House approves Etheridge farm bill

Washington, D.C. -— The U.S. House of Representatives today approved by voice vote a bill by U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-Lillington) that would suspend a provision in the 2008 Farm Bill that would put thousands of small farms at risk.

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 base acres from receiving direct, counter-cyclical, or Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program payments. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has interpreted the law in a manner that would prevent farmers who hold leases for several small farms that add up to more than 10 acres from receiving payments as well. Approximately 16,000 farms in North Carolina would be affected, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“This legislation will correct USDA’s narrow interpretation of the 10-base-acre-provision and provide economic security for thousands of farmers who rent or lease smaller tracks of land for their farms,” said Etheridge. “H.R. 6849 will restore the intent of Congress by allowing the small farmers who provide food for the nation’s table to receive the payments they deserve for their work.”

Congress intended for the “10-base-acre provision” section in the 2008 Farm Bill to allow for producers with multiple small farms that each have less than 10-base acres, but that have a combined base acreage of more than 10, to be able to aggregate their farms to be able to continue receiving payments. 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, would suspend the 10-base-acre provision for the 2008 and 2009 program years. The current Farm Bill runs through the end of 2012, meaning Congress would have to provide a fix by the end of next year for the last three years of the Farm Bill. Etheridge plans to work to ensure that the 10-base-acre provisions will allow for aggregation of base acres and will allow producers to combine multiple farms into one farm through the reconstitution process.

The bill extends the registration deadline for farmers to sign up for 2008 benefits from September 30 to November 14 or 45 days after enactment of the bill.

The U.S. Senate must now approve, and the President must sign, the bill for it to become law.