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Farm Bill Good for Young Farmers

7 June 2012, at 8:04a.m.

US - The next generation of US farmers and producers are urging Congress to pass the Senate Agriculture Committee-passed farm bill this year.

Sarah Leonard, a fourth-generation dairy producer from Virginia, said she was excited to see that the Farm Bill legislation contained a variety of provisions to help beginning farmers like her continue to make a living from family farms, including access to capital, crop insurance, and mentoring programmes.

"I can rely on my parents for their wisdom and perspective, but it would be great to know that the farm bill also has tools that I can use to keep our family business going. I would like to sell milk, not sell our land to developers," she said.

The Farm Bill legislation is not just about the next five years, but the next generation of farmers in America, Ms Leonard concluded. “Dairy producers appreciate the work that Senators Stabenow and Roberts, and their colleagues, have done so far. Now it is up to all 100 Senators to take it from here,” she said.

Ben LaCross, a young fruit grower and Farm Bureau member from Michigan said without the bill, crop losses could be catastrophic, especially for beginning and young farmers.

Mr LaCross said that due to various weather conditions impacting farms this year, his state has lost an estimated 90 per cent of its apple crop, 85 per cent of its grapes, 95 per cent of its peaches and 85 per cent of its cherries.

“If the committee’s farm bill were in existence today, I would have the opportunity to cover more of my crops under crop insurance, using new programs that would provide better coverage at a lower cost,” said Mr LaCross. “It would also provide the ability to use more realistic production numbers by increasing the ‘yield plug’ in years like this one, when my production is going to be almost zero.Importantly, the bill also increases crop insurance assistance to beginning farmers.

“Crop insurance helps keep families like mine in business.”

The Senate farm bill also continues the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Programme, which offers education, training, outreach and mentoring programmes to ensure the success of the next generation of farmers.

Further, it increases access to capital and prioritises the needs of beginning farmers to ensure they have access to programmes like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program – a programme that is critical to farmers and ranchers striving to be good stewards of the land and trying to meet tough environmental mandates.

Lastly, the bill encourages older farmers to help beginning farmers get started in the business by providing two extra years of Conservation Reserve Programme participation to retiring farmers who transition their expiring CRP land to beginning farmers.

“The Senate Agriculture Committee’s 2012 farm bill legislation would be very helpful to me personally and other fruit and vegetable producers in Michigan,” said LaCross. “But, more importantly, it is a good bill for young and beginning farmers and ranchers.”

The Senate is expected to take a procedural vote on cloture this week, after which debate on the farm bill will commence.