rather, reintroduced in both the House and Senate this past week.
The bill was “reintroduced” because an almost identical piece of legislation, The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Act of 2011, which was incorporated into the 2012 Farm Bill, failed to be enacted when the current farm bill was allowed to expire last September.
Despite having been passed by both the Full Senate and the House Agriculture Committee, the 2012 farm bill, also known as the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 was not brought to a full House vote before the previous farm bill (2008) expired last September leaving a number crucial pieces of beginning farmer and other agricultural legislation unfunded.
Unfortunately, politics often tends to trump the needs of farmers and others. But there is now a much delayed, though seemingly genuine effort to pass a new 5 year farm bill. The Beginning Farmer And Rancher Opportunity Act of 2013 is not a bill that is expected to ever come to the floor of either the House or Senate. Instead it lays the groundwork for the beginning farmer provisions to be included in this new farm bill,
The beginning farmer bill includes a new “microloan” program which provides up to $35k to help cover new farmer startup costs; an expansion of the Down Payment Loan Program to help beginning farmers obtain farmland; extension of the Value Added Producer Grants Program, and new programs to support military veteran farmer training and entry.
If you are interested in learning more about the specifics you can see a Summary of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act, BFRA 2013, you can see a summary provisions in the current beginning farmer bill and the original bill 2011 bill are almost identical, and include financing for the Beginning farmer and Rancher Development Program, of which were included in versionThe Farm Bill passed by both the Full Senate, and the House Agriculture Committee,
According to the National Young Farmers’ Coalition, the 2013 beginning farmer bill was reintroduced in the House by Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) and is co-sponserd by Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE-1), Chris Gibson (R-NY-19), and House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN-7).
And the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition reports that the 2013 beginning farmer bill was reintroduced in the Senate by Senator Tom Harking (D-IA), and is co-sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Al Franken (D-MN) in the Senate.Full text of the bill is not yet available but please check out the beginning farmer bill summary by title, and more press releases and articles about the beginning farmer bill.