Yesterday, I told you about designations in the 2014 Farm Act specifically for socially disadvantaged, limited-resource, beginning and veteran farmers and ranchers. Here are some highlights of those programs in the Farm Bill package:

  • The Outreach and Assistance Program for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, which provides grants and technical assistance through community-based organizations and minority-serving institutions, is reauthorized and expanded to include veteran farmers and ranchers. The package adds authorization to seek up to $20 million more each year through the annual appropriations process. 
  • Authority that allows socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers to collect payments if their base acreage is less than 10 acres was continued  
  • A premium waiver of 50 percent for socially disadvantaged, beginning, and limited resource producers in the noninsured crop assistance program, and a similar premium waiver was authorized in the crop insurance program for beginning and limited resource farmers 
  • The Healthy Food Financing Initiative received new authority and $125 million in funding over the term of the Farm Bill, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP) Incentives Program and the Local Food Promotion Program were each provided $100 million and the Nutrition Education Program was continued (What are SNAP “incentives”? What are the “healthy foods” that qualify for the financing initiative? And why is $100 million allocated to promote local food?)
  • Borrowers of Youth Loans who are delinquent or receive debt forgiveness in USDA youth loans will no longer be rendered ineligible for federal student loan and grant assistance for education (so, even if you don’t pay back your first loans, you can get another one)
  • Five percent of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program funds are authorized to be allocated to support limited resource, socially disadvantaged farmers, and farm workers working to become farmers or ranchers; this program is funded at $20 million each year
  • Statutory authority was provided for the Farm Service Agency microloan program allowing producers to receive up to $35,000 in loans with lower documentation requirements
  • The renamed Value-Added Agricultural Product Market Development Grants funding authority is extended to 2018 at $63,000,000. The program awards grants to increase or create marketing opportunities for value-added producers, including opportunities for cooperative groups, with priority to small and mid-sized and family farms, as well as beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers and ranchers.
    • Five percent of available EQIP funds and CSP acres are to be set aside for socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers and up to 90 percent cost share allowed for socially disadvantaged, limited resource and beginning farmers or ranchers.
    • Authority was added to allow the growing or cultivating of industrial hemp, a traditional product, for research purposed by an institution of higher education or State department of agriculture if the laws of the State permit its growth and cultivation (well now, this will be interesting!)

The Rural Coalition has worked for 35 years to assure that “diverse organizations from all regions, ethnic and racial groups and gender have the opportunity to work together on the issues that affect them all.”  

It is an important and worthy goal. But haven’t we made tremendous strides in 35 years? When is enough “special designation” or “special interest” funding enough? Do you think the Coalition will one day say, “We have equality now and we don’t need these special designations” and it will just disband? Don’t count on it. As long as there is special designation of funds, and no one is there to say “Enough,” our government will just keep spending. At some point, hopefully sooner than later, it will have to stop.