University of Vermont

The Women's Agricultural Network

What’s Inside the Farm Bill?

“After two years, a gazillion action alerts, phone calls, follow up phone calls and reminders, the 2008 Farm Bill was passed,” write our friends at the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture. Following is a summary of provisions that are particularly relevant women-owned, small-scale, and ecologically oriented farms. The summary was excerpted, with permission, from an article in the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture’s newsletter.

Conservation Stewardship: Originally passed in 2002 as the Conservation Security Program, CSP rewards farmers for good stewardship. The new, streamlined CSP will now have a continuous, nationwide sign up and retains strong stewardship standards. There is a farm payment limit of $200,000 in any five year period.

National Organic Certification Cost Share: This program helps to defray costs of USDA organic certification, The funding for this 2002 program has been increased to $22 million over the life of the Farm Bill, with a payment limitation of $750 per farm.

Organic Research and Extension Initiative: This 2002 program has been strengthened to include $78 million annual mandatory grant funding over four years for organic breeding, marketing, and policy research. Conservation and development of new and improved seed varieties for organic agriculture are new grant purposes.

Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers: The Farm Bill significantly increases funding for competitive grants and contracts with entities that assists socially disadvantaged producers and helps them participate equitably in the full range of USDA agricultural programs.

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development: Passed in the 2002 Farm Bill but never funded, this program will make competitive grants to entities providing education, outreach and technical assistance to beginning farmers. The new Farm Bill provides $78 million in mandatory funding over four years. The Farm Bill also provides a pilot Individual Development Account program in 15 states to match personal savings accounts of new farmers up to $6,000 per year towards the purchase of farmland, equipment, livestock or other farm assets. However, no mandatory funding was provided.

Value-Added Market Development: This program helps small and mid-size farms with planning grants and capital to process raw products into marketable goods, thereby increasing farm income. It received $15 million in mandatory funding, with an option to authorize additional funding of $40 million annually. There is also a simplified application for proposals of less than $50,000.

Rural Microenterprise Assistance: This program will offer grants and loans to entities providing micro credit, training and technical assistance to start-up or expanding rural businesses.

Community Food Projects: This program works to increase food security by bringing the whole food system together to assess strengths, establish linkages, and create systems that improve community self-reliance. It received $5 million in mandatory annual funding. There is also funding to provide technical assistance for storing, processing and marketing locally produced agriculture products.

Business and Industry Loans: A new purpose for an existing guaranteed lending program that supports the creation of enterprises that process, distribute, aggregate, store, and market locally or regionally produced agricultural food products.

Farmers Market Promotion: This program makes grants to eligible entities to establish, expand and promote farmers’ markets. This 2002 program has been reauthorized with $33 million in mandatory funding over five years, now making agri-tourism activities eligible for support.

Last modified May 13 2009 10:10 PM

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