Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack addressed the Senate Agriculture Committee last Thursday in the first official 2012 Farm Bill hearing. The hearing was held on the heels of a draft of the Agriculture Appropriations Bill put forward by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Agencies on May 23rd, which proposed deep cuts to all sorts of funding.
It’s no secret that cuts are inevitable and the 2012 Farm Bill will be smaller than the 2008 version. The appropriation bill proposed cuts particularly to conservation programs, rural development funding, and research, education, and extension, which includes cuts to the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. During the hearing, Vilsack expressed concern over the House-proposed cuts to conservation programs in particular, which work to benefit both farmers and the environment. Many of these programs, such as Conservation Effects Assessment Program (CEAP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), have become integral part of small- and mid-sized farming operations and have a demonstrated positive impact on the environment.
Much to our encouragement, Vilsack noted that, while programs targeting young or beginning farmers have been utilized, the number of new farmers entering the field has not been enough to replace the rapidly aging current farming population. He stressed the need for more support systems and incentives for new farmers through means other than just the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.Vilsack also recognized the need for crop insurance and disaster relief.
There’s lots to do, and not much money to do it with. Let’s hope that Vilsack and the Agricultural Committees maintain some of their voiced goals around conservation and new farmers as the 2012 Farm Bill process moves forward. To take action against the House Agriculture Appropriations Bill, call your Senators and tell them to reject the bill!
This article was posted from National Young Farmer’s Coalition