Farm bill debate gets rolling in the Senate

Ben LaCross, a young fruit grower and Farm Bureau member from Michigan, urged Congress to pass the Senate Agriculture Committee-passed farm bill this year. Speaking at a press event on Capitol Hill on behalf of the American Farm Bureau Federation, LaCross said without the bill, crop losses could be catastrophic, especially for beginning and young farmers.

LaCross said that due to various weather conditions impacting farms this year, his state has lost an estimated 90% of its apple crop, 85% of its grapes, 95% of its peaches and 85% of its cherries.

“If the committee’s farm bill were in existence today, I would have the opportunity to cover more of my crops under crop insurance, using new programs that would provide better coverage at a lower cost,” LaCross said. “It would also provide the ability to use more realistic production numbers by increasing the ‘yield plug’ in years like this one, when my production is going to be almost zero.  Importantly, the bill also increases crop insurance assistance to beginning farmers.

“In a normal year, my farm would produce 4 million pounds of cherries. This year, we will be lucky to harvest 40,000 pounds—only 1% of my normal production. Crop insurance helps keep families like mine in business.”

The Senate farm bill also continues the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which offers education, training, outreach and mentoring programs to ensure the success of the next generation of farmers.

Further, it increases access to capital and prioritizes the needs of beginning farmers to ensure they have access to programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program — a program that is critical to farmers and ranchers striving to be good stewards of the land and trying to meet tough environmental mandates.

Lastly, the bill encourages older farmers to help beginning farmers get started in the business by providing two extra years of Conservation Reserve Program participation to retiring farmers who transition their expiring CRP land to beginning farmers.

“The Senate Agriculture Committee’s 2012 farm bill legislation would be very helpful to me personally and other fruit and vegetable producers in Michigan,” LaCross said. “But, more importantly, it is a good bill for young and beginning farmers and ranchers.”


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