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Will Rural Development Programs Get the Ax in New Farm Bill?

PHOTO: Farmers across Minnesota and the rest of the nation are watching closely as lawmakers in Washington, D.C., work on the 2012 Farm Bill. Photo courtesy Center for Rural Affairs.
PHOTO: Farmers across Minnesota and the rest of the nation are watching closely as lawmakers in Washington, D.C., work on the 2012 Farm Bill. Photo courtesy Center for Rural Affairs.
November 14, 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Approval of a new farm bill is among major pieces of unfinished business in Congress’ lame-duck session.

It's essential that the bill is passed, says Chuck Hassebrook, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs, but even more important that it maintains funding for programs important to rural America.

"That means investing in rural development programs, small-business development that creates an economic future in rural communities, beginning-farmer programs that create a place for young people on the farm."

The 2012 Farm Bill was passed by the U.S. Senate this summer and won approval by the House Agriculture Committee, but has not yet been scheduled for a vote in the full House of Representatives.

With federal budget pressures, Hassebrook says he understands some belt-tightening is needed. He thinks the best option would be to put a cap on the premium subsidies for crop insurance that mega-farms receive.

"Right now, if one corporation farmed your entire state, the federal government would pay 60 percent of its crop insurance premiums on every acre, every year. The Government Accountability Office found that if we just put in a $40,000 limit, that alone would save $1 billion."

Of that $1 billion, Hassebrook says, half could be used for deficit reduction and the rest to fund conservation and rural-development programs which he calls vital for the future prosperity of rural America.

"They depend on people starting new businesses, new farms, new entrepreneurial ventures. There are proven strategies that work to create a future in these small communities. It's been demonstrated that supporting that kind of entrepreneurship creates new opportunities and keeps families in rural Minnesota."

Many of those programs are now in limbo, as the 2008 Farm Bill expired at the end of September.

More information is online at cfra.org.


John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN