Tag Archives: farm bill

Many Wins for Maine Farmers in the 2018 Farm Bill

After several months of negotiations, the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee just released a final version of the bill that includes many of MFT’s priorities to better support farmers and farmland protection in Maine. Both the Senate (87-13) and the House ( 369 Y, 47 N, 17 NV) voted to pass the bill.

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Here is how MFT’s priorities for Maine farms fared in the final bill:

1. Maintain both the Senate and House farm bills’ increases in funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) to support the placement of agricultural easements in Maine that protect farmland and make land more affordable for the next generation of farmers.

  • Good: The final bill increases funding for ACEP to $450m/year.

2. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increase in funding for the development of local and regional food economies through the establishment of the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP).

  • Good: the final bill combines the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) and the Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG) with a new public-private partnership provision, creating LAMP, and provides the program with $50 million per year in mandatory funding.
    • This funding includes $17.5 million per year in mandatory funding for VAPG, $23.5 million per year in mandatory funding for FMLFPP, and $5 million per year for the public-private partnership provision.

3. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increase in funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), which provides competitive grants to academic institutions, state extension services, producer groups, and community organizations to support and train new farmers and ranchers.

4. Reduce funding cuts to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) so that farmers have the necessary support to address natural resources concerns on their property while keeping their land in production.

  • Mixed: the final bill increases funding for EQIP and CSP for the 5-year cycle of this farm bill (2019-2023), but includes major funding cuts for these working lands programs over the long term, particularly for CSP.

5. Maintain the Senate and House farm bills’ increase in funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Program to increase access to local fresh fruits and vegetables for SNAP recipients, and expand markets for farmers.

  • Good: the final bill reauthorizes FINI and provides it with $250 million in funding over 5 years.

6. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s Buy-Protect-Sell provision so that lands trusts can act quickly using ACEP-ALE dollars to protect vulnerable farmland and then sell the land to a farmer.

  • Good: the final bill contains a Buy-Protect-Sell provision.

7. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increase in funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), which supports research projects that address the most critical challenges facing organic farmers.

  • Good: the final bill increases OREI funding to $50 million per year in permanent baseline funding by 2023, providing a total of $395 million in funding over 10 years.

8. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increases in funding levels for Farm Service Agency (FSA) direct and guaranteed loans.

  • Good: the final bill increases funding to $3 billion for FSA direct loans and $7 billion for FSA guaranteed loans for 2019-2023.

 

Many of these important provisions are taken from legislation that was sponsored by Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Maine Senator Susan Collins. We are very grateful to all of Maine’s congressional delegation for their efforts to create a farm bill that works for Maine agriculture, and to all of you who shared your voices with your delegates!

While much of this Farm Bill is a step in a positive direction, there are many challenges ahead. You can help shape the future for farming by making a gift to support our work in Maine! Give here.

Congress Must Pass a Full Extension of the Current Farm Bill until a New Farm Bill is Enacted

Farmers and communities across Maine and the rest of the country have been waiting on Congress to pass a new farm bill. This bill is the vehicle that provides funding for farmland protection and access, development of local and regional food economies, agricultural research, rural economic development, beginning farmers, and more. More information about MFT’s priorities for the 2018 farm bill can be found HERE.

Unfortunately, the wait continues. Congress did not pass the 2018 farm bill before the current law expired on September 30th. They must now pass an extension of the current law until a new farm bill can be enacted.

But until that happens, nearly 20 of the programs that Maine farmers and others rely on to grow our agricultural economy and protect important farm resources will either cease to operate or have their funding frozen. These programs include:

Please contact Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, Congressman Bruce Poliquin, Senator Susan Collins, and Senator Angus King and tell them we need a full extension of the current farm bill to keep vital services working.

Don’t let Congress leave farmers and their communities behind!

Our Priorities for the Final Farm Bill

Time is running out for Congress to pass a new farm bill. The current farm bill, which was passed in 2014, expires on September 30, 2018. Both the House and the Senate have passed their own versions of a new farm bill. A conference committee, which includes leadership from both Agriculture Committees as well as other House and Senate members, has been formed to work out the differences between the two bills. If the conference committee is unable to produce a reconciled bill by the September 30th deadline, an extension of the current farm bill will need to be obtained to ensure that programs vital to farmers in Maine and across the country continue to operate while the new farm bill is negotiated.

Both the House and Senate farm bills contain important funding increases for the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program (FINI), as described below. Overall, though, the bipartisan Senate bill does more for agriculture in Maine by protecting important farm resources, helping Maine farmers grow their businesses, and supporting the next generation of farmers. In contrast, the partisan House bill guts programs that are vital to farmers and rural communities in Maine and eliminates critical funding for conservation programs. More specific information about the House and Senate bills can be found HERE and HERE.

