FARM BILL HELP NEEDED -- Please act NOW if you can

It’s back! The 2018 Farm Bill is moving through Congress again – this time in the Senate.

The good news? This bill largely does right by sustainable agriculture, local food, beginning farmers and farmers of color, organics, and more. It is overall a step in the right direction.

The bad news? The bill also includes major corporate giveaways that make it harder for family-scale independent farmers and ranchers to succeed. To build a more sustainable food and farm future we’ve got to have both those good investments in farmers and reforms to the policies that underpin the system.

Right now, this bill lets Wall Street investors and non-farmers collect nearly unlimited farm subsidies, which contributes to unaffordable farmland for all but the wealthiest folks and distorts competition for everyone*. In addition, a proposal on the table to increase farm loan limits would allow large industrial CAFO** operations to swallow up most farm loan dollars – taking resources away from other independent farmers who depend on federally guaranteed loans to finance their land and operations.  

Family farmers and ranchers deserve an equitable playing field and access to the land and capital they need to succeed: the 2018 Farm Bill should reflect this principle!

Here’s where you come in: the Senate Agriculture Committee is debating the 2018 Farm Bill on Wednesday, and if your Senator sits on this key committee, we need your help..

Can you take 60 seconds to call your Senator?

Here’s a sample message to share:

Hello, my name is [YOUR NAME] and I am a constituent. I understand the Senate Agriculture Committee is marking up the 2018 Farm Bill. I’d like to share a message for the Senator’s agriculture staffer, please. Here is the message: I urge the Senator to SUPPORT Senator Grassley's amendment to the farm bill that will target farm program payments to family farms and stop subsidizing mega farms to unfairly compete with our young and beginning farmers. I urge the Senator to OPPOSE Senator Hoeven’s amendment to increase loan limits, which would support CAFOs at the expense of family farmers in our state. Thank you for your time.

That’s all it takes! Thanks for your help – this is a major turning point in our work for a better 2018 Farm Bill.

* A recently released Government Accountability Office report found that taxpayers provided $260 million in farm program payments to individuals who do not work on a farm. These payments should be targeted to farmers.

** CAFOs are also known as concentrated animal feeding operations and they have significant environmental, public health, and agricultural issues that harm farmers and communities. They should not be subsidized by federal loans at the expense of family-scale farms nationwide.

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Following are the details of each amendments we are focused on with the Senators that need to hear from us and email templates if you'd prefer to email.
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Grassley # 4 - Payment Limits and Actively Engaged in Farming - SUPPORT

This amendment places a hard cap on the total amount of commodity program payments and benefits any one farm can receive annually.  Under the amendment, the annual per-farm cap on payments would be $50,000 ($100,000 for married couples) and the cap on marketing loan gain benefits would be $75,000 ($150,000 for married couples), for a combined total of $250,000 per married couple. The amendment would also close existing loopholes to ensure that payments are targeted to the intended recipients, working farmers. The amendment creates a clear and easily enforced standard, by allowing one additional farm manager to receive a separate payment limit, but preventing the program from being exploited by adding large numbers of non-farm investors to the farming operation to qualify it for countless payment limits. The amendment directly addresses the abuses of the program described in multiple reports from the US GAO and the USDA/OIG and restores good governance to the program.

Senators who need pressure:

Ernst IA

Donnelly IN

Daines MT

Heitkamp ND

Fischer NE

Leahy VT

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Grassley #3 - CAFO loan restrictions - SUPPORT

This amendment would require that FSA loans that support contract production (i.e. CAFOs) be of a similar length to the supporting contract. For all loans, FSA regulations require income sources to be dependable and likely to continue. However, contracts for hog and poultry production are most often flock-to-flock or herd-to-herd, and therefore incredibly undependable and not likely to continue. FSA (and taxpayer) financed mortgages, however, must be paid every month no matter whether animals are delivered or not. This amendment would require that, at a minimum, the contract length be as long as the length of the mortgage to ensure that taxpayers aren’t on the hook to lock farmers into cycles of debt with little chance of long-term success. In the absence of a complete ban or significant restrictions on the use of FSA loans for CAFO facilities, protections for farmers must be built into the loan programs.

