Rural groups push for environmental protections in next Farm Bill
Thursday, December 7, 2023
Even though the current Farm Bill has been extended for a year, rural advocates are speaking up about protecting independent and family farms when the next one is finally debated.
The Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment is calling on lawmakers in Washington to roll back guaranteed loans for large meat and livestock producers, require country-of-origin labeling for beef and improve enforcement of the century-old Packers and Stockyards Act.
Mike Farley, board member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, said the new Farm Bill should be geared toward helping restore competition in the livestock markets for independent farmers while boosting environmental protections.
"We think that the parts of the Farm Bill that are supposed to improve the environment should not even be available to factory farmers, large conglomerate livestock and grain producers," Farley explained.
Right now, for example, factory farms qualify for federal subsidies to install anaerobic digesters, which extract methane from livestock manure and allow corporate farmers to sell the gas for a profit.
Critics of the idea say the digesters do nothing to remove massive amounts of manure still left behind. Large-scale farmers counter they are constantly seeking new ways to be environmentally friendly while responding to an ever-growing demand for more high-quality meat.
Independent farmers lobbied lawmakers in Washington, D.C., last month and said they plan to use the extension of the current Farm Bill to sharpen their focus. Farley added they will continue to battle on behalf of small and independent farmers.
"The farmers who are really trying to save the land or soil and the water and clean air need to have a voice," Farley emphasized. "Iowa CCI and the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment are trying to give them that voice."
Advocates argued adapting the Farm Bill to meet the needs of small and independent producers can be the difference between some of them staying in business or losing their operations.
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