BY JOHN CRABTREE
Center for Rural Affairs
With the Farm Bill finally moving forward, the Center for Rural Affairs urges the House-Senate Conference Committee to ensure that the bill address the needs of family farmers, ranchers and small towns while also protecting our natural resources.
The Committee must reform the farm safety net, including farm program payments and federally subsidized crop insurance. There are important provisions included in one or both bills that will provide needed reforms to these programs. These reforms should move forward into the final bill. We urge the conferees to: adopt the historic payment limits and “actively engaged in farming” reforms adopted in both bills with substantial bipartisan support; accept the Senate’s modest reduction in crop insurance premium subsidies for millionaires; include the Senate’s Sodsaver provision that protects against destruction of prime grasslands and native prairie nationwide; and reject the House provision to obliterate the farmer and rancher protections provided by the Packers and Stockyards Act.
Real federal investment in helping small towns and rural entrepreneurs has fallen by half over the last decade. The Conference Committee should reverse this trend with direct funding for the Value-Added Producer Grant program at its historic level of $20 million annually and increase direct spending for the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, which provides loans and technical assistance to rural small businesses, to $10 million annually.
These reforms and investments have broad support in Congress and perhaps more importantly, throughout rural and small town America. They should be included in the final Farm Bill.
Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.