As the conference committee works to reconcile these two bills, MFT has reached out to our congressional delegation and urged them to work with the conference committee to ensure that the following priorities are included in the final bill:

1. Maintain both the Senate and House farm bills’ increases in funding for ACEP-ALE to support the placement of agricultural easements in Maine that protect farmland and make land more affordable for the next generation of farmers.

  • Senate farm bill: authorizes $400 million/year in FY19-21; $425 million in FY22; and $450 million/year by FY23.
  • House farm bill: authorizes $500 million/year in funding.

2. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increase in funding for the development of local and regional food economies through the establishment of the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP).

  • Senate farm bill:combines the Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG) with the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) and a regional public-private partnership to support and encourage investment in regional food economies, and provides $60 million/year in mandatory funding.
  • House farm bill: does not create a combined program and does not provide any mandatory funding for VAPG or FMLFPP.

3. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increase in funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), which provides competitive grants to academic institutions, state extension services, producer groups, and community organizations to support and train new farmers and ranchers.

4. Reduce funding cuts to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) so that farmers have the necessary support to address natural resources concerns on their property while keeping their land in production.

  • Senate farm bill: reduces funding for EQIP and CSP by $2.5 billion over 10 years, but maintains overall funding levels for the Conservation Title.
  • House farm bill: eliminates CSP, cuts total funding for the Conservation Title by $1 billion, and reduces funding for working lands conservation programs by $5 billion over 10 years.

5. Maintain the Senate and House farm bills’ increase in funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program to increase access to local fresh fruits and vegetables for SNAP recipients, and expand markets for farmers.

  • Senate farm bill: reauthorizes the program and provides $50 million per year in mandatory permanent baseline funding.
  • House farm bill:reauthorizes the program and provides $275 million over 5 years in permanent baseline funding.

6. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s Buy-Protect-Sell provision so that lands trusts can act quickly using ACEP-ALE dollars to protect vulnerable farmland and then sell the land to a farmer.

  • Senate farm bill: contains a Buy-Protect-Sell provision.
  • House farm bill:does not contain a Buy-Protect-Sell provision.

7. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increase in funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), which supports research projects that address the most critical challenges facing organic farmers.

  • Senate farm bill: increases funding to $50 million/year in permanent baseline funding by 2022.
  • House farm bill:increases funding to $30 million/year in mandatory funding.

8. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increases in funding levels for Farm Service Agency (FSA) direct and guaranteed loans.

  • Senate farm bill: increases funding to at least $2 billion for direct loans and $4 billion for guaranteed loans.
  • House farm bill:does not increase funding.

 

Many of these important provisions are taken from legislation that was sponsored by Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Maine Senator Susan Collins. We urge you to reach out to all of Maine’s congressional delegation, including Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, Congressman Bruce Poliquin, Senator Susan Collins, and Senator Angus King, and let them know why these programs are important to you and to farmers generally in Maine.

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

PITCH IN for policy & advocacy

This is a big year for agricultural policy in Maine. In just four months, Mainers will be heading back to the polls to elect our next governor – a governor who will have a significant impact on agriculture in Maine. This year Congress is also drafting the farm bill, the federal government’s primary food and ag legislation that is passed about every five years. While MFT has always worked to keep our finger on the pulse on the policies that affect Maine farms, we are doubling our efforts this year and charting a bold new course for agricultural policy both within the gubernatorial campaign and in Congress.

Over the past eight months, MFT, along with farmers and several Maine-based organizations, have been working together to create an Agriculture Policy Platform to help inform Maine’s 2018 gubernatorial race. The Platform outlines the policy objectives that the next administration should endorse to promote a more economically viable, environmentally conscious, resilient, and equitable agricultural system in Maine.

The Platform aims to spark discussion with and among gubernatorial candidates, to increase attention to food and agriculture issues during the 2018 campaign, and to inform the next administration’s strategies for supporting farmers and ensuring a robust future for agriculture in our state. We will be helping to organize a robust outreach effort to obtain in-person and online feedback on the Platform from farmers and other agricultural stakeholders across the state. Following that effort, a more detailed Platform will be made available to guide the next state administration.

On the federal level, we have also been reaching out to Maine’s members of Congress to advocate for farm bill policies that help to protect farmland in Maine, keep farmers economically viable, grow the local and regional food economies, help farmers steward the natural resources on their property, and support the next generation of farmers. We partnered with several organizations to provide a farm bill advocacy training for farmers so that they can share with members of Congress the importance of different farm bill programs for their businesses.    

