Growing Opportunities: Family Farm Values for Reforming the Farm Bill

Americans deserve a better Farm Bill.  Current agricultural policy spends too much money subsidizing large corporations, doesn’t adequately assist small and midsize farmers, and supports the production of heavily processed foods at the expense of healthy fruit and vegetable crops.  Congressman Blumenauer’s report, Growing Opportunities: Family Farm Values for Reforming the Farm Bill, outlines a series of reforms to make the Farm Bill more accountable, more affordable, and fairer to taxpayers, farmers, ranchers and consumers alike.

Some of these proposals have been included in various deficit reduction plans, including President Obama’s proposal and Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget resolution, and enjoy broad bipartisan support.  Reforms described in detail within the report include: the elimination of direct payments and other ineffective subsidies, changes to conservation programs in favor of performance-based systems, increased funding for research and development, improvements to current programs that assist beginning farmers and ranchers, the overhaul of the crop insurance system, and recommendations on how to best coordinate local farming economies and nutrition programs to improve access to fresh, locally-grown foodstuffs.

Listed below are specific legislative proposals that correlate with reforms suggested in Rep. Blumenauer’s report:

Current Legislation

H.R. 2487, the Reducing the Deficit through Eliminating Agricultural Direct Payment Subsidies Act (Rep. Flake): The REAPS Act eliminates the direct payment program and would save taxpayers approximately $28 billion over ten years.

H.R. 3286, the Local Food, Farm and Jobs Act (Rep. Pingree): Rep. Pingree’s bill provides important funding and support for small and beginning farmers, including research initiatives, technical assistance and infrastructure.

H.R. 3236, Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act (Rep. Walz and Rep. Fortenberry): The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act makes important adjustments to current programs to increase access to capital, educational opportunities and training. There is companion legislation in the Senate, led by Senator Harkin.

H.R. 3525, the Healthy Food Financing Act (Rep. Burgess, Schwartz and Blumenauer): Healthy Food Financing Act. The legislation established a Health Food Financing Initiative, to support local businesses and increase access to healthy food in food deserts.

 Pending Legislation

American Family Farm and Ranchland Conservation Act: Rep. Blumenauer and Rep. Cantor introduced the American Family Farm and Ranchland Conservation Act in the 111th Congress. The legislation provides an estate tax exemption for up to $5 million for farmers who have placed their land under conservation easement. The legislation will be reintroduced in the 112th Congress.

Conservation for the 21st Century: Rep. Kind and Rep. Blumenauer are pursuing legislation to streamline our conservation program, increase its effectiveness and expand it to adequately meet the needs of farmers and ranchers. The legislation will be introduced in the 112th Congress.

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