Posts filed under ‘Farm Lending’

More signs that farm bill could be a part of deficit reduction

There is still no definitive news about the farm bill, but as the deadline for the “fiscal cliff” approaches, there are more hints that the farm bill may be pushed as a part of  a deficit reduction package. As we blogged about previously, the cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) are being sold as a solution to averting the fiscal cliff. Now, Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, has spoken out about the issue:

“The farm bill is one of the only bills that provides substantial deficit reduction that passed the Senate this year,” Stabenow says. “It only makes sense that this deficit reduction bill would be included in a larger deficit reduction agreement.”

The Senate version of the bill would include $23 billion in cuts to nutrition assistance and farm subsidies over 10 years. The House version– which was never brought to a floor vote– would include $35 billion.

While agriculture groups are anxious for a farm bill to be passed, the cuts to SNAP would be devastating to the nearly 50 million people who rely on them, especially in these challenging economic times. We’ve shown before how safety net programs are key to keeping many families out of poverty.

A related news story reports that without a new farm bill, the price of milk could go up to $8 per gallon. The law will revert to the 1940s regulations, which include an out-dated formula for determining the cost of milk.  This would not only be a blow for consumers, but for dairy farmers as well. Even if the cost does not increase all the way up to $8, it is likely that prices will increase both because of a lapse in the farm bill  but also because of the severe drought that affected midwestern farmers.

The issues before Congress right now are pressing and critical to our economy, our agriculture industry, and our families. Hopefully an effort to expedite the passage of a new farm bill won’t compromise the needs of working families across America. As always, the issues are interrelated. A long-term solution would incorporate the needs and perspectives of both.

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December 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm 1 comment

USDA awards $9 million to increase connections between producers and farmers markets

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it will be awarding $9 million to 39 states through the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP). This program is designed to help facilitate more connections between agricultural producers and consumers. The funding includes:

  • More than 40 projects that connect farmers and ranchers to new customers by establishing new markets and other retail outlets, community supported agriculture programs or extend the market season;
  • Seventeen projects that will support the use of new delivery approaches such as online and mobile markets, broadening the customer base for several businesses;
  • Thirteen projects that reinforce USDA’s commitment to new and beginning farmers and ranchers, increasing opportunities, training and support for those just getting started;
  • Twelve projects that focus on initiatives that support American Indian and Alaskan Native communities, and new opportunities for Latino, refugee and immigrant farmers;
  • Ten projects that will help hospitals and health care organizations improve eating habits in their communities through education and the direct marketing of fresh local produce; and
  • Nine projects that support agritourism, bringing visitors and consumers to farms and ranches.

The 2012 award includes $115,000 for North Carolina for the following projects:

  • $62,770 to WakeMed, Raleigh, NC, to improve food access in Wake County by: 1) purchasing EBT equipment, 2) providing training to farmers, and 4) hiring EBT management staff at two farmers markets that serve low‐income residents of Wake County.
  • $44,768 to Foothills Farmers Market Inc., Shelby, NC, to expand production, storage, and distribution of perishable food in a food desert by equipping a market facility with refrigeration and starting a multi‐farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operation.
  • $57,750 to Town of Huntersville, NC, to enhance the Huntersville Farmers Market with new infrastructure and signage at the market, to promote the market with an advertising campaign, and to educate consumers about healthy meals with local produce.

These programs will certainly help expand access to healthy foods, particularly with the emphasis on EBT usage, food deserts, and education. Further discussion of healthy foods access will be happening at the healthy foods forum, NC Grown, on October 9 in Greensboro. Information and registration can be found at http://www.thesupportcenter-nc.org/NCGrown.

September 25, 2012 at 10:41 am

Groups mount pressure on Congress to pass 2012 Farm Bill

Agri-Pulse interviewed House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma) this week on the prospects of Congress passing a new farm bill before the current bill expires at the end of September. Lucas seems relatively optimistic about the possibility of passing the farm bill. When asked if it will happen this year, his response was that even if he had from “midnight to sunrise” he’d try to get it done.

