The US Senate passed their 2008 farm bill this week by a vote of 64-35. The Legislation includes some very important amendments that have been strongly supported by individuals and organizations working to include provisions that benefit beginning farmers.
Among the most important amendments passed was one from Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) which supports beginning farmers and rural development by providing an additional $35 million in funding to support Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). The 2008 farm bill included a total of $75 million in mandatory funding for this program. Suggested funding for BFRDP that came out of the Senate Ag Committee was $50 million. Brown’s amendment brings total funding for BFRDP to $85 million. Many of us lobbied for a much more substantial increase in this essential program, and the fact that the Senate Ag Committee actually cut funding was a disappointment. So the passage of this part of the Brown amendment is a really important victory. But it aint over yet, since the House Bill has yet to be passed, and differences between the two bills will have to be worked out in a “conference committee” which will likely be contentious. Still, passage of the Brown amendment in the Senate is a major step toward helping to fund not only BFRDP, but other programs that are essential the the development of many beginning farmers.
According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), …”the Brown amendment also also provides $50 million over five years for the Value-Added Producer Grants program that helps farmers transition to new markets and products that return more of the consumer food dollar back to the farmer and the local community. The Brown amendment also would fund the Rural Microentrepeneur Assistance Program at $15 million over the life of the bill to help start new small rural businesses”.
To learn more about the fate of other amendments, see http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/senate-passes-its-farm-bill/