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Coalition Calls for 'Full and Fair' Farm Bill

Small and new farmers should benefit from the the 2013 Farm Bill, according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Photo, Rob South
Small and new farmers should benefit from the the 2013 Farm Bill, according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Photo, Rob South
July 29, 2013

DETROIT - Time is running out for lawmakers in Washington to pass a national Farm Bill before the current bill, a one-year extension of the previous measure, expires at the end of September.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has rounded up hundreds of signatures from groups representing farm, food and conservation interests, urging legislators to act quickly and fairly to get the bill passed. NSAC policy director Ferd Hoefner is asking the House and Senate to work together to pass a Farm Bill that includes funding for farm, food and nutrition programs, commodity and crop insurance reforms, and conservation and rural economic development programs.

"Whether that's creating jobs in rural communities, or making sure that minority farmers get treated fairly by the Department of Agriculture, or that beginning farmers can get access to credit so they can into agriculture and start as new farmers," those are all important, he said.

The groups also want provisions removed from the bill they say would weaken protections for consumers and small farmers.

According to Diane Conners, senior policy specialist with the Michigan Land Use Institute, a group which is one of the letter's signers, small-scale farm operators and young farmers rely on programs offered in the Farm Bill.

These include "things like micro-loans, and training and marketing plans, because a lot of the local food economy is built on a different kind of relationship than selling into the commodity markets."

Conners said the Farm Bill also helps support Michigan's robust tourism economy.

That's "both in the sense that people like to visit the farms and taste the flavors of this area, but it also is something that is a signature part of our landscape," she said.

The U.S. House and Senate are expected to start their summer recess at the end of this week.

More information is at MLUI.org and at SustainableAgriculture.net.


Rob South, Public News Service - MI