The Farm Bill re-authorization process has officially kicked off in Congress. Now is a good time to get caught up! This is one of a 4-part blog series in which we will highlight some of the programs that are important to our regional food system and how they should be treated in the 2018 Farm Bill.
Did you know that the Farm Bill is the single largest source of federal funding for conservation?
Conservation programs help farmers steward the land, water and air, and they are crucial for the long-term sustainability of farming operations. Despite all that, we saw deep cuts to these important programs in the last decade.
Expand Funding for Programs Helping Small Farms and Ranches
Environmental Quality Incentives Program helps farmers and ranchers build sustainable, resilient operations.
A Wellsville, Missouri rancher implemented rotational grazing on paddocks separated by solar powered electric fencing, supporting healthier cattle and soil. Other area producers have used EQIP funds to install high tunnels, helping them supply nearby consumers and reduce carbon emissions. Many farmers in our region acquired season extension equipment using EQIP grants, which is why we can enjoy fresh local food year round.
Yet, funding for EQIP and other conservation programs fall short of demand. In fact, 74% of eligible EQIP applications were unfunded in fiscal year 2016, including 575 from Kansas. Congress must expand conservation programs so that demand from farmers and ranchers can be met.
The conservation title also includes important incentives to beginning farmers and ranchers and to socially disadvantaged farmers, like The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program(BFRDP). Sustainable practices are easiest to implement and most successful when used from the start.
As the average age of American farmers is approaching 60 and baby boomers are retiring, these programs must be protected, and outreach funding must be increased in order to manage the transfer of agriculture land underway.