An Update on the Farm Bill
Now that the government shutdown has ended, the Farm Bill is once again a top priority for Congress this fall. The House and Senate have offered up two very different versions of the bill, and so a bipartisan conference committee needs to be chosen so they can get to work negotiating a mutually acceptable solution. Recently, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced the House conferees; hopefully, in the days ahead, these conferees will meet with those chosen by the Senate to reach a consensus on this hotly-debated piece of legislation. Although a date for negotiation between the two legislative branches has not been set, choosing the conferees is a major step towards reaching a solid and lasting Farm Bill.
As we emphasized in this recent blog, the Farm Bill is vital to ESLT. It extends the Federal Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program (FRPP), which provides matching funds so organizations like ESLT can purchase easement rights in order to help working farms and ranches remain productive. We would like to share a study about the FRPP that was recently published by the American Farmland Trust. They concluded that the FRPP is, in fact, “achieving its stated purposes and delivering public benefits.”
They found that the FRPP:
- Keeps land available for agriculture. 96% of landowners reported that their land was actively being used for agricultural purposes.
- Improves the viability of agriculture. 84% of landowners used the proceeds from selling their property’s easement rights to invest in their agricultural operations, which bolsters the local community.
- Encourages conservation. 75% of landowners have implemented conservation practices since selling their easement rights.
- Helps farmers gain access to land. 55% of landowners were able to use their easement proceeds to acquire more land or repay debt on their existing properties.
The American Farmland Trust concludes that, “The FRPP saves a critical resource from development, provides public benefits and addresses the underlying threats to America’s farm and ranch lands. It is a comprehensive response to an urgent issue.”
Now that our government is up and running, we need to take action to ensure that an acceptable 5-year Farm Bill gets to the President’s desk. On behalf of Land Trusts nationwide, we encourage you to contact your local congressmen and women – particularly if they will be serving as conferees – and ask them to pass a workable bill. If you are living in California, your representative conferees in the House of Representatives are Jeff Denham (R), Ed Royce (R), Jim Costa (D), and Gloria Negrete McLeod (D). If you live in one of their districts, give them a call and tell them how important this issue is to you! For a full listing of all the Farm Bill conferees in the House and Senate, click here.