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New Farm Bill Moves to Full House and Senate

28 year-old farmer Alex Bryan sports a carrot tattoo...or maybe it's a parsnip.  PHOTO CREDIT: Rob South
28 year-old farmer Alex Bryan sports a carrot tattoo...or maybe it's a parsnip. PHOTO CREDIT: Rob South
May 16, 2013

LANSING, Mich. - The U.S. House Agriculture Committee sent a new federal Farm bill to the full House on Wednesday night.

The bill includes provisions to encourage more young people to consider farming as a career. The average age of the American farmer is 57, and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act could bring new blood to agriculture.

Alex Bryan, 28, who co-owns a 10-acre farm in Detroit, said the act can help farmers get started by providing capital or farmable land.

"Land is extremely expensive," he said. "It's difficult to get loans to people without much of a credit history. There's a long list of difficulties and barriers to entry."

In addition to extended credit options and access to farmland, the act also would extend new-farmer training programs, and support for value-added food products such as cheese or salsa. It also will expand resources and create economic opportunities for military veterans.

Bryan said smaller community farms such as his also are helping more young people consider farming.

"I'd like to know the farmers that I buy other food items that I don't grow," he said. "I like to know them. I like to know the size they're at, and that they have a personal hand in what they're doing. And I think that's been the big call more recently."

The Senate version of the Farm Bill also has cleared its committee. The bills are expected to be taken up by the full House and Senate next week.

More information from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is online at sustainableagriculture.net.

Rob South, Public News Service - MI