Today’s Farm Bill Expiration Leaves Critical Conservation, Organic, and Beginning Farmer Programs Stranded without Funding
Congress’ failure to pass a new Farm Bill will have a disproportionately negative impact on beginning, sustainable, and organic farmers. Unlike crop insurance subsidies which have continued funding, many organic, local food, and conservation programs are not permanently authorized and funded.
“As consumer demand for organics continues to grow, Congress needs to help organic farmers succeed,” said MacKenzie Bailey, Policy Program Coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA). “Although organic programs are a very small part of the hundreds of billions of dollars that will be invested through this Farm Bill, they are critical programs that address unique needs. The failure to fund organic programs is counter-intuitive when consumers are demanding more sustainably grown food.”
Farmers have been without a full Farm Bill since October 1, 2012. In January 2013, Congress passed a partial one year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill that excluded funding for nearly three dozen Farm Bill programs. The Senate has passed a Farm Bill twice, but disagreements about funding and eligibility for nutrition programs in the House have created roadblocks to passing a full Farm Bill reauthorization.
Dozens of programs that create jobs, invest in the next generation of farmers, and protect the environment are without funding. Some key programs without funding until Congress passes a full Farm Bill include:
- The Farmers’ Market Promotion Program (FMPP) provides funding to community supported agriculture programs, farmers’ markets, and farm markets to develop marketing information and business plans; support innovative market ideas, and educate consumers. For example, the Toledo Farmers’ Market used FMPP funding to recruit new vendors, help establish and promote an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) system for SNAP recipients, and build relationships with community partners to leverage additional funding and support. As a result, SNAP sales increased from $500 in 2008 to $50,000 in 2011, the market added 1,000 new EBT customers, overall market sales increased by 20 percent, and the number of vendors at the market grew by 38 percent.
- The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program invests in the next generation of farmers and food entrepreneurs by helping them access land, credit, and crop insurance; launch and expand new farms and businesses, and receive training, mentoring, and education.
- The National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program reimburses participating organic producers and handlers for 75 percent (up to $750) of their certification fees. This program helps make organic certification affordable, enabling farmers and processors to meet the growing demand for organic food. In 2011, 251 Ohioans utilized cost-share funds, or about 40 percent of the state’s organic operations.
- The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative is a competitive grants program dedicated to the growing needs of the organic community.
- The Organic Production Market and Data Initiative is a multi-agency organic data collection initiative that collects information vital to maintaining stable markets and tracking production trends.
- Value-Added Producer Grants provide funding for feasibility studies and business plans, marketing value-added products, and farm-based renewable energy projects.
“Enough is enough. Farmers have been without a Farm Bill for a year. Congress needs to act now to pass a full and fair five year Farm Bill that will invest in the future, create economic opportunities for family farmers, protect precious natural resources, reform farm subsidies, and ultimately align farm policy with the good health of our families, friends, and neighbors,” said Bailey.
For more information about the Farm Bill or OEFFA’s work, go to http://policy.oeffa.org/farmbill.
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) was founded in 1979 and is a grassroots coalition of farmers, backyard gardeners, consumers, retailers, educators, researchers, and others who share a desire to build healthy food systems. For more than 30 years, OEFFA has used education, advocacy, and grassroots organizing to promote local and organic food systems, helping farmers and consumers reconnect and together build a sustainable food system, one meal at a time. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.