If you recognize the enormous economic potential of Maine agriculture, and want strong leadership and understanding from our next governor and a farm bill that works for Maine agriculture, we’d love your support!  

Sign up here for updates on how to get involved! Help us continue to advocate for Maine’s farmers & working landscapes.

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

Senate Agriculture Committee Farm Bill Draft is Mostly a Win for Maine Farmers

On Thursday, June 7th, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) released a bipartisan draft of the farm bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (S. 3042). On Wednesday, June 13th, the Committee voted 20-1 to pass the bill out of Committee. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said that he hopes to bring the bill to the full Senate for a vote by June 29th – the last day that Congress is in session before the July 4th recess.

 

Unlike the House version of the farm bill, this bill supports many provisions that are important for Maine farmers, particularly in the areas of conservation, local and regional food development, and beginning farmers. Many of these provisions are taken from legislation that was sponsored by Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Maine Senator Susan Collins. More specific information about the bill is below. MFT appreciates the work of the Senate Agriculture Committee in crafting and passing a bill that will largely benefit Maine farmers by protecting important farm resources, helping Maine farmers grow their businesses, and supporting the next generation of farmers. However, MFT also hopes to see improvements to the bill to address some of the problematic issues noted below.

 

Funding for Farmland Conservation

 

Good:

 

  • Restores funding to $450 million by 2023 for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which provides funding for easements on agricultural land.
  • Makes changes to ACEP that will both make the program easier to use for farmers and conservation organizations, and encourage easements that keep land in agricultural use.
  • Increases baseline funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which provides funding for conservation activities through public-private partnerships.

 

Problematic:

 

  • Cuts funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) by $1.5 billion over 10 years and for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) by $1 billion. Both of these programs provide farmers with support to address natural resources concerns on their property while keeping their land in production.

 

Local and Regional Food Systems and Rural Development

 

Good:

 

  • Combines the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program and the Value-Added Producer Grant Program with a public-private partnership provision and a new food safety cost share assistance program. The new program, the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP), will help to develop regional food economies, and is provided with $60 million a year in permanent funding.
  • Reauthorizes and provides $50 million a year in mandatory funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program (FINI), which provides competitive grants to projects that help low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables through incentives.
  • Maintains funding for the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP), which helps small and mid-sized organic farm businesses afford annual certification costs.
  • Authorizes and provides $4 million a year in mandatory funding for a new produce prescription pilot program.

 

Problematic:

 

  • Provides no mandatory funding for the Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP), which is a competitive grant program to help farmers and processors comply with new food safety requirements.

 

Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers

 

Good:

 

  • Combines the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) with the Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (Section 2501). The new combined program, the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program, is provided permanent funding of $50 million a year, which is evenly split between the programs.
  • Strengthens the BFRDP component of the new program by expanding its focus to include food safety training, land access, and succession planning; by eliminating the match requirement; and by prioritizing projects with farmer involvement in program design and implementation.
  • Creates a National Beginning Farmer Coordinator position, with designated coordinators in each state, to enhance USDA outreach efforts to new farmers.
  • Increases the set-asides within EQIP and CSP for both beginning and socially disadvantaged producers from 5 to 15 percent.
  • Increases Farm Service Agency (FSA) loan limits for direct farm ownership loans to $600,000.

 

Problematic:

 

  • Does not include a new Farmland Tenure, Transition, and Entry Data Initiative to collect important data on farmland ownership, tenure, transition, barriers to entry, profitability and viability of beginning farmers in order to improve policymaking and analysis.

 

 

Research

 

Good:

  • Establishes permanent funding of $50 million by 2022 for the Organic Agriculture Research & Extension Initiative (OREI), which supports research projects that address the most critical challenges that organic farmers face.
  • Reauthorizes the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE), which provides funding for farmer-driven research.
  • Reauthorizes the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), which provides competitive grants for regional and multi-state projects that conduct research related to specialty crops.

 

Overall, this bill contains many important provisions for Maine farmers. Given that the full Senate will likely vote on the bill in the next week or two, we urge you to contact Senator Susan Collins and Senator Angus King now to make your voice heard about this bill.

Join the MFT Policy List to receive updates about our policy work and action alerts about how you can help shape food and agriculture policy:

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

The 2018 Farm Bill is Rejected in the House

On Friday, May 18, 2018, a draft of the farm bill was rejected on the floor of the House of Representatives by a vote of 198-213, with all Democrats and 30 Republicans voting against it. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and others are trying to obtain enough votes to bring the bill back to the House floor for another vote on June 22nd. Doing so would require reaching a deal with either moderate Republicans or the House Freedom Caucus. These negotiations will involve not only issues related to the farm bill, but also an immigration bill that House Freedom Caucus members are demanding a vote on before consideration of the farm bill. Others are advocating for House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) to restart the process in the House Agriculture Committee, working with Democrats on the Committee this time to produce a bipartisan farm bill that has enough support for passage.