In the meantime, groups have coalesced to put pressure on Congress to move forward. Farm Bill Now is a coalition of agriculture groups who have come together– despite “strong and varied policy priorities”– to pass the farm bill this year. The over 50 organizations that have signed on range from individual commodity associations, conservation groups, cooperatives, and even financing and cooperative groups. On Tuesday, Farm Bill Now held a press conference in Boone, Iowa at the Farm Progress Show, where representatives of the coalition spoke to the needs of farmers and the impact of the drought, but also connecting the Farm Bill to the broader economy:

“According to the USDA, one in every twelve jobs is directly tied back to the farm…. This figure provides us with the reality of the broad scope of this legislation and how it impacts every single American.”

Also this week, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, along with 43 organisations in the Campaign for a Renewed Rural Development, sent a letter urging Congress to keep rural development as a priority in the 2012 Farm Bill. If the current bill expires and the 2008 bill is extended, funding for rural development, renewable energy, and beginning farmer and rancher programs would be discontinued.

Inaction on the Farm Bill is causing uncertainty for agriculture industry, rural development, and for the economy and consumers as a whole. Ultimately, it is a matter of politics and process. As Chairman Lucas said in the Agri-Pulse interview, what is needed is an “open, straightforward process.” However, with only 8 days in September to act, Chairman Lucas and his colleagues in Congress will have to make a concerted effort to overcome the politics of this issue to pass a new bill.

 

 

August 31, 2012 at 10:08 am

NCUA expands credit union lending to aid drought-affected farmers

President Obama is putting the pressure on Congress to act on the Farm Bill during this recess. In a statement this past Tuesday, the President called the Farm Bill “the single-best way that we can help rural communities … in the short-term, but also in the long-term.”

He also announced some new initiatives to help farmers suffering from the drought that has hit the Midwest.  1,500 counties in 32 states have been designated disaster areas.  The new initiatives include $30 million from the USDA to get farmers water for their livestock and land, aid from the Department of Transportation for commercial truckers providing supplies to farmer and ranchers, and help from the Small Business Administration to connect farmers with low-interest emergency loans, counseling, and workforce programs.

In addition to these initiatives, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) will expand credit unions’ small business lending capacity. This is related to the NCUA’s initiative to streamline the process for credit unions to be designated as low-income credit unions, which allows these credit unions to make unlimited member business loans.Credit unions without the low-income designation are limited to a cap on member business loans up to 12.25 percent of assets.  The new process proactively alerts credit unions of the eligibility and allows them to opt-in, rather than having the credit unions apply and fill out paperwork.

The NCUA estimates that over $250 million could be made available for lending through this initiative. Also, 470 federal credit unions are headquartered in the drought-stricken states.

While all of these initiatives would help farmers in the immediate term, a new Farm Bill is necessary for the long-term. Farmers, the agriculture industry, and the nation as whole need to have reforms and policies that will provide guidance and a level of certainty in the years to come.

August 9, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Future Safety Nets for Farmers

The U.S. House Agriculture Committee sent their version of the Farm Bill to the House Wednesday, July 11, 2012 entitled the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act.  This bill is the counterpart to the Senate’s Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, which passed the full Senate in June.  One of the highly debated sections of the new bill is the safety net that the federal government provides for farmers, to protect them from volatile market prices and weather.  Both the House and the Senate repealed the existing Direct Payment, Counter-Cyclical Payment, and Average Crop Revenue Election Programs.   However, the House and Senate differ on how future safety net programs should operate.

The Senate proposed the Agriculture Risk Coverage Program.  Under this program, farmers would have to make a one-time election on whether to cover their farms on an individual basis or by a county basis.  Then, farmers will receive a payment if the actual crop revenue for that year is less than the 89% of the benchmark level.  Farmers are only able to collect if they face losses greater than 11% of expected sales.  Payment would be capped at 10% of the expected sales.

