Ethridge introduces bill to help small farmers

Washington, D.C. —- U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-Lillington) has introduced legislation that would change a provision in the 2008 Farm Bill that could unintentionally suspend farm payments for thousands of farmers.

Etheridge is the Chair of the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management of the House Agriculture Committee.

The “10-base acre provision” in the Farm Bill was intended to prevent farmers who own less than 10 acres from receiving payments, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s interpretation of the law would prevent farmers who hold leases for several small farms that add up to more than 10 acres from receiving payments as well. Approximately 30, 500 farms in North Carolina would be affected, according to the North Carolina Farm Bureau.

“The USDA’s interpretation of the 10-base-acre provision in the Farm Bill would prevent thousands of small farmers from receiving the payments they are owed, putting them in jeopardy of going out of business,” said Etheridge. “The Farm Bill was never intended to prevent small farmers from aggregating their land. This legislation will restore the intent of Congress by allowing the small farmers who provide food and fiber for the nation’s table to receive the payments they deserve for their work.”

In the 2008 Farm Bill, enacted in June, Congress included a section in the Commodity Title that prevents farmers with less than 10 base acres from receiving commodity program payments for their farms. The provision prohibits producers from receiving direct, counter-cyclical, or Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program payments, if their farm contains 10 base acres or less.

Congress intended for this section to allow for producers with multiple small farms to aggregate base acres to avoid payment suspension if the acres add up to more than 10. Following passage of the legislation, however, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) determined that the language in this section does not permit aggregation of base acres for producers with 10 base acres or less.

Etheridge’s legislation, H.R. 6849, will clarify the intent of Congress for this section of the Commodity Title. The legislation directs the USDA to allow aggregation of base acres and will allow producers to combine multiple farms into one farm through the reconstitution process.