Draft Farm Bill Needs Significant Improvement to Address the Needs of Today’s Farmers

For Immediate Release:
April 16, 2018

Contact:
Amalie Lipstreu, OEFFA Policy Program Coordinator, (614) 421-2022, amalie@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA Communications Coordinator, (614) 421-2022, lauren@oeffa.org
 
COLUMBUS, OH—The draft farm bill released last week by House Agriculture Chairman Conaway (R-TX) does not adequately address farmers’ needs or protect natural resources, according to the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA).

While the 2014 Farm Bill included mandatory funding for the Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion Program, the current House draft eliminates all mandatory funding, necessitating a yearly battle to secure resources for programs that provide local communities with healthy food and provide high value markets for many beginning and organic farmers. These farmers will also be hurt by the total elimination of funding for the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, which helps offset the annual costs of U.S. Department of Agriculture organic certification.

“OEFFA vehemently opposes cutting the cost-share program. We have more demand for organic food than farmers are able to supply, and this program helps beginning and transitioning farmers enter what is a real bright spot in American agriculture,” said OEFFA Policy Program Coordinator Amalie Lipstreu.
    
“The draft farm bill also leaves out many other important provisions critical for beginning farmers at a time when they are needed most,” continued Lipstreu.

The House draft eliminates the Risk Management Education Partnership Program, which helps ensure that beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers better understand and use risk management tools. It also fails to include an innovative proposal within the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act (HR 4316) that would make it easier for new farmers to access revenue-based crop insurance policies.

“As the next farm bill is implemented, due to an aging farmer population, almost 100 million acres will change hands,” said Lipstreu. “It is important that we equip the next generation of farmers with the tools they need for success.”

According to an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office released Friday, funding for working lands programs would be cut by about $5 billion. The largest conservation program for working agricultural land, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), would be totally eliminated, withlimited aspects of the program rolled into the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
  
“Cherry picking a few components of CSP to be included in the EQIP program is detrimental to comprehensive conservation planning and a disincentive to farmers who choose to implement advanced conservation practices on an ongoing basis,” said Lipstreu. “These programs have a small budget footprint but they deliver high value to our communities, including local economic development, job creation and retention, and quality of life.”

Lipstreu said OEFFA is pleased to see some positive provisions in this bill, but they are overshadowed by the elimination of tools and resources to help farmers and communities become more sustainable.
  
“We urge members of the House and Senate to recognize the value of these programs and work toward a bill that fully supports beginning farmers, local and regional food systems, and community health,” Lipstreu concluded.
 
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About OEFFA
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is a statewide, grassroots, nonprofit organization founded in 1979 by farmers, gardeners, and conscientious eaters working together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.