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Sustainable Agriculture's Wins, Losses in Farm Bill

Wisconsin farmers should feel good about the new farm bill, according to one agricultural analyst. (Michael Pereckas/Flickr)
Wisconsin farmers should feel good about the new farm bill, according to one agricultural analyst. (Michael Pereckas/Flickr)
December 27, 2018

MADISON, Wis. – How did sustainable agriculture fare in the 2018 Farm Bill?

One analyst breaks down the wins and losses.

Margaret Krome, policy director for the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, says the bill provides baseline funding for beginning farmers and local food programs. It also will support research into organic farming.

Krome says these are wins for Wisconsin farmers.

"Those are important for rural communities in the state and for the agriculture community in the state, “ she states. “Money for grazing, money for organic.

“Wisconsin is a state with a strong and growing organic agriculture sector, and that's important that we have that support."

Krome says the Conservation Stewardship Program will be retained, but with cuts.

It's the bill's largest working lands program and provides financial incentive and technical assistance for implementing conservation practices on farms.

Krome says the bill does not establish any meaningful limits for payments of federal subsidies and also allows a larger circle of family members, such as nieces and nephews, to receive payments.

She says this will lead to more consolidation, which will put stress on smaller farms and beginning farmers.

But Krome maintains this shouldn't overshadow other gains for farmers.

"It does offer loans for farmers,” she points out. “It increased some of the loan categories for farmers. It helps farmers be more diversified. It supports conservation.

“Those are all really important accomplishments and shouldn't be minimized."

Krome says this year's farm bill largely is a status quo bill in that it maintains a lot of the major programs of past bills.

The Michael Fields Agricultural Institute would have liked the bill to have included payment caps for subsidies and implement more creative solutions to improve crop insurance and stewardship programs.

But Krome says there is plenty for farmers to be pleased about in the long run.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WI