October 24, 2013
As House and Senate farm bill conferees prepare for their first official public meeting next Wednesday, a group of bipartisan Representatives and Senators delivered two “Dear Colleague” letters to House and Senate leadership earlier today.
Thanks to the leadership of Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Chris Gibson (R-NY), and Chris Collins (R-NY) in the House and Senator Al Franken (D-MN) in the Senate, dozens of members of Congress have joined together to call for a farm bill that invests in the next generation of farmers and breaks down barriers that many new farmers face when starting out.
The Senate letter urged farm bill conferees to “maintain the strongest possible support for beginning farmers and ranchers through targeted programs that provide new and young farmers with education and training, access to credit, and access to affordable land with support for conservation programs.”
Specifically, both letters call on conferees to adopt the following provisions in any farm bill negotiations:
Many of the members who signed onto both letters in the House and Senate had previously demonstrated their support for beginning farmers by cosponsoring the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act, which was introduced earlier this year by Representatives Tim Walz (D-MN), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Chris Gibson (R-NY) in the House and by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) in the Senate. Both Rep. Walz and Sen. Harkin are on the farm bill conference committee and will be instrumental in protecting the gains in each bill that expand opportunities for new farmers.
Earlier this month, over 130 organizations from across the country delivered a similar letter to Congressional leaders, urging their support for beginning farmer programs and policies in any farm bill negotiation. Several of these programs have been stranded without funding since the 2008 Farm Bill expired last fall — including the popular Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and the CRP Transition Incentives Program. Both of these programs have been on hold for over a year now, and beginning farmers across the country are starting to feel the impact of the loss of this significant resource.