To the editor:
Congress has only a few days left in 2018 to pass legislation. Adopting a strong, new farm bill should be at the top of their list.
Lawmakers should approve a farm bill that includes closing loopholes in commodity payments, renewing major conservation programs, and continuing programs that offer support to rural communities and beginning farmers.
First, loopholes in commodity programs are allowing the largest farms to exploit the system and claim incredibly high payments. Not only do these loopholes allow for misuse of taxpayer dollars, this unfair advantage creates an uneven playing field for smaller, family-sized operations and drives farm consolidation.
Second, America needs farmers and ranchers who are committed caretakers of the land. Farm bill conservation programs offer a needed path that allows producers to improve their stewardship of water and soil. A new farm bill should provide strong support for conservation, including the Conservation Stewardship Program that allows for targeted conservation efforts across operations.
Finally, rural America needs strong and diverse economic opportunities. The farm bill contains several smaller programs that offer support for rural economic vitality and the next generation of farmers. Not renewing these programs closes the door of opportunity for many in rural America.
Congress allowed the 2014 farm bill to expire on Sept. 30, stranding over a billion dollars in programs with no authority to operate. Currently, both the Senate and the House have put forward draft farm bills, but have struggled to achieve compromise. The Senate's proposals would bring needed policy changes for rural America. What's more, it passed with historically strong bipartisan support.
Congress, we urge you to follow the lead of the Senate and pass a final farm bill that serves rural America.
Anna Johnson, policy manager
Center for Rural Affairs
Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities.