In October 2008, (former) President Bush signed legislation approved by Congress to restore Farm Bill “safety net” programs for farms with 10 base acres or less. The legislation reversed an interpretation of the 2008 Farm Bill by the USDA that ended direct and countercyclical payment farm program benefits for farms with small parcels of base acres. However, because the House and Senate could not agree on how to pay for it, the 10-acre “fix” were in effect only for 2008. The 10-acre provision once again applied to 2009 crops, excluding numerous farm parcels from safety net programs.
Farm Bureau at first called upon USDA to reverse its decision on how to implement provisions of the new Farm Bill, noting that Congress intended for USDA to allow the combination of small parcels of base acres, whether owned or rented, in meeting the 10-acre requirement. When that approach failed, legislation was proposed in Congress to address the issue – first by Pennsylvania’s Congressman Tim Holden, vice chairman of the House Agriculture Committee – and later by committee chairman Rep. Collin Peterson.
The aforementioned “fix” did not apply to the 2009 crop year. Unless the new USDA leadership reverses the previous interpretation of the 10 acre rule, or chooses to carry out the one year fix for the remainder of the Farm Bill life-span, many Pennsylvania farm parcels will not have access to Farm Bill Safety Net Programs.
More than one-third of Pennsylvania’s farms have base acres totaling 10 acres or less. Thousands of farmers who own, rent or lease land would benefit from USDA taking up this issue for action.
Farm Bureau urges USDA to defer to Congressional intent and allow the reconstitution of farms with fewer than 10 base acres into larger parcels if the total sum of base acres is more than 10.
However, if the Obama Administration is unwilling to reverse the previous interpretation, farmers will need Congress to once again pass legislation ensuring a safety net is in place for America’s small farms that rely on numerous smaller sized parcels of land.