U.S. Senate Open Letter In Support of Rural Development and Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers

Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Dear Senator,
Creating jobs in rural America and ensuring the success of the next generation of farmers are national
priorities. Earlier this spring, the Senate Agriculture Committee passed the bipartisan Agriculture Reform,
Food and Jobs Act of 2012. We applaud Chairwoman Stabenow, Ranking Member Roberts, and members
of the Committee for moving ahead with reauthorizing this wide-ranging and critical piece of legislation.
While the Committee-passed bill takes modest steps to fulfill these priorities, the bill fails to make an
adequate investment in rural economic development and in the next generation of farmers.
One of the proven job-creating titles of the farm bill is the Rural Development title, which authorizes
essential grants and loan programs targeted at leveraging local initiatives to spur growth and opportunity in
rural areas. Since 1996, Congress has provided an average of $413 million per farm bill for the Rural
Development title, while the new bill as reported by the Committee includes no funding at all.
We urge you to correct this deficiency by providing robust funding for the following successful Rural
Development programs: Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG), Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance
Program (RMAP), Rural Energy Savings Program, and Water/Wastewater Backlog.
In addition to investing in the future of rural America, we must invest in the future of American agriculture.
The average age of an American agricultural producer today is 57, and if we let current trends go unchecked,
that number will only increase. Providing training and technical assistance to the next generation of farmers
can help buck the trend and ensure future food security.
The Committee-passed bill falls far short of maintaining current investment in the training tools that new
and diverse farmers need to succeed. We urge you to provide robust mandatory funding for the Beginning
Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) and Outreach and Assistance for Socially
Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers program (Section 2501 – OASDFR).
We recognize the severity of our country’s fiscal situation. During the Committee mark-up, it was unclear
without a Congressional Budget Office score whether there was funding available for these programs, and
Senators agreed to continue the conversation about funding these key priorities before the floor debate.
The final CBO score indicates that the Senate Agriculture Committee exceeded its commitment of $23
billion in savings. We urge you to take advantage of this important opportunity to reinstate mandatory rural
development funding and to improve investments in the future of American agriculture.
Thank you for your attention to these important matters. We strongly encourage you to reach out to and
work with Senator Brown of Ohio, Senator Nelson of Nebraska, and other interested colleagues prior to the
floor farm bill debate. These Senators are working on a possible amendment to fund these priorities.
By ensuring continued investments in rural economic development and in the next generation of farmers,
we can ensure that the Farm Bill is a “jobs bill” that underpins and enables economic growth in
communities throughout America. We look forward to working together on this important matter for American agriculture and America’s rural communities.
American Planning Association
American Public Works Association
American Sustainable Business Council
Center for Rural Affairs
ChangeLab Solutions
Community Food Security Coalition
Corporation for Enterprise Development
Environmental Working Group
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Food Democracy Now!
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
ISED Solutions
National Association of Counties
National Association of Development
National Association of Resource Conservation
and Development Councils
National Center for Appropriate Technology
National League of Cities
National Rural Development Council
National Rural Housing Coalition
National Rural Health Association
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Organic Farming Research Foundation
Partners for Rural America
Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA
Rural Community Assistance Partnership
Senior Entrepreneurs
Slow Food USA
Women, Food and Agriculture Network
University of Alabama Environmental Council
Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
California FarmLink
ChangeLab Solutions
Organic Farming Research Foundation
Pesticide Action Network
Connecticut Northeast Organic Farming Association
Northeast Organic Farming Association Interstate Council

District of Columbia

ISED Solutions
Environmental Working Group
Iowa Environmental Council
Practical Farmers of Iowa
Quad Cities Food Hub
Women, Food and Agriculture Network
Angelic Organics Learning Center
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
The Land Connection
Liberty Prairie Foundation
Kansas Rural Center
Senior Entrepreneurs
Future Harvest CASA
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
Lansing Urban Farm Project
Michigan Young Farmer Coalition
Growing Our Own Naturally
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Land Stewardship Project
Alternative Energy Resources Organization
Community Food and Agriculture Coalition
National Center for Appropriate Technology

New York
Catskill Mountainkeeper
North Carolina
Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA
Silver Lining Institute
Center for Rural Affairs
The Western Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
New York
Field Goods
Hunger Action Network of NYS
Just Food
Slow Food Hamilton College
The Sustainable Restaurant Corps
West Side Campaign Against Hunger
ACEnet, Inc
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture
Adelante Mujeres
Central Oregon Locavore
Friends of Family Farmers
North Coast Food Web
Oregon Rural Action
Rouge Farm Corps
Think Local Umpqua
Fay-Penn Economic Development Council
The Reinvestment Fund
CASA del Llano
Appalachian Sustainable Development

Virginia Association for Biological Farming
PCC Farmland Trust
Tilth Producers of Washington
WA Sustainable Food & Farming Network