I was able to hear an update from FMC’s Policy Director Ben Feldman today and would like to give a quick overview and call to action for all of my readers:
Hidden in all of the activity on Capitol Hill this month is Congress’ inability to pass a new farm bill. As many of you hopefully know, a new farm bill is passed every five years. The House and the Senate had each worked on their own version, but were unable to get anything out of shared committee to vote on. (One main difference between the two bills was work requirements for SNAP recipients, and the inclusion of LAMP* in the Senate version which would help the Tiny but Mighty programs, but the story now is that there are many other stumbling blocks to a final bill coming out of committee.)
What that means is that in a few days (September 30th) the current Farm Bill expires. The session is likely to end without an extension of 2014’s Farm Bill either. This leaves it to the lame duck session in 2019 to either get a new bill passed or an extension of the 2014 bill, and since that short session means some members are on their way home, and others may be waiting for new jobs on committees there is little hope a new Farm Bill will come from that session. However, it is quite possible that the lame duck session will pass an extension to the 2014 Farm Bill.
The biggest problem with only getting an extension of 2014’s FB as the achievement of the lame duck session will be the lack of funding included for what is called the “Tiny and Mighty” programs which do not have baseline funding. Baseline funding is essentially a funding threshold where programs are assumed to continue either in a new Farm Bill or in an extension of an old one. Without baseline funding, the Tiny but Mighty programs need to be named and inserted in any extension which is unlikely without pressure.
These are programs that have large impacts but small funding. Here is NSAC’s list of programs that will sunset on the 30th:
Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program
Conservation Reserve Program – Transition Incentives Program
Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP)
Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program (FINI)
National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCP)
Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI)
Organic Production and Market Data Initiative *
Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers *
Rural Micro entrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP)
Value-Added Producer Grants Program (VAPG)
This does not mean that grants funded by these programs before September 30 are in danger; if your project received funding in 2017 or 2018 with these programs, that money is already appropriated and will be available to you for the life of your grant.
The ten tiny but mighty programs of this series have made a nearly half billion-dollar investment in American food and farm systems over the course of the current farm bill cycle. These programs have represented 100 percent of the farm bill funding for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer programs, organic programs, and rural economic development spending.
Needless to say, spending for these critical programs is minuscule relative to the cost of the full farm bill, weighing in at just a fraction of one percent of total farm bill funding. Under a three-month extension scenario, for example, Congress would need to invest only $35 million to keep these critical programs active at their current 2014 Farm Bill funding levels.
So the message here is: write to your reps and senators and remind them of the work and impact that your farmers markets, CSAs, food hubs, farmer training programs and so on have in your community, and how these funds have helped your work in the past. Ask them to get an extension passed in the short term with the 10 Tiny but Mighty programs included. And then to get busy on the new Farm Bill.
They need to hear from you. Again and again. And as Hoosier Farmers Market Association pointed out on today’s call, those of you who work at the state level or on policy councils can help by amassing data on what DTC outlets and farmers in your state or area of work have received from those 10 programs and the impacts of those awards to send along to your elected officials.
*The Senate’s 2018 Farm Bill includes language to establish the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP), which would provide permanent funding for local food by consolidating existing programs into a single program.
- Consolidate Value Added Producer Grants, Farmers Market/Local Food Promotion Program, Value Chain Coordinators, and planning partnerships into a new program administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service in coordination with Rural Business-Cooperative Service;
- Maintain purpose and eligible entities for each program;
- Identify Cooperative Extension Service as the lead for outreach and technical assistance;
- Provide $60 million in mandatory funding and $20 million in appropriated funding;
- Reserve 35% of funding for farmer or rancher grants; and
- Reserve 10% of funding for projects supporting beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers.