Please see the update on The Senate Agriculture Committee Draft farm bill as it related to beginning farmer programs at: http://www.beginningfarmers.org/update-on-senate-agriculture-beginning-farmer-programs-bad-news/. This information is no longer current.
On Friday April 20th, 2012 the Senate Agriculture Committee released its 2012 Farm Bill Draft. A number of policy wonks including myself have been looking closely at the legislation and have been lobbying for crucial programs for the past week.
On Thursday, April 19, Beginning Farmers LLC along with nearly 200 other organizations from across the country, delivered a letter to Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, urging them to support funding in the new farm bill for two key programs that support the next generation of farmers, including beginning, socially disadvantaged and limited resource farmers and ranchers.
In my reading of the draft, it appears that the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) portion of the draft now includes in its “set-aside”, funding for military veterans – which is a proposal that I actually initiated. Thanks to lobbying efforts by myself, and more importantly – by members of the National Sustainable Agricultural Coalition (NSAC) it appears to have made it through through this first cut. It also appears that the funding ask for fiscal year 2013 is $50M, which is a substantial increase – something that many of us have been asking for. Unfortunately, the draft Bill does not ask for funding beyond 2013. Why this is and what it means is something I’m still trying to figure out, and as I talk to others who are more familiar with the process, I hope to learn more and will keep you updated.
Thanks to everyone who responded to the request I posted on Friday asking for calls to Senators encouraging them to support increased funding for this crucial program.
The draft legislation which will be marked up by the Senate Agriculture Committee on Wednesday includes a total of $23Billion in cuts for farming legislation over the next 5 years according to Ag. Committee Chair Stabenow. According to the Senator, this will be achieved primarily by elimination of direct payments, and payments for farmland that isn’t planted, instead consolidating them into a larger “farm insurance” program. The payments for unplanted farmland provision comes, I believe, out of the Conservation Title. And though it has been misused by a few, it also encourages farmers not to plant on land that is “marginal”, or environmentally fragile.
Also included in the draft is the elimination of “Section 2501”, which was originally prompted by discrimination lawsuits and was aimed at helping socially disadvantaged farmers (who constitute a disproportionately large number of beginning farmers overall). You can learn more about this issue from Public News Service.
I certainly could be wrong in some of my analyses and interpretations here. This is a quick first look. Other aspects of Beginning Farmer programs still need to be analyzed, and anyone with differing opinions or a better understanding of what this all of this means are encouraged to share their opinions and interpretations. Simply click the “Comment” tab in green above (just below the title).
I will certainly keep folks updated as this becomes clearer.