National Young Farmers Coalition -farm bill l

May 22, 2024
Young farmers group protests farm bill draft

A draft of proposed farm bill legislation released by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn “G.T.” Thompson misses a rare opportunity to meaningfully address the challenges facing the new generation of U.S. farmers and ranchers, according to the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC).

The Hudson, New York-based group joins other food and agriculture systems advocates in opposing the bill for failing to prioritize equitable farmland access, divesting from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and for striking climate provisions that assist farmers in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for extreme weather events, according to a news release.

National Young Farmers Coalition “We need federal farm policy that centers equity, addresses the land access crisis, and tackles the challenges of farm viability and climate change that young farmers and ranchers are up against. This Farm Bill is our best opportunity to prioritize the needs of a new generation and to build safe and thriving food and farm systems. Unfortunately, while some of our recommendations can be found in the text, this first draft misses the mark. We urge Chairman Thompson to better utilize this critical opportunity to prioritize the needs of the new generation of farmers while keeping our community members fed,” Michelle Hughes, NYFC co-executive director, said in the release.

“Young farmers — and the thousands of farmers nearing retirement age who will need to transition their land in the coming decades — need federal farm policy that better serves them. Our most recent National Young Farmer Survey highlights the critical need for community-driven solutions to the land access crisis and improved access to conservation programs. Even with the bill’s notable inclusions for young farmers, the Coalition cannot recommend that the farmers across our network, or the policymakers representing them, support this bill as written,” according to the release.

The Coalition is disappointed to see that the Chairman’s draft does not include federal investment in community-led land access and retention projects – a number one priority for young and Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) farmers across the country, according to the release.

The text includes provisions to track foreign ownership of farmland, but misses an opportunity to reign in corporate ownership and consolidation of farmland. It also removes important buy-protect-sell language from the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), taking steps backward in finding creative mechanisms to help young and beginning farmers access land, according to the release.

“Young farmers are the future of agriculture in this country and they deserve a Farm Bill that addresses their key challenges and commits to meaningful investments in their success,” Katherine Un, NYFC co-executive director, said in the release. “When young farmers thrive, we ensure the sustainability and security of this country’s food and farm systems.”

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While the Coalition believes the bill contains too many gaps to merit passage, it is hopeful that it will catalyze important and long-awaiting policy changes in this Farm Bill process. “We are encouraged to see language that directs the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to pilot a program to establish a pre-approval process for Direct Farm Ownership loans – one of the recommendations included in the 2022 Young Farmer Agenda. Another included priority is more flexibility for farmers to qualify for Direct Farm Ownership loans. The Chairman’s draft also takes steps to continue support for addressing heirs’ property challenges, reauthorizes the Commission on Farm Transitions, and includes reporting on land access and farmland ownership data collection,” according to the release.

“We are also pleased to see that the House Farm Bill draft increases baseline funding for conservation programs by rolling Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding into the Farm Bill. However, the bill would strip the climate focus from those IRA funds, weakening the ability of these critical resources to support the next generation as they continue addressing the climate crisis. The bill would also shift conservation funding to precision agriculture, which could result in federal support for costly and exclusive practices at the expense of helping producers of all scales.

“Conservation funds should focus on tested practices that can be scaled across many farm and ranch sizes. The bill also lacks support for small farms to access conservation programs and funding for farmer-to-farmer conservation education. The proposal would also roll back overdue updates to how USDA calculates nutrition benefits, weaken reporting data on the effectiveness and reach of agricultural lending, advance commodities policy that could increase cropland rental rates, and would restrict USDA’s authority to respond flexibly in times of crisis,” according to the release.

The National Young Farmers Coalition (Young Farmers) is a national grassroots network of young farmers working to change policy and shifting power to equitably resource the new generation of working farmers.

Read more of the NYFC release here.

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