On March 4 and 5, 60 independent family farmers, ranchers, and sustainable agriculture advocates from 24 states met with more than 105 legislative offices in Washington DC. Participants urged Congress to restore funding for critical sustainable agriculture programs and pass a farm bill that advances the sustainability of agriculture, rural communities, food systems, and natural resources.
Mac Stone of Elmwood Stock Farm in Georgetown, KY, was among the farmers that made the trip to Washington. Stone has been farming for over 30 years and currently produces certified organic beef, poultry, lamb, eggs, and produce. He spoke with legislators about the value of conservation and sustainable agriculture programs both for his farm’s success and for other farmers in Kentucky and around the nation. Stone says, “a little bit of investment has spurred so much growth of our business.”
Another participant, Daniel Doyle, is a co-founder of Yokna Bottoms Farm in Oxford, MS and current director of the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network. Doyle sees tremendous potential across the state for more sustainable agriculture to thrive.
Doyle, Stone, and other farmers met with legislators and USDA administrators to help them understand how farm bill programs – particularly those left without funding – affect their farms and their communities. Participants urged Congress to restore funding for key programs that boost rural economic development, leverage local initiatives, and support future American farmers in the Continuing Resolution that it debates in March. They also urged Congress to take immediate action to allow USDA to hold a 2013 enrollment for the Conservation Stewardship Program.
They also advocated for passage of a new five-year farm bill that:
· Invests in young farmers and ranchers by funding programs and improving policies that support beginners, and removing barriers that deter entry into farming.
· Increases economic opportunity for farmers, food businesses, and rural communities by investing in the development and growth of local and regional food systems.
· Improves natural resource protection and rewards farmers for good stewardship by increasing investment in and improving voluntary conservation programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
· Brings fiscal responsibility and transparency to farm policy by targeting commodity and crop insurance subsidies to working farmers and tying subsidies to basic stewardship practices.