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What's Wrong With the Senate Farm Bill?
Rural communities, like Clinton, will have a long wait for water/sewer federal funding.


Clinton, Ky. June 14, 2012 - It’s Farm Bill time again - that time every few years when we all in rural America stand up, run around the chairs of federal funding and then - when the music stops - find out who will be left standing empty handed. It’s wheeler dealer time over food America.  At stake in the 1,000 plus page budget bill with funding recommendations of $969 billion dollars to be doled out. At this writing, over 24 billion dollars will be cut.

Rural development funds have been decreasing from 1/3 to ½ since 2003.

This bill accelerates the declines. The giant scissors are out and unless the bill is changed, rural America is about to get sheared.

According to Brian Depew, Acting Executive Director of the Center for Rural Studies:
 
“The farm bill passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee in April was the first in decades to include no funding for rural development. Overall, the last three farm bills dating back to 1996 provided an average of $413 million for the Rural Development title. The new Senate Agriculture Committee farm bill includes no funding at all.”

That means that over 30,000 small towns and counties in rural America stand to lose millions of badly needed dollars.
Scheduled to go are programs close to the hearts of small communities.

Depew says that “The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program will likely die. It provides loans, training, and business planning assistance for businesses with up to 10 employees. There will be more cuts in Value Added Producer Grants for family farmers and ranchers adding new enterprises.”
Energy programs will get a tiny 1.3 billion dollars. That’s bad news for infant biofuel projects like the one currently at the University of Memphis, TN in which Kentucky farmers and ag experts have shown an interest. http://best.memphis.edu/

Ag trade will also take a hit. Funds have been reduced to 3.2 billion to be spent over ten years. 

Kentucky has a direct stake in the programs to be cut. 

Depew’s research shows that “three Kentucky groups received loan capital to finance rural small business start up and grant funds to support training, business plan assistance, etc. with rural small businesses.

• Community Ventures Corporation, 2010 ($500,000 in loan capital, $105,000 in grant funds)
• Kentucky Highlands Investment Corp, 2010 ($500,000 in loan capital, $100,000 in grant funds)
• Minority Economic Development Initiative of Western Kentucky, 2011 ($40,000 in grant funds)

The funding came from the Rural Microentrepeneur Assistance Program. In the last farm bill that program received ~ $4 million per year in mandatory funds. The current Senate bill includes no money for the program. All of these groups would lose future support for rural small business development, if it passes as is.”

According to Depew, “As the bill currently stands, small towns will face longer waits and get less assistance in upgrading water and sewer systems. That is of particular concern to communities facing EPA requirements to upgrade their systems.”

One of the few winners as the bill is currently written is crop insurance. 94.6 billion has been set aside for the program and for those with claims, their deductibles will be reimbursed 100%.

There are moves to amend the bill. Senator Sherrod Brown (D- Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), along with other interested Senators, will offer an amendment when the Farm Bill is debated by the full Senate (as soon as this week possibly). The amendment will restore funding to crucial rural development and beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer programs, including:

• Value-Added Producer Grants - Helps farmers start value added businesses and cooperatives.
• Rural Microentrepeneur Assistance Program - Helps small businesses with start-up financing and business planning and training.
• Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program - Provides resources for training programs to put a new generation of farmers on the land.
• Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program (Section 2501) - Provides resources to reach out to minority and new immigrant farmers, helping them access USDA resources and establish profitable farms.
• Community Water & Wastewater Grants and Loans Program - Provides infrastructure grants and loans to small communities for water and sewer systems.

Senator Mitch McConnell serves on three of the five ag subcommittees:

Natural Resources and Environment;
Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Food and Agricultural Research;
Livestock, Dairy, Poultry, Marketing and Agricultural Security

McConnell, as GOP leader in the Senate, is in position to restore funding to the farm bill in areas that will benefit small farmers and rural communities.

What’s wrong with the Farm Bill?

The Senate forgot rural development, the poor, small farmers and innovative programming in agriculture.

Or did it?


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