The Farm Bill is a package of legislation that is passed once every five years. The bill heavily influences farmers, how they cultivate their crops and what specific crops are grown. The bill’s goal: maintain fair prices for farmers and consumers; preserve the nation’s natural resources; and make sure our communities have a reliable food supply. It was originally created in 1933 as part of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Agricultural Adjustment Act. The point then: supply subsidies to U.S. farmers during the Great Depression.
The point now: Well, that depends on who the bill is benefiting. And is it really benefiting black farmers? Ironically, the bill is a big piece to the Black Belt Region’s survival. In the past, the bill addressed the following “titles” or topics: commodities, conservation, nutrition (ex: SNAP, better known as food stamps), trade, credit, rural development, forestry, energy, specialty crops and horticulture, crop insurance, miscellaneous outreach programs and farming research/extension/related matters.
And within some of these titles are programs that impact black farmers and have a high likelihood of discontinuing as Congress debated amendments to the bill during 2018. Here’s what you probably didn’t know are paramount concerns of black farmers right now:
LIMTED FEDERAL FUNDING
For decades, small-town black farmers have received smaller slices in federal funding. Funding has become a major challenge for black farmers, especially when the 2014 Farm Bill was cut in half.
CUTS IN PROGRAMS
The Trump Administration has proposed to pull funding for minority and veteran farmers. The Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (known as the 2501 Program) needs to stay in play. This 1990-created initiative within the Farm Bill has helped minority farmers receive training and outreach. If stripped, it will become even tougher for young black farmers to start businesses.
LACK OF LOAN OPTIONS
If the next Farm Bill fails to maintain funding for the Beginner Farmer and Rancher Development Program, it also will make it tougher for the next generation of farmers to gain sufficient funding for local and regional outreach, education, training and technical assistance to kickstart their agricultural career. The USDA loan limits also need to remain low to create larger reserves of money for additional loans.