New Farm Bill Has Plusses and Minuses

 Area farmers who use and value farming-conservation practices are applauding parts of the U.S. Senate’s newly passed Farm Bill. They think the legislation will benefit beginning farmers and help sustain the vitality of rural communities.
The Conservation Stewardship Program, which pays farmers who enter into multi-year contracts with the government to implement conservation practices, remains in place, although its long-term funding was reduced.
Anna Johnson, senior policy associate for the Center for Rural Affairs, said she’s encouraged that the bill will continue many programs upon which Midwestern farmers have come to rely.

She said one disappointment was a decision to expand rather than close loopholes that allow mega-farms to collect even higher payments. That expansion of eligibility for crop subsidies was one reason Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, cited for voting against the bill. With those loopholes remaining in place, Johnson said, America is likely to see more farm consolidation as taxpayer dollars are funneled to the largest farm operations.

Johnson said several programs included in the bill will benefit beginning, socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers. Perhaps the biggest relief, she said, is that farmers now have some clarity, which they haven’t had since the previous Farm Bill expired at the end of September. The legislation now will head to the House and, if passed, to the president for his signature.

The bill is online at congress.gov.