Good, bad and ugly — Senate passes Farm Bill

Published 9:59 am Wednesday, June 27, 2012

by John Crabtree

The Farm Bill, which helps set the nation’s food, farm and rural policy, passed the U.S. Senate on June 22.

Some 11th-hour victories were won for rural communities in the Senate debate. The Senate bill made modest, but significant commitments to funding beginning farmer and rancher training, rural small business assistance, help for small-town water and sewer systems and value-added enterprise grants for family farmers and ranchers. That was thanks to passage of an amendment offered by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. These are vitally important steps forward for rural America.

The bill’s greatest weakness, however, is that there is no limit on crop insurance premium subsidies doled out to the nation’s largest farms. More than 10,000 large farms received over $100,000 in premium subsidies just last year — a year of record income.

While the Senate bill does close loopholes in the cap on traditional farm program payments to large farms, it requires recipients of crop insurance subsidies to practice some conservation and denies premium subsidies on native grasslands broken out for crops. It will continue over-subsidizing crop insurance premiums for mega-farms, helping them drive out small, mid-sized and beginning farmers.

As the debate moves to the House of Representatives, those of us who are concerned about the future of rural America must stand up for the modest, hard-fought victories won on the Senate floor. Likewise, we must join the call for a much-needed cap on crop insurance premium subsidies to the nation’s largest farms.

JOHN CRABTREE is with the Center for Rural Affairs, which works to strengthen small businesses, family farms, ranches and rural communities. He can be reached at