Tuesday, March 28, 2023

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Communities, Farmers Want Say in Farm Bill Priorities

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Tuesday, January 31, 2023   

The upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Bill should be developed from community needs, not corporate interests, Advocacy groups in North Carolina said. The final Farm Bill will shape what happens in agriculture for the next five years.

Margaret Krome-Lukens, Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA Policy Director, explained the legislation impacts student farming, farmers' access to credit, crop insurance, commodity programs and more. She said decades of food consolidation have placed resources in the hands of a few major corporations, and believes lawmakers should consider community and small farmer voices as they work on the next farm bill.

"Farmers and local communities should be the ones making the decisions about what kind of a food system they want, and not corporations that are coming in and dictating what kind of terms a farmer can get on a contract, or how they're allowed to use the seeds," Krome-Lukens said.

Fewer farmers are using contracts compared with 25 years ago, according to data from the USDA. In 2020, 5% of U.S. farms used marketing contracts, compared with 11% in 1996.

Krome-Lukens pointed out that regardless of operation size, farming is not an easy profession, and added many pieces of the infrastructure of our local and regional food systems have been hollowed out, shrinking options for meat processing or wholesale markets. She said that the upcoming Farm Bill is a chance to rebuild and strengthen local and regional food infrastructure.

"Small-scale farmers and beginning farmers can be at a real disadvantage when it comes to accessing federal resources or farmers who are doing something a little bit different in terms of production or niche marketing or innovative practices," she said.

The nation's small family farm operations held an average of $90,000 dollars in debt, according to 2019 federal data.


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