image description October 9, 2012

The Expired Farm Bill

The Expired Farm Bill

A Threat to Agricultural Innovation

On a serious note, the Farm Bill lapsed last week. No news is bad news. This is the food and agriculture policy document that guides many programs, among them are food stamps, crop insurance, commodity support, conservation, environmental protection, rural economic, community development, food system reform and agricultural research, rural and urban job creation, natural resource conservation, renewable energy, improved production and so much more. Many programs that keep these issues ‘alive’ will simply shrivel up and die.

How will farmers register acreage for ecological restoration projects?  Where will training opportunities for the next generation of farmers come from? Micro-loans that had been available for many of the small businesses that we all had hoped would spark real economic recovery in much of rural America…THINK MINNESOTA folks… those dollars won’t be there anymore. All those start up grants that had been fueling farm markets in urban food deserts will blow away, farming research will stop because of lack of funds…well, except for those sponsored by Big Ag.

According to Ferd Hoefner, the Policy Director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, “grants to encourage on-farm energy conservation, to fund fruit and vegetable research, to assist minority and tribal farmers, to rebuild local and regional food systems, to invest in emerging farmer and community owned food businesses with high consumer demand, and to transfer land to young farmers will also be put on hold.”

Yes, I know that SNAP (food stamps) and federal crop insurance subsidies, the largest programs by the way, will keep on keeping on, but the lesser-known programs have no funding as of last week. And that’s not right. These are the programs and policies that are creative, that have immeasurable benefit, that motivate and inspire, that drive job creation, solve problems with our environment and most of all SUPPORT ENTREPRENEURIAL thought and action. Sadly the bill won’t be taken up again until the lame duck session after the election, and because the largest programs are still intact most Americans don’t realize how dangerous it is to pass this problem downstream. How are we supposed to foster training programs, save wetlands and watersheds or improve the health of our food system if we don’t have a reliable public policy framework? We need SNAP and we need a safety net for our farmers that’s equitable, but the real need in our Farm Bill is for the innovative programs that are withering on the vine. This is not a red state blue state issue; it’s a clarion call for us all to step up, urge congress to pass the farm bill and to do all we can to support programs that power our nations agricultural system.

I will be at Babson College later this month for Food Days, to learn what I can do to foster innovation and drive entrepreneurship in this vital area, please join us.

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