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Indiana Family Farmers Want More Say in Federal Farm Bill

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Tuesday, February 7, 2023   

Agriculture advocates in Indiana say the upcoming reauthorization of the federal Farm Bill should emphasize serving community needs, not corporate interests. The new Farm Bill will shape what happens in agriculture for the next five
years.

Margaret Krome-Lukens, Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA Policy Director, said the legislation impacts student farming, farmers' access to credit, crop insurance, commodity programs and more. She added 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.

96% of the Indiana's more than 56,000 farms are owned and operated by families, according to the Indiana Department of Agriculture, and it is the 10th largest farming state in the country. Agriculture contributes an estimated $31-billion to the state's economy.

Krome-Lukens added regardless of operation size, farming is not an easy profession. But she 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 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.

According to the USDA, fewer farmers are using contracts compared with 25 years ago. In 2020, 5% of U.S. farms used marketing contracts, compared with 11% in 1996. In 2019, small family farm operations held an average of $90,000 in debt, according to federal data.


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