Senators who need pressure:

Bennet CO

Ernst IA

McConnell KY

Smith MN

Daines MT

Heitkamp ND

Thune SD

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Hoeven #1 - Loan Limits - OPPOSE

This amendment would increase FSA loan limits across the board, and if adopted, would ultimately decrease access to credit for beginning farmers and others who struggle to secure financing from commercial lenders. While the average FSA guaranteed loan is only $380,000, this amendment would double loan limits to allow taxpayers to finance up to $2.5 million per farmer, to largely support the expansion of contract production and further consolidation in agriculture. If this amendment passes, family scale farms, including beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmers, will ultimately feel the brunt of the impact and face fiercer competition for a limited pool of federal loan funding. The amendment would also double limits on direct loans, which are already oversubscribed and which are critical in financing annual operating expenses, especially for beginning farmers. In other words, increasing farm loan caps across the board would have the self-defeating consequence of making fewer loans available to fewer farmers and ranchers.

Senators who need pressure:

Bennet CO

Ernst IA

Grassley IA

Donnelly IN

Roberts KS

Stabenow MI

Smith MN

Heitkamp ND

Fischer NE

Thune SD

Again - grassroots (alerts! calls! farmer to farmer outreach!) and grasstops (your direct outreach) engagement with ALL Senate Ag Cmte offices is helpful. Especially the Senators listed above for each amendment.

Templates follow. Your action window is NOW through tomorrow morning. Markup begins at 9:30 AM Eastern.

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EMAIL TEMPLATE FOR SENATE AG CMTE MARKUP – JUNE 2018

For use with Senate Ag Committee members

Hi _____,

[Insert small talk re: your last meeting or something else friendly and locally specific]

We at [YOUR ORG] are glad for Senator NAME’s work towards a bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill in the Senate Agriculture Committee.

I understand that the committee will mark up its draft bill tomorrow. There are several key amendments under consideration for a possible vote tomorrow that [YOUR ORG] recommends Senator [NAME] votes as follows:

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Hoeven #1 - Loan Limits - OPPOSE

This amendment would increase FSA loan limits across the board, and if adopted, would ultimately decrease access to credit for beginning farmers and others who struggle to secure financing from commercial lenders. While the average FSA guaranteed loan is only $380,000, this amendment would double loan limits to allow taxpayers to finance up to $2.5 million per farmer, to largely support the expansion of contract production and further consolidation in agriculture. If this amendment passes, family scale farms in [YOUR STATE], including beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmers like [-CUSTOMIZE HERE WITH A BIT ABOUT THE FOLKS YOU SERVE-], will ultimately feel the impact of increased competition for a limited pool of federal loan funding.

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Grassley # 4 - Payment Limits and Actively Engaged in Farming - SUPPORT

This amendment places a hard cap on the total amount of commodity program payments and benefits any one farm can receive annually. The amendment would also close existing loopholes to ensure that payments are targeted to the intended recipients: working farmers. The amendment directly addresses the abuses of the program described in multiple reports from the US GAO and the USDA/OIG and restores good governance to the program. It would help ensure that farmers compete on a level playing field in terms of their access to resources, land, and capital. [IF YOU WANT TO ADD MORE, FEEL FREE]

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Grassley #3 - CAFO loan restrictions - SUPPORT

This amendment would require that FSA loans that support contract production (i.e. CAFOs) be of a similar length to the supporting contract. For all loans, FSA regulations require income sources to be dependable and likely to continue. However, contracts for hog and poultry production are most often flock-to-flock or herd-to-herd, and therefore incredibly undependable and not likely to continue. FSA (and taxpayer) financed mortgages, however, must be paid every month no matter whether animals are delivered or not. This amendment would require that, at a minimum, the contract length be as long as the length of the mortgage to ensure that taxpayers aren’t on the hook to lock farmers into cycles of debt with little chance of long-term success. In the absence of a complete ban or significant restrictions on the use of FSA loans for CAFO facilities, protections for farmers must be built into the loan programs.

[YOUR ORG / FARMERS / ETC] particularly care about these issues because they get at the overall structure of our nation’s agriculture policy – and they directly shape the playing field for family farmers.

I would love to hear any updates you can share about the Senator’s position on these amendments.

Please let me know if there's any way [ORG] can be helpful. We're happy to help share stories about our work with [STATE FARMERS / FAMILIES ETC] at any time. I look forward to being back in touch over the weeks to come as the farm bill moves through the Senate.

 

 

 

Amanda Hodges