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Coalition Lobbies for Beginning Farmers

posted on February 1, 2008


Late last year, after months of wrangling, the Farm Bill made its way past political in-fighting in both bodies of Congress and sailed into conference committee for additional work. While the details are being hammered out, special interest groups continue to lobby lawmakers to not forget funding for one element or another. One group in particular, a loose knit confederation of sustainable farm groups, was on the Hill trying to get legislators to take notice of young farmers.
Coalition Lobbies for Beginning Farmers Members of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, a group of farmers and ranchers from across the country, met in Washington this week with lawmakers. Their goal was to convince legislators to support provisions in the Farm Bill that would assist new farmers.

Traci Bruckner, Center for Rural Affairs: "If we don't do something in this farm bill, to usher in a new generation of farmers and ranchers, we're going to be in a sorry state by the time 2012 roles around."

According to the USDA, in 1978 there were 350,000 farmers 34 years of age or younger. By 2002, that number had fallen to fewer than 70,000.

Traci Bruckner, Center for Rural Affairs: "$20 million is all we're asking for and if you look at the farm bill picture overall, that's 1/3 of 1 percent of the entire farm bill budget."

The $20 million would be used for compulsory funding of two programs designed to assist new farmers. Three-quarters of the request would be used to fund mentoring, training and education programs.

Rep. Stephanie Sandlin, D-South Dakota: "I'm pleased to work with Mr. Walz from Minnesota, and appreciate the chairman's willingness to make the needs of beginning farmers a priority in the bill."

The House version of the Farm Bill already contains such a provision, but the Senate, despite authorizing $30 million for the program, did not make the funding mandatory.

The remaining $5 million would go for a pilot program to help individual producers with capitol expenditures like new equipment, farm buildings, or land. The Senate version of the bill has authorized appropriations of up to $10 million, while the House did not allocate any funds for the program.

Traci Bruckner, Center for Rural Affairs: "We're expecting them to deliver a victory for us and if the don't they will here from us that they didn't deliver a victory."


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