As you all know, I’ve added a layer to my sustainability cake: local food. I just posted a comment through the Young Farmer’s Coalition about a bill moving through the House that can help them flourish – and encourage all of you to do the same. Time is short: comment period ends May 19. Post here now.
Here’s what i wrote (second part their standard language)
Dear Chairman Lucas,
Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony to the House Committee on Agriculture on the next Farm Bill. My district representative is being copied on this testimony.
I have lived on Whidbey Island in Washington for 7 years and have eaten the fresh healthy food our farmers produce – even though the price is higher than the industrial farming outlets called grocery stores. Now I am writing a book about it called BLESSING THE HANDS THAT FEED US and, as a NY Times and Business Week best selling author of YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE, I have high hopes of my message going far and wide.
One part of my message is that we need a “Marshall Plan for Young Farmers” – meaning less than 2% of our population farms, the average age of farmers is nearly 60 and our national security and food safety depends on domestic food production. Young farmers face huge obstacles – I know because I feature some in my book. They need training, land and financial support:
* training in growing regionally appropriate crops and marketing them successfully… and this needs to be free or low cost.
* land, either that they own or have secure tenure on for enough years to merit their dedication.
* Mechanisms to level the $$ playing field between industrial and local/organic food; price supports, rebates, tax credits…
And those who choose to start small farms, sell at local markets, feed their regions fresh, affordable, accessible, organic and yummy food need to be our heroes and heroines.
As it’s estimated that 125,000 farmers will retire in the next five years, it’s absolutely critical that Farm Bill programs help citizens get started in this challenging field.
I ask that the Committee endorse all of the provisions of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act (H.R.3236), including:
*Mandatory funding for Individual Development Accounts at $5 million per year. This program helps new farmers raise capital to start farm businesses and is tested and proven by organizations like Practical Farmers of Iowa and the California Farmlink.
*Mandatory funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program at $25 million a year. This program funds essential education for new farmers around the country.
*Authorize a new microloan program, to enable young and beginning farmers to better access FSA loan programs.
*Revise FSA rules to make loan programs more accessible to more young and beginning farmers.
*Reaffirm the existing cost share differential for BFRs within EQIP. Also, reaffirm the advance payment option allowing beginning and socially disadvantaged producers to receive an advance payment for the project’s costs for purchasing materials or contracting services, but increase the limit on the advance payment from 30 percent to 50 percent of costs.
* Amend the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP) to make farm viability part of the purpose of the program and to give discretionary authority to the eligible entities that implement the program to give priority to easements with an option to purchase at the agricultural use value, deals that transfer the land to beginning and farmers and ranchers, applicants with farm succession plans, and other similar mechanisms to maintain the affordability of protected land.
These and other provisions within the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act will help new growers succeed and I urge you to include them in the next Farm Bill.