Update on 2012 Draft Farm Bill

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The Senate Agriculture Committee passed a draft of the 2012 Farm Bill toward the end of April.  NMAA has submitted to our congressional delegation some key priorities for the 2012 Farm Bill based on a resolution passed by the Congreso de las Acequias.  These were as follows:  

  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP):  Renew mandatory funding levels for this highly popular program, protect set asides for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers, and retain 90/10 cost share ratio for SDFRs.  Add language to the Farm Bill specifically expanding EQIP eligibility to acequias, similar to that provided for tribes. 
  • Socially Disadvantaged Farmer and Rancher Outreach Program (a.k.a. 2501 program):  Authorize mandatory funding at increased or current funding level.  This program was authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill as a result of years of advocacy to improve the participation of minority farmers and ranchers in USDA programs. 
  • Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program:  Authorize mandatory funding at increased or current funding level. 
  • Non Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP):  Reauthorize the premium waiver for Limited Resource Farmers and Ranchers and expand it to include Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers.  
  • Value Added Producer Grants Program (VAPG):  Reauthorize at current funding level along with set asides and priorities for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

The initial draft of the Farm Bill that was considered by the Senate Agriculture Committee did not include mandatory funding for the 2501 SDFR Program nor for the VAPG program.  NMAA along with some allies at the national level requested amendments in the Senate Agriculture committee to restore this funding.  The requested amendments were not accepted by the committee so the next strategy will be to try to make the amendments on the Senate floor which will be more difficult because any increases in spending have to offset by cuts in spending in other programs.   While funding was not restored, the committee made an amendment to include veterans in the 2501 program.  Several minority farmer groups from around the country embraced this change.  See the statement here.

The Rural Coalition was instrumental in seeking sponsors for a Senate Floor amendment to restore mandatory funding for the 2501 program. NMAA assisted by approaching Senator Udall and Senator Bingaman for support.  At press time, NMAA and allies in Washington DC are working closely with both Senators.  Senator Udall may be a lead sponsor of such an amendment. He is recommending that with the addition of veterans to the program, overall mandatory funding should be increased from prior levels.  The Farm Bill is expected to reach the Senate Floor by Memorial Day. 

In the 1990s, Congress enacted the OASDFR program in Section 2501 of the Farm Bill par of a response to decades of discrimination among the USDA to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, which includes Hispanic producers. The purpose of the program was to conduct outreach to these producers to increase their participation in the many USDA programs that are meant to help farmers and ranchers.

For the past two years, the NMAA has relied upon this funding to conduct outreach to acequia farmers and ranchers about USDA programs, which can aid producers in many ways including providing technical and financial assistance for much-needed acequia and individual farm infrastructure. 

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