 

MFT believes the best path forward is for the House Agriculture Committee to restart the Committee process and produce a bipartisan farm bill that does not contain some of the devastating cuts to working lands conservation programs and business development programs that support Maine farmers in their efforts to be good stewards of their land and to grow their businesses. Although the draft farm bill contains some important funding increases for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program (FINI), it also contains some provisions that are very problematic for Maine farmers. These provisions include:

 

  • Decreased funding for working lands conservation programs by nearly $5 billion over 10 years, including eliminating the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP);
  • Allowing 100% forested lands to be eligible for ACEP, thereby decreasing the easement funding available for working farms;
  • No mandatory funding for the Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP), the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP), and the Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG), all of which are important to the business development of Maine farmers; and
  • Elimination of the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP).

 

More information on the specifics of the House farm bill can be found HERE.

 

The Senate Agriculture Committee is continuing to work on a bipartisan basis to produce its version of the 2018 farm bill. Although the specific timeline is not clear, the Committee will likely release its bill in the coming weeks. The current farm bill expires on September 30, 2018. If a 2018 bill is not passed by both the House and Senate by September, a bill to extend the current farm bill for some period of time will need to be passed in order for all programs included in the last farm bill to continue to be funded in the interim before the next one is passed.

 

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill is a Mixed Bag for Maine Farmers

On Thursday, April 12th, the House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX) introduced his draft of the 2018 Farm Bill, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2). On Wednesday, April 18th, the Committee voted the bill out of Committee on a strictly party-line vote (26-20). The full House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill in May. This bill is very much a mixed bag for farmers in Maine. Although it contains some important provisions for farmland conservation, beginning farmers, food access, and organic research, it either eliminates mandatory funding, does not increase funding, or makes problematic administrative changes to many programs that are vital to Maine farmers.

 

Funding for Farmland Conservation

Good:

  • Restores $500 million in mandatory funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which provides funding for easements on agricultural land.
  • Makes some administrative changes to ACEP that will make the program easier to use for farmers and conservation organizations.
  • Increases baseline funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which provides funding for conservation activities through public-private partnerships.

Problematic:

  • Cuts funding for working lands conservation programs by nearly $5 billion over 10 years.
  • Eliminates the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which provides farmers with comprehensive support to address natural resources concerns on their property while keeping their land in production. Replaces CSP with Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) stewardship contracts that do not have the core features of CSP and will not have an equal amount of funding.
  • Allows 100% forested land to be eligible for ACEP, diluting the funding available for easements on working farms.

 

Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers

Good:

  • Reauthorizes and continues existing mandatory funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), which provides competitively awarded grants to academic institutions, state extension services, producer groups, and community organizations to support and train new farmers and ranchers.
  • Expands the focus of BFRDP to include food safety training, land access, and succession planning.
  • Includes a new Farmland Tenure, Transition, and Entry Data Initiative to collect important data on farmland ownership, tenure, transition, barriers to entry, profitability and viability of beginning farmers in order to improve policymaking and analysis.
  • Reauthorizes and maintains level funding for the Transition Incentives Program (CRP-TIP) to help facilitate the transition of farmland coming out of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to the next generation of farmers. But it does not make needed administrative changes to improve the effectiveness of the program.

Problematic:

  • Farm Service Agency (FSA) guaranteed operating loan limits are increased without increasing overall program funding, thereby decreasing the opportunity for small-scale and beginning farmers to access loans.
  • No increases to FSA direct farm ownership loan limits.

 

Local and Regional Food Systems and Rural Development

Good:

  • Increases mandatory funding to $275 million over 5 years for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program (FINI), which provides competitive grants to projects that help low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables through incentives.

Problematic:

  • Provides no mandatory funding for the Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP), which is a competitive grant program to help farmers and processors comply with new food safety requirements.
  • Provides no mandatory funding for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP), which is a competitive grant program that funds direct-to-consumer marketing strategies as well as local and regional food business enterprises.
  • Provides no mandatory funding for the Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG), which provides competitively awarded grants to producers to create or develop value-added producer-owned businesses.
  • Eliminates the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP), which helps small and mid-sized organic farm businesses afford annual certification costs.

