Given the persistent and ongoing economic challenges in farming and rural economies, National Farmers Union (NFU) is calling on Congress to increase funding for farm programs in the Farm Bill and pass the legislation as soon as possible. The NFU Board of Directors, of which MFU President Gary Wertish is a member, recently passed a resolution to this effect, outlining requirements for a Farm Bill that family farmers and ranchers can support.

The Board laid out a series of 14 recommendations that Congress should follow to provide a sufficient farm safety net, support rural communities, protect natural resources, improve beginning farmers’ and ranchers’ opportunities for success and ensure the nation’s most vulnerable people have enough to eat.

“The Farm Bill, rightly so, touches all aspects of our food system,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “As such, Congress must write and pass a Farm Bill this year that adequately supports each part of the food system—from the family farmers who grow our food, to the land they do it on, to the rural communities they support, and all the way to the consumers who rely on safe, affordable food. Providing adequate support begins with a recognition of the dire economic conditions of the farm economy, the impacts of food production on the land, and the moral imperative of our country to ensure its most vulnerable citizens have access to food.”

Among the NFU Board’s recommendations were a set of changes to the Farm Bill’s commodity title, Title 1, which has not provided adequate relief for farmers amidst the recent, dramatic slide in net farm income. It called for “increased and robust reference prices under the Price Loss Coverage program,” technical corrections to the Agricultural Risk Coverage program, and an “incentives-based inventory management program to manage milk supplies based on market demand.”

Recognizing the role family farmers play as stewards of our natural resources, NFU recommended a strong conservation title that provides “additional acreage under the Conservation Reserve Program,” maintains “funding for working lands conservation programs that promote active stewardship and locally led conservation activities,” and funds “climate mitigation research and technical assistance at national and local levels.”

The NFU Board urged Congress to include “robust funding for programs that promote economic, infrastructure and clean energy development in rural communities,” and to prioritize development of local cooperatives.

Finally, and of equal importance, Farmers Union called for strong nutrition programs in order to provide a safety net against hunger.

“The family farm is the keystone of a free, progressive and democratic national society as well as a strong America, and is the basis of a safe, secure, and stable food system,” wrote the NFU Board. “It provides opportunities for individual enterprise to all families in our society to achieve economic and social stability, as well as soil, water and environmental stewardship of our natural resources and unparalleled production efficiency.

“National Farmers Union’s Board of Directors, in its continued efforts to protect family farms, calls on Congress in 2018 to provide strong support and increased funding in the best interests of family farms, rural communities and consumers.”