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Focus farm bill on small farmers, not corporate ag, says Land Stewardship Project

When Congress writes the new farm bill, it should put a moratorium on agribusiness mergers, eliminate USDA cost-share money for methane digesters on factory farms and reduce crop insurance premiums for farmers who implement soil-health practices, said the Land Stewardship Project on Tuesday. The LSP, based in the upper Midwest and a proponent of sustainable agriculture, said the 2023 farm bill should restore competition in the marketplace and pay farmers for practices that have climate benefits.

“In this farm bill, I would like to see more support for small farmers, and I think that one of the best ways to do that is to put a stop to corporate consolidation in agriculture and food systems, across the board,” said Claudia Lenz, a Wisconsin farmer and member of LSP’s farm-bill committee. Active in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, the LSP surveyed farmers and held listening sessions in developing its farm bill platform.

Half of the 700 respondents to the survey said they had trouble maintaining access to viable markets or finding affordable farmland.

The LSP said it supported moratoriums on agribusiness mergers; elimination of Environmental Quality Incentive Program funding for factory farms; restoration of mandatory country-of-origin meat labels; “fewer or no” conservation subsidies to the largest farms, including for methane digesters; putting more emphasis on USDA working lands programs,  on practices such as rotational grazing, cover crops and perennial crops; incentives for farmers to maintain conservation practices on their land; and payment caps on crop insurance subsidies to “the largest, industrial farms” as a way to hold down land prices and give small and beginning farmers a better chance to rent or buy farmland.

By contrast, many of the larger U.S. farm groups have called for higher reference prices, which determine crop subsidy payments, as a counterbalance to higher production costs and continued support of the crop insurance system. The government pays roughly 62 cents of each $1 in premiums.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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