Senate Farm Bill Committee Draft Reflects Young Farmer Needs

Senate agriculture committee

 

Senate introduces farm bill draft with the Young Farmer Agenda in mind

On Friday afternoon, the Senate Agriculture Committee released its long-awaited draft of the 2018 Farm Bill. In stark contrast to the hyper-partisan approach of their House counterparts, Senate Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) offered a bipartisan alternative, the product of months of negotiations and consensus-building. The result is a bill that, despite a challenging fiscal and political climate, contains significant wins for young farmers and ranchers.

The Senate bill includes many proposals outlined in NYFC’s Young Farmer Agenda. And it’s clear that the tireless work of young farmer leaders throughout NYFC’s farm bill campaign has paid off, and that those voices were heard.  No bipartisan bill is perfect, however, and we’ll highlight some areas for improvement below.  

The Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to amend and approve the bill on Wednesday, June 13th. To help take action as the farm bill passes through the senate simply text “FARM” to 40649 or go here. Here’s a summary of what they got right and what NYFC members and supporters need to work together to change:

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House farm bill makes key land access investments, but misses big opportunities

NYFC policy staff continues to dig into the House farm bill, H.R. 2. Read our previous posts on the overall analysis of the bill, as well as its potential impact for young farmers in the West.

Across the country, climbing land prices have made it increasingly difficult for farmers to afford land. The challenge of land access for young farmers is so widespread and acute, in fact, that NYFC has an entire team dedicated to it. The farm bill, reauthorized by Congress every five years, can help, or hinder, young farmers’ ability to access land.

On Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee voted its draft of the 2018 farm bill, H.R. 2, out of Committee on a strictly party-line vote. As the bill heads to debate before the full House, NYFC’s land access team breaks down what its impact might be on farmland access for young farmers.

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With West in Drought, House Farm Bill Cuts Conservation, Funds Land Access

 

Wedged in between White House scandals and Beychella, the House Agriculture Committee released their draft of the 2018 Farm Bill.

As NYFC outlined in our initial analysis of the bill, there is some good news for young farmers. Programs that support the next generation, like the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), are reauthorized, and funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), a critical tool for protecting farmland for future generations, is restored to $500 million.

As young farmers across the West attempt to build their on-farm resilience to climate change and drought ahead of another dry season, though, they’ll need more support than this bill would provide. Before the House Ag Committee amends the bill and votes on Wednesday, take a look at NYFC’s breakdown of how this bill will impact Western farmers and ranchers. And make sure your lawmakers know that you want a farm bill that works for the West by joining NYFC’s Team Farm Bill. Text “FARM” To 40649 or sign up here.

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House Farm Bill Will Cost Young Farmers, Organic, and Conservation

At long last, the House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX) introduced his draft of the 2018 Farm Bill on Thursday. And we’ve got work to do.

The bill maintains important provisions for beginning farmers, such as the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, but it would phase out programs that are critical to young farmers, compromise farmland conservation, and hurt the consumer safety net.

The next step in the farm bill process is the agriculture committee markup next Wednesday. Between now and then, we need you to raise your voice and tell Republicans and Democrats what amendments and fixes are needed to get this bill into shape. Moving forward, here’s the good, the bad, and what you can do to help.

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Finding Farmland: Upgrade Released

If you have been using NYFC’s Finding Farmland site, get ready for a big upgrade to the Land Affordability Calculator. And if you haven’t—try out the new version now!

A decision-making tool designed specifically for farmers seeking land, the Finding Farmland Calculator makes it easy for farmers to understand and compare farm financing options, determine what they can afford, and prepare to work with a loan officer. Since our beta release in October, we have consulted dozens of farmers and service providers to identify improvements to the calculator. We are excited to now release the new-and-improved version.

The calculator allows you to build your own land purchase scenarios using conventional financing options, like bank loans, or with other farmland access strategies, such as conservation easements and lease-to-own deals. Compare financing options to determine how best to afford farmland, or stack up one property against another. Once you build a scenario, enter some financial information to determine how affordable the property is for you and your business. Download your results to compare scenarios and share them with mentors and lenders. NYFC does not save any financial information entered into the tool.

We intend the Finding Farmland Calculator to serve you at any point in your search for land. If you’re just getting started, the site will introduce you to financial terms and options you should be familiar with. For those in the midst of a land search, rely on the calculator as a decision-making tool, helping you keep your property and financing options organized for easy comparison. Think of it as your own, personal loan officer.

We encourage agriculture educators to use the Finding Farmland Calculator, and the other educational tools on the Finding Farmland site, in their business planning programs. More educational resources for land-seekers or service providers, and help documents for the calculator, are available at our Finding Farmland Calculator resources page.

Don’t forget to rate the tool to let us know what you think, and sign up for NYFC’s email list to receive updates on our work! Contact findingfarmland@youngfarmers.org with any questions or suggestions.

 


THIS PROJECT IS SUPPORTED BY A GRANT FROM THE USDA NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURE THROUGH ITS BEGINNING FARMER AND RANCHER DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM.

THE LAND AFFORDABILITY CALCULATOR WAS DEVELOPED WITH FATHOM INFORMATION DESIGN, A BOSTON-BASED DATA VISUALIZATION STUDIO.

Ask your Representative to Support the Young Farmer Agenda

The Young Farmer Agenda is NYFC’s policy platform for the next farm bill. By enacting the Young Farmer Agenda, Congress can inspire and support an entire generation of young producers, protect the resources they steward, strengthen the communities they feed, and revitalize the rural economies they underpin.