The House proposed a dual program of Price Loss Coverage and Revenue Loss Coverage.  Farmers would have to make a one-time election on what program they would like to participate in.  The Price Loss Coverage determines losses if the effective price of a crop falls below an established price.  Under this program, the farmers would receive the difference between the effective price and the established point.  On the other hand, the Revenue Loss Coverage program would cover farmers for an over 15% drop in the county revenue and the farmer’s payment would be capped at 10% of their share of the county revenue.

The Agricultural and Food Policy Center of the Texas A & M University recently published a working paper comparing the economic impacts of the Senate and House’s recommendations through modeling software.  Their findings showed that more farmers would prefer the House’s Price Loss Coverage option over the Revenue Loss Coverage and the Senate’s package under current and declining price scenarios.

It is important to remember that these programs are further supplemented through traditional crop insurance programs, which can have a great impact on a farmer’s choice and livelihood.  With all of these programs combined, farmers will often be looking at meeting their costs and would have to maintain their own safety net to ensure that they have enough to plant the next season.

July 13, 2012 at 7:59 pm 2 comments

Black Farmer Discrimination Litigation Settlement

After a few extensions, May 11, 2012 is the last day for minority farmers and their heirs to join in the class action civil rights lawsuit settlement.  The original case, Pigford v. Glickman, was settled in 1999.   It alleged that the United States Department of Agriculture was racially discriminating against black farmers in allocating farm loans and assistance between 1981 and 1996.  The consent decree list the class as individuals who:

  1. Are African American
  2. Was farming between January 1, 1981 and December 31, 1996
  3. Applied to participate in a federal farm credit or benefit program
  4. Believed they were discriminated against by USDA on the basis of race AND
  5. Filed a discrimination complaint against the USDA on or before July 1, 1997.

While the original class action had a deadline of Oct. 12, 1999, there were disputes about whether all class members were sufficiently and accurately notified of the proceedings.  Many farmers filed to participate in the settlement after the initial deadline due to confusion over the process.  The 2008 Farm bill allowed for late applicants to still pursue claims, and President Obama designated $1.2 billion to fund the new settlement in 2010.

For more information on the settlement, or if you think you may qualify, please see the informational website for In re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation Settlement.  The class counsel is also available May 11, 2012 on a first come, first serve basis at the Sheraton Imperial hotel at 4700 Emperor Blvd. in Durham, NC.

May 11, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Senate’s Farm Bill and Nutrition Programs

The US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry recently released their draft for the 2012 Farm Bill, entitled the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act.  The committee was hard pressed to search for ways that this farm bill could reduce the deficit and eliminate redundant and confusing programs.  In the end, they were able to reduce the deficit by $23 billion dollars.

Contrary to public thought and the major press releases, the majority of the spending in the Farm Bill’s budget focuses on nutrition programs, not crop subsidies or insurance.  The majority of that budget is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as SNAP or Food Stamps.  This program is considered a safety net to ensure that lower-income individuals can still secure healthy food.

In light of these cuts, the Committee still made a few changes that could have a good impact on increasing low-income access to healthy foods.  One major section that will surely draw attention is the new requirements the bill would place on retailers participating in the SNAP program.  The bill increases the requirements for participating so that each vendor must carry three of the four following categories: “Dairy products; meat, poultry, or fish; fruits or vegetables; and bread or cereals.” Previously retailers were only required to carry two of these four categories.

This is in addition to new incentive programs that would encourage SNAP participants to purchase fruits and vegetables, such as the “Double Up Food Bucks” programs that offer federal matching funds for qualifying purchases, Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program which offers coupons for eligible foods from local farm vendors, and a new program that allows SNAP to be used to purchase shares in Community Supported Agriculture programs.  These programs can offer support to the growing movement across the United States to start buying and offering local, healthy food to low-income communities.

May 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm


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