I write on Grist about my small farm, but my day job is different. I’m an organizer for the Nebraska-based Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA). One of the things we do at CFRA is try to tweak federal farm policies in ways that help rural farm communities thrive. And this past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about developments in Washington that affect both new farmers and rural communities in general.
Recently, White House phone lines have been ringing off the hook as thousands of consumers responded to a coordinated action alert by farm groups, calling to express their support for the Fair Livestock Competition rule. Also known as the “proposed GIPSA rule” [PDF], the goal is to create active competition in the livestock marketplace, so that meat processors can’t unfairly manipulate prices. The USDA has written a fairly strong rule, and industry pressure has caused delays in the roll out of the new rule.
Meanwhile, President Obama released his budget this week, which included farm payment cuts to wealthy farmers and land owners, saving an estimated $2.5 billion dollars over 10 years. The idea to bar people over a certain income from receiving any farm payments caught hold in the last farm bill debate. This new proposal would cut off farm payments to individuals making more than $500,000 instead of $750,000 in on-farm income, and limit off-farm income to $250,000 instead of $500,000.