The Farm Bill represents billions of dollars in government expenditures that set the farm, food, and rural policy goals and priorities for the United States. After the 2012 Farm Bill failed to pass, action on the new 2013 Farm Bill has begun to heat up, as the House and the Senate have both issued drafts of their farm bills- legislation that will profoundly shape our nation’s food and farm system for the next five years.
Initiated in 1916, The Farm Bill is typically reauthorized every five years. The 2008 Farm Bill cost more than $288 billion over a five-year period. In 2012, the House failed to pass a companion version of the Senate bill; as a result, the 2008 Farm Bill was extended until September 2013. The Farm Bill has a major impact on farmers, consumers, rural communities, the natural environment, the 40-plus million people receiving food assistance, and global agribusiness. The Farm Bill provides opportunities for small-mid size farmers in terms of loan opportunities, research funding, and other valuable resources needed to survive as an agriculture stakeholder in the upcoming years.
What’s at Stake:
Without funding for these vital programs, small and mid-size farmers will find it more difficult to stay in business. These programs are designed to bring jobs to rural markets, create greater access to healthy foods, and provide microloans for emerging agri-business.
The year-end deal maintained $5 billion in direct payment subsidies for another year for energy-intensive, commodity production regardless of price and income conditions. Unfortunately, no such support was offered to specialty crops. The deal also continues to provide $16 billion in crop insurance, but neglects to include any environmental or climate mitigation standards as a condition of securing this support.
On May 14th the 2013 farm bill quickly cleared the Senate Agriculture Committee. Late Wednesday night May 15th the House Agriculture Committee approved their version of a $940 billion Farm Bill. The current farm bill expires on September 30th; lawmakers in both houses hope to approve their respective bills before the August recess.
Sustainable agriculture champions in Congress have introduced several amendments that support family farms, build strong communities, protect natural resources, invest in future farmers, and ensure real reform of commodity payments. Some of the content included in these amendments came from the following bills:
- The Growing Opportunities in Agriculture and Responding to Markets (GO FARM) Act of 2013 (S.678)
- The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2013 (H.R.1727 and S.837)
- The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 (H.R.1414 and S.679)
These amendments are important for the future of sustainable agriculture and it is vital that they make it into the final version of the farm bill. For this to happen, the voices of those who believe in the importance of sustainable agriculture need to be heard. Listed below are several actions you can take to help further the cause for a more vibrant, just, and sustainable economy.
Moving forward, ASBC is committed to working with both the House and Senate and White House to secure funding for these and other essential programs as well as reducing commodity crop subsidies. Please join us in urging Congress to create a Farm Bill that provides opportunities for entrepreneurs and local and organic farmers moving into the agriculture sector in the coming years.
Let’s make sure our elected officials understand our concerns and priorities in building a sustainable food ecosystem.