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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Victory in Colorado! Bipartisan Apprenticeship Bill Becomes Law

Over the last year, NYFC chapters and members across Colorado testified, authored op-eds, met legislators in Denver, and brought legislators out to the farm to talk about the importance of supporting beginning farmer education through apprenticeships. SB18-042, a bipartisan effort to create an Agricultural Workforce Development Program is the result of their efforts. 

Today, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper traveled to Durango, CO to sign SB18-042 into law.

The bipartisan legislation passed unanimously from the first-ever Colorado Young and Beginning Farmer Interim Study Committee, established in 2017, before heading to the full General Assembly this session. The new program will reimburse qualified agricultural businesses up to 50% of the cost of hiring a farm apprentice, helping existing farmers and ranchers stay in production while allowing young farmers and ranchers to gain better access to land, equipment, and mentorship in Colorado.

If Colorado wants to save family farms, we need to find ways for young and beginning farmers to be farmers,” said Representative Marc Catlin (R-Montrose), one of the prime bill sponsors in the House. “This bill will help start that conversation.”

“Our agricultural lands are an essential part of the fabric of Colorado, and we must do what we can to keep them viable and productive,” said Representative Barbara McLachlan (D-Durango), the bill’s other prime sponsor in the House. “Young and beginning farmers represent our future, our environment, and our economy.” In the Senate, the bill was championed by prime sponsors Sens. Kerry Donovan (D-Vail) and Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa).

This bill comes at a critical moment for Colorado agriculture, which is reflective of national trends. The average age of farmers in the state is 59, higher than the national average. Sixty-four percent of Colorado producers will exit farming over the next two decades, and over 20 million acres, or 63% of Colorado’s agricultural land, will need a new farmer. But there are not enough young farmers to take over: Colorado farmers over 55 outnumber farmers under 35 by twelve-to-one. Ensuring that young farmers and ranchers have access to land and mentorship is critical to the future of agriculture in Colorado.  

Reps. Catlin and McLachlan attended Thursday’s bill signing. Joining them were dozens of local farmer and rancher leaders from the Four Corners Farmers and Ranchers Coalition, a joint chapter of NYFC and the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, as well as members of FFA and the Old Fort Lewis Farmer Incubator Program.

So many organizations, individuals, and legislators rallied behind young farmers in this effort over the last year, showing that support for the next generation of farmers and ranchers is here. Let’s keep it going.

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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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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NYFC’s 3rd Annual National Leadership Convergence

In early November, more than 80 young farmers, staff, and speakers from 26 states gathered at Old Town Farm in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for NYFC’s 3rd annual National Leadership Convergence. Farmers from Georgia to Oregon, Minnesota to Arizona came together to sharpen their organizing and advocacy skills, strengthen their networks, and strategize together how to win a farm bill that supports all young farmers.  

Now is a critical moment for young farmers across the country to galvanize their voice as Congress negotiates the next farm bill. The farm bill affects nearly every aspect of food and agriculture in the U.S., from farm financing and beginning farmer education to farmland conservation and nutrition assistance. Convergence leaders returned to their home chapters—now 40 nationwide and growing—with tools for change and a national movement behind them.

Lindsey Lundsford of Tuskeegee, AL, and Eduardo Rivera of Minneapolis, MN.

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Spread the Word: New Report on Young Farmers

 

This is big news, and we need your help sharing it far and wide!

In early 2017, NYFC conducted the second-ever National Young Farmer Survey, collecting data from thousands of young farmers across the U.S. Now we’ve released the report on our findings and present a policy roadmap to help young farmers succeed!

Please read the report, “Building a Future with Farmers II: Results and Recommendations from the National Young Farmer Survey.” Then help us spread the word and keep up the momentum heading into the farm bill!

 

Click to read the report.

 

News from the West


The end of summer brought both bounty and hardship to Western farmers and ranchers. From hurricanes to fire, flood to drought, many have struggled with serious impacts to both their operations and their communities.

But as farmers do, you are rebuilding, pitching in, and standing together. Times like these remind us how important it is to strengthen our communities and build a common voice for resilient agriculture.

NYFC’s Western team has been working with members across the West to do just this. Here’s some of what we’ve been up to recently.

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