Support for Beginning Farmers, Conservation & Crop Insurance Reform Called for
REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. — More than 85 members and supporters of the Land Stewardship Project (LSP) delivered a clear message April 11 to a key member of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee: the next Farm Bill must help small and mid-sized farmers while protecting our soil and water. The LSP meeting, which was held in Redwood Falls, provided an opportunity for Minnesota U.S. Representative Collin Peterson to hear from a variety of farmers about what should go into the 2018 Farm Bill, which is currently being drafted by lawmakers.
“We need a Farm Bill that puts people, communities and the land first,” said Gaylord, Minn., dairy farmer Darrel Mosel. “As a farmer, I feel like we are on the top of a big ladder with no supports at the bottom.”
Mosel spoke to Rep. Peterson about how his two sons are having a hard time getting started in farming because of the current slump in commodity prices. He and other speakers also called for policy initiatives that would support beginning farmers and give them easier access to farmland.
Rep. Peterson agreed that the farm economy is facing a dire situation. "If we have an average crop this fall, a ton of people are in trouble," said the Congressman.
Lorretta Jaus, an organic dairy farmer from Gibbon, Minn., emphasized the need for working lands conservation and promoting sustainable farming practices.
“In years of low prices, instead of more and more of our public dollars going to programs based on bushels-per-acre, which incidentally I don’t think helps the direction of prices, why aren’t we connecting the dots between the myriad of social and environmental challenges that could be positively addressed through crop diversification, soil health and conservation practices?” Jaus asked.
LSP members also talked about the current wastefulness of the federal crop insurance system and how farmers want a risk management system that provides long term stability, rather than big payouts to the largest operations.
“Putting a cap of $50,000 on these crop insurance premium subsidies would mean that currently only corn-soybean farms over 3,000 acres and up to 6,000 acres, depending on the deductible, would see a limit," said Randy Krzmarzick, a corn and soybean farmer from Sleepy Eye, Minn.
Rep. Peterson responded that he would like to see more Farm Bill funding for beginning farmer initiatives and conservation programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program. He said practices such as cover cropping have been proven effective, including on his own farm, and he thinks the next Farm Bill should provide support for such practices. Rep. Peterson committed to working to increase funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program by $50 million and to investigate concerns over how Environmental Quality Incentives Program money is being used to construct large scale corporate backed animal feedlots. Rep. Peterson agreed to meet with Land Stewardship Project members again in August to continue to address the emerging crisis facing the farm economy and to discuss working for a 2018 Farm Bill that supports family farmers and the land.
A copy of LSP’s 2018 Farm Bill priorities paper, “Our Farm Bill: Re-imagining U.S. Farm Policy that puts People, Communities & the Land First,” is here.