By Liza Ayres, NFU Intern
The farm bill is the most important and comprehensive piece of federal farm and food legislation. Its value extends beyond family farmers and ranchers to consumers, rural communities, and the environment, playing a central role in establishing a secure food supply, keeping food prices fair for farmers and consumers, and sustaining the country’s resources.
Typically renewed about every five years, the 2014 Farm Bill is set to expire on September 30. Unless a new bill is passed before then or the current one is extended, many of its programs will lose authorization and funding, leaving family farmers and hungry Americans without crucial support.
The Farm Bill conference committee is currently working to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation. However, with just a few days left before the deadline, the committee appears to be at an impasse on several issues, including funding for conservation and nutrition programs as well changes to payment limitations for commodity programs. The lack of an agreement decreases the chance that the farm bill will be passed on time.
Without a new bill or an extension, several programs that National Farmers Union cares about will likely lose authorization and funding:
- The Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) offers grants to support the development of local and regional food business enterprises. This program benefits both farmers and consumers by increasing access to fresh, healthy, and local food.
- Producers of value-added products are eligible for Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG), which assist farmers and producers with business plans, marketing strategies, and feasibility studies, or to acquire capital to begin operating a value-added business venture.
- The National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program (NOCCSP) helps small-scale and mid-size farms cover the costs associated with the annual organic certification process.
- The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) funds education, extension, outreach, and technical assistance to help beginning farmers and ranchers overcome the challenges they face, such as a relative lack of experience, capital, and resources.
Given the impending Farm Bill deadline, there is a large amount of uncertainty surrounding the future of these programs that secure our nation’s food supply and natural resources, support our rural communities, and feed our hungry. To ensure the continued success of America’s food system, it is crucial to pass a new farm bill as soon as possible.
Congress needs to hear from their constituents that the Farm Bill is important to them. Please consider taking action by contacting members of the Farm Bill Conference Committee today. Visit 2018FarmBill.org to learn more.
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