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Farm Bill Programs: Hold Your Horses, Many Aren’t Ready Yet

PHOTO: Montana Farmers Union President Alan Merrill is part of a delegation attending the National Farmers Union Convention this week. He says there are some surprising details in the new Farm Bill. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith
PHOTO: Montana Farmers Union President Alan Merrill is part of a delegation attending the National Farmers Union Convention this week. He says there are some surprising details in the new Farm Bill. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith
March 12, 2014

HELENA, Mont. - A delegation of Montana farmers and ranchers is learning the nitty gritty about the new Farm Bill at the National Farmers Union convention this week in Santa Fe, N.M.

Montana Farmers Union president Alan Merrill said an overview of benefits to small and mid-sized producers surprised him because so much more is available than he had anticipated.

"The small farmers, the veterans and some of the programs for beginning farmers are really encouraged more than ever in this 2014 Farm Bill," he said.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack presented details from the recent Census of Agriculture, showing growth potential for small and mid-sized producers and underscoring a need for outreach to connect those producers to Farm Bill programs.

Just because the Farm Bill became law doesn't mean it's quite ready yet. Merrill said some details in implementing programs still have to be worked out, but he's hopeful that most will be in place by the end of this month.

"The insurance, a lot of people are saying that you go in and sign up, and do all of this and that - they're not at that point in the timing yet," he said. "They just don't have the programs set."

Now that a Farm Bill is on the books, Merrill said, the Montana Farmers Union will be focused on making sure country-of-origin labeling stays in place, promoting the Renewable Fuel Standard, and closely watching several pending free-trade agreements. The group will hold meetings around the state later this month to share information about Farm Bill programs.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT