As explained in our prior posts, the US House of Representatives failed to pass their truly partisan and unequal Farm Bill–due to deep disagreements on pending immigration legislation. As the debates on agriculture and immigration continue in the House, the Senate Farm Bill may become the leading version for a 2018 Farm Bill.
The Senate Agriculture Committee may release their draft of the Farm Bill any day. It is expected to be a better bill on SNAP, conservation, and equity issues than the House version.
Each Farm Bill represents our nation’s important investment or disinvestment in the future of our agriculture and food system. This means the Senate Ag Committee must create a bipartisan Farm Bill that funds a full range of agriculture, conservation, and rural programs, as well as protects nutrition programs to assist those who need them most.
The Senate Agriculture Committee may meet to consider and approve their Farm Bill as soon as June 13th. The Farm Bill could therefore arrive on the Senate floor for a vote as soon as June 14th.
Now is the time to express what we hope and need to see in the next farm bill. We call on all those who care about equity to act now to ensure a full, fair farm bill.
HERE’S WHAT WE ARE HOPING TO SEE IN THE SENATE’S FARM BILL
As the Senate Agriculture Committee continues consideration of its 2018 Farm Bill, Rural Coalition has gathered signatures from more than 100 organizations on a letter urging Senators to write a Farm Bill that builds equity, and protects and grows support for the conservation, rural development and nutrition programs that are essential to our communities, including full funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Support Equity and Access in the 2018 Farm Bill
RC and our allies seek a bill that supports and expands farm livelihoods as an economic base of communities, advances intergenerational land tenure continuity, and promotes familial and community wealth for our nation’s new entry, historically underserved, and veteran producers. Together, also we have worked with the Committee to ensure the inclusion of the critical subset of programs that support access for the most underserved segments of agriculture as well as our urban and rural communities and cooperatives.
See the RC and Allies Equity Letter where we specifically endorse the following legislative packages:
1) The Assist Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Act of 2018 (S.2839 — by Sen. Chris Van Hollen-Sen. Tina Smith and H.R.5824 by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham), which extends and strengthens the historic Outreach to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program. It would allow organizations to receive multi-year grants in order to increase efficiency for both USDA and the end users, improve the grant review process through a new peer review requirement, and require annual public reports from USDA. The bill also strengthens systems to track progress in serving these constituencies by making publicly available reports on changes in farm program participation to the county level.
2) The Assist Farmers and Ranchers Operating on Heirs’ Property to Participate in USDA Programs Act of 2018 (by Sen. Doug Jones and Rep. Marcia Fudge), which provides statutory authority to allow producers farming on land that is held by undivided interests without administrative authority (heirs’ property, or property where owners passed away without leaving a will or assigning an executor) to secure access to USDA programs. This bill authorizes acceptance of alternate forms of documentation defining who may use the land, which would allow many more farm operators to qualify to participate in farm and conservation programs. USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) would also be authorized to loan funds to qualified intermediaries to relend to families to resolve heirs’ property issues and clear title to farmland. Finally, the bill authorizes data collection and comprehensive analysis on trends in farmland ownership and operation, and transitions of farms and ranches to a new generation of owners and operators. These studies would improve our understanding of the impact of unresolved land tenure issues on the ability of producers to operate farms and pass on farms to new generations.
3) The Next Generation in Agriculture Act (S. 2762 by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Sen. Susan Collins), which breaks down additional barriers faced by new entry operators and strengthens real support for the next generation of producers. The bill permanently reauthorizes and strengthens the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, including by eliminating the matching requirement; and adds new authority for coordinators at USDA to improve delivery and outreach to young and beginning farmers.
**TAKE ACTION TO ENSURE A FULL, FAIR FARM BILL**
Encourage your two Senators to support a Full, Fair 2018 Farm Bill. Here’s how:
• Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Ask to be connected to your Senator’s office.
• When you connect with that office, ask them for the name and email of the person who handles the Farm Bill.
• Write them an email, saying you support a full, fair farm bill – and include this link: to our equity letter.
If you are unable to send an email, ask to speak to the Agriculture Legislative Assistant. Tell them you would like your Senator to cosponsor and support the following bills:
o S.2839 by Senators Van Hollen and Smith to assist our nation’s diverse and Veteran Producers;
o S. 2762 by Senator Heitkamp and Collins to help a new generation farm; and
o The Heirs Property Access Act by Senator Doug Jones, to help producers on family land with many heirs gain access to USDA programs.
Repeat the above with the second Senator from your state.
Stay in touch – the work is not over
• Go here to Sign up for our contact list.
• Go here: to support our Summer of Equity Campaign with a contribution
Thank you for being an advocate for Equity!