Small Farms Bite Back

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson

The US House of Representatives has sent the Senate an amendment to the Farm Bill that may save some small farms. A provision of the Farm Bill, known as the 10-acre rule, eliminated federal aid to farms of fewer than ten acres, and to parcels smaller than ten acres included to make up larger farms. Under the proposed amendment, farms of less than ten acres will still be excluded from emergency and non-emergency aid, but those that include aggregated ten-acre parcels will qualify for the aid – that is, if the Senate sees things the way the House did.

Johnna Miller, director of media development for the American Farm Bureau Federation, (more commonly called the Farm Bureau), noted that House approval of the measure, which suspends the so-called 10-Acre Rule, was unanimous. The amended rule will still excludes from aid any farm smaller than ten acres, but for for 2008 and 2009, aggregated farms will be eligible for aid. Congress intended to allow farms to combine smaller plots to bring them above the ten-acre threshhold, Miller said.

But the “USDA response has been that they don’t have to follow congressional intent. They’re going to implement this in a way that’s going to maximize savings and the way to maximize savings is to kick as many farmers out of the program as they possibly can,” reported Farm Bureau policy specialist Tara Smith. “I think that Congress is hoping this will be a message to USDA that if they continue to ignore congressional intent in their implementation of the Farm Bill, that Congress will take action.”

According to a spokeswoman for the federal Farm Service Agency, limiting payments to farms of ten or more acres will save the government an estimated $34 million over five years.

The reason behind Congress’s unanimity isn’t hard to find, Smith said. ”460,000 farms were going to be impacted by this provision or about 20 percent of the farms — 38 percent of the farms in Alabama, 14 percent of farms in Illinois are impacted. This hits every single state.”

The matter is on hold until the Senate takes it up. There is no word yet as to when that will happen.

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One Response to “Small Farms Bite Back”

  1. This is news to me.  And a subject I will now think about. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

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