Small farms bill sent to president

Washington, D.C. —- The U.S. House of Representatives passed by unanimous consent yesterday a bill by U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-Lillington) that will suspend a provision in the 2008 Farm Bill that would have put thousands of small farms at risk.

The bill now heads to the President, who is expected to sign it into law.

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 is good news for thousands of farmers who rent or lease smaller tracks of land for their farms. It allows farmers to continue to receive payments for the work they do on small farms, and ensures that our rural economy stays strong,” said Etheridge. “I will begin working immediately to provide a permanent solution to the U.S.D.A’s extremely narrow interpretation of the 10-base-acre provision.”

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, as amended by the Senate, would suspend the 10-base-acre provision for the 2008 program year. 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 four years of the Farm Bill. Etheridge will begin working on a permanent legislative fix.