Call your Member of Congress today to ask them to support the Young Farmer Agenda!

NYFC has worked with Congressional champions to introduce two beginning farmer bills in the House that support the Young Farmer Agenda: the Young and Beginning Farmers Act (H.R. 4201) and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act (H.R. 4316). Both of these bills address top challenges for young farmers by expanding access to affordable farmland, improving outreach and delivery of federal programs to new farmers, and increasing federal investments in training, business development, and local markets.

TAKE ACTION: Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and press 2 for the House of Representatives. When you’re connected, introduce yourself and ask that your representative sponsor H.R. 4201 and H.R. 4316. Tell them why you care!

Email Andrew or Sophie with any questions. 

Thanks for taking action!

 

On the County Line

Eva Moss farms in North Carolina on the line between a solidly red county and a solidly blue county. Photo credit: Lea Ciceraro

By Eva Moss

Last January, I began leasing 16 acres of historical farmland along Highway 64, just outside the town of Staley in Randolph County—“the heart of North Carolina”—a few seconds west of the Chatham County line. When I walk out to get the mail at the top of my driveway, I look left and can just see the tip of the sign that reads “Chatham County,” as I send up a prayer that the cars rushing along the highway won’t nip me.  (more…)

Tell the Senate to Address Farmer Student Loan Debt

We have a huge opportunity to advance our student loan campaign.

 

The Senate is rewriting the Higher Education Act, which includes federal student loan policy and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. They’re soliciting input from key stakeholders—we need to speak up for young farmers!

The Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee has set up a special email address to receive public comments about what their new Higher Education Act should include. Please take a few minutes to tell them that it should include student loan forgiveness for farmers, and send your comments to highereducation2018@help.senate.gov. Please Cc or Bcc action@youngfarmers.org so we can track our impact.

The deadline for comments is Friday, February 23rd. We have some suggested email language below, but any message that calls attention to the burden of student loan debt for farmers will go a long way with Senators on the Committee.

Here’s what to say: 

[Note: these emails are always most effective when they’re personalized.]

Dear Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray,

Thank you for the opportunity to provide input into the Committee’s work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.

[Insert personal info. For example: are you a farmer, former farmer, or aspiring farmer? Where? What’s the name of your farm and what do you grow? Do you have student loan debt? How has that impacted your career?]

According to a 2017 national survey of young farmers in the U.S. conducted by the National Young Farmers Coalition, student loan debt is the #2 challenge young farmers face—second only to land access.

Bringing young people back to the farm or ranch is a national priority. The average age of the American farmer is increasing, and farmers over the age of 65 outnumber farmers under the age of 35 by a margin of six to one. Young people are ready to farm, but student loan debt is keeping them from starting.

A bipartisan bill in the House, the Young Farmer Success Act (H.R. 1060) would address this urgent issue by adding farmers to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. We strongly urge the Committee to include this language when it reauthorizes the Higher Education Act. Providing loan forgiveness for farmers after ten years of income-based payments would help new farmers reinvest in growing their businesses and incentivize more young people to enter careers in agriculture at the exact time our country and our rural communities need them.

Sincerely,
Your Name

Thank you for taking action! 

 

Finding and Funding Your Farm

By Michael Durante, Land Access Program Associate

A thin line separates opportunity from crisis in America’s agricultural economy. Farmers over the age of 65 now outnumber farmers under 35 by a margin of six to one, and U.S. farmland is overwhelmingly concentrated in the hands of older farmers. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), nearly two-thirds of farmland is currently managed by someone over 55. Yet young Americans continue entering agriculture despite the odds. For only the second time in the last century, the 2012 Census of Agriculture registered an increase over the previous census in the number of farmers under 35 years old.

The demographics suggest that finding farmland should be easier now than ever, and indeed the National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates that over the next five years, nearly 100 million acres of U.S. farmland are expected to change ownership. But beginning farmers consistently find that accessing land—particularly finding and affording land on a farm income—is the number one challenge they face. NYFC’s 2017 National Young Farmer Survey found that 75 percent of young farmers did not grow up on a farm. First generation farmers have particular difficulty building the collateral necessary to qualify for financing while renting land, earning low pay as farm workers, or paying back student loans.

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Sustainable farming depends on sustaining farmers

By Mai Nguyen

I am writing in the aftermath of the Tubbs and Mendocino Lake Complex fires that devastated my farm community. To remain optimistic, I think of what I’m grateful for. In this context, I’m honored that the National Young Farmers Coalition invited me to share my farming experiences and reflections, and I appreciate King Arthur Flour’s support of this project. I thank you, the reader, for taking interest in the lives of young grain farmers. Andrew, Halee, and John have inspired me with their different approaches and techniques, and I wish them great success. We should all be able to enjoy responsibly-grown food while living in a cared-for environment.

But collective success requires collective action. It took community cooperation to nourish and shelter those displaced by the fire, and continued collaboration will be required for rebuilding homes and farms. We as a society must work together to address farming’s broader challenges.

The primary challenge is compensation.

Sustainable farming depends first on our ability to sustain farmers. Our country has never equitably compensated farm labor, and has too often worked actively against it. We haven’t invested in the human and environmental health conditions for safe farming and eating. Is it a wonder, then, why young people don’t remain in or take up farm work? (more…)