 

Research

Good:

  • Provides a $10 million increase in mandatory funding for the Organic Agriculture Research & Extension Initiative (OREI), which supports research projects that address the most critical challenges that organic farmers face.

Problematic:

  • Reauthorizes the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE), which provides funding for farmer-driven research, but provides no increases in funding.
  • Reauthorizes the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which provides competitive grants to researchers to solve pressing challenges facing farmers and society, but provides no increases in funding.
  • Reauthorizes the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), which provides competitive grants for regional and multi-state projects that conduct research related to specialty crops, but provides no increases in funding.

 

Although there are many aspects of this bill that need to be improved for the benefit of Maine farmers, the vote by the House Agriculture Committee is just the first step. The full House of Representatives is supposed to vote on the bill in May. We urge you to contact your representative, either Congresswoman Chellie Pingree or Congressman Bruce Poliquin, to make your voice heard about this bill.

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

A Bill to Help the Next Generation of Maine Farmers

There are indications from leaders in Congress that significant action on the next farm bill will happen in early 2018. Given the number of bills on Congress’ plate for 2018, this timeline could certainly change, but it is important to highlight some bills that have been introduced for inclusion in the farm bill that would be very beneficial for Maine farmers.

We previously wrote about one of these bills, the Local FARMS Act, which was introduced by Maine’s own Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) along with others in October 2017. Another important bill is the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2017, which was introduced on November 8, 2017 by Tim Walz (D-MN) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE). Maine Farmland Trust is proud to support this legislation because it would ensure that beginning farmers have better access to farmland, equitable access to financial capital and federal crop insurance, and encourage a commitment to conservation and stewardship.

In our work, one of the biggest challenges we face is that Maine farmers age 65 and older own or manage 36% of the farms in Maine, but over 90% of them do not have identified successors.[1] This means that over the next decade the future of over 400,000 acres of land in Maine is uncertain.[2] And on the national level, nearly 100 million acres of farmland (enough to support nearly 250,000 family farms) is set to change hands over the next five years – during the course of the next farm bill. At the same time, aspiring farmers both in Maine and nationwide are facing significant barriers to success in agriculture, including the limited availability of affordable and desirable farmland, challenges in acquiring start-up capital and financing, and limited access to hands-on training and risk management tools. Many of MFT’s programs, including Maine FarmLink, our Purchased Easement Program, and the support services we provide to beginning farmers are focused on addressing these challenges. But our federal policies must also make it possible for the next generation of American farmers to support their families, revitalize rural communities, and protect our shared natural resources for generations to come.

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act lays out a national strategy for addressing these long-standing entry barriers for beginning farmers while providing the tools that the next generation of farmers needs for economic success. The strategy outlined in the legislation includes the following measures:

  • Expanding beginning farmers’ access to affordable land through the prioritization of Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) projects that maintain agricultural farm viability and include affordability protections, such as an option to purchase at agricultural value (OPAV). The bill would also direct the National Agricultural Statistics Service to collect and report data and analysis on farmland ownership, tenure, transition, barriers to entry, and the profitability and viability of beginning farmers.
  • Empowering new farmers with the skills to succeed in today’s agricultural economy by securing permanent support of $50 million a year in funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) to ensure long-term investments in new farmer training, particularly those programs focused on food safety training, land access, farm transition, and succession planning. The bill would also create a new matched savings asset-building and financial training Individual Development Account program. In addition, the legislation would increase funding for the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program to $5 million per year to support 1:1 technical assistance and start-up capital to foster new farm businesses.
  • Ensuring equitable access to financial capital and federal crop insurance by ensuring farmers are able to finance new farm purchases by raising the cap on FSA Direct Ownership Loans to $500,000, adjusted annually by regional farmland inflation rates. The bill would also expand beginning farmer crop insurance incentives to all new farmers under 10 years, and create an on-ramp to Federal Crop Insurance for beginning farmers with no revenue history through the Non-insured Crop Assistance Program.
  • Encourage commitment to conservation and stewardship across generations by increasing beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer participation in working land conservation programs through the increase of the existing set-aside from 5% to 15% within both the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The bill would also simplify the EQIP Advance Payment Option to ensure automatic enrollment for both beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers.

The full text of the bill can be found HERE.

MFT is currently creating a more interactive webpage for our policy program. Sign up HERE to be alerted when the page is live, and to receive policy updates and action alerts.

[1] American Farmland Trust (2016). Gaining Insights, Gaining Access. Northampton, MA: American Farmland Trust. Retrieved from http://www.farmlandinfo.org/sites/default/files/AFT_ME-FS_C_GainingInsight_GainingAccess.pdf.

[2] Id.

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.