June 18, 2012
On June 18, NSAC joined nearly 100 organizations from across the country on a letter which was sent to Senators encouraging them to support socially disadvantaged, beginning, veteran, and limited resource producer programs in the 2012 Farm Bill, which is currently being debated on the Senate floor. The letter was spearheaded by the Rural Coalition and the National Family Farm Coalition, which advocate for federal farm policy that is equitable to minority, tribal, limited resource, and family farmers across the country.
The version of the farm bill reported by the Senate Agriculture Committee and pending on the Senate floor does not include any funding for the Rural Development title and provides inadequate funding for beginning and minority farmer programs. In response, several Senate champions have filed a variety of amendments to the committee-passed bill to reconcile this issue and restore funding for key programs.
Senators Sherrod Brown (Amendment #2362), Tom Harkin (Amendment #2239), Tom Udall (Amendment #2417), Tom Harkin and Bob Casey (Amendment #2245) filed amendments that would restore funding to the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) and the Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program (also known as the Section 2501 Program) and provide microloans to young, beginning, and veteran farmers.
The Brown Amendment (#2362) would also spur job creation in rural areas by restoring funding to successful rural economic development programs such as the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program and the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP). These programs provide loans and grants to farmers and rural businesses to support value-added processing and entrepreneurial activities in rural areas. VAPG also places a specific priority on grant projects that benefit socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers.
The signing groups voiced their support for these amendments, and urged for their inclusion in the final Senate Farm Bill that is currently being considered on the Senate floor. They also wrote in opposition to an amendment filed by Senator Toomey (SA 2218) which would remove long-standing protections – including civil rights protections – pertaining to FSA farm loan deferrals and foreclosures. Specifically, the proposed amendment would lift the moratorium on foreclosures for farmers who are currently involved in discrimination lawsuits, and therefore potentially allow them to lose their farms while their discrimination claims are still pending.
The full text of the letter, list of signers, and summary of amendments can be read here.