Ag Policy Blog

Groups Are Trying to Get Their Voices Heard in Farm Bill Debate

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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More than 600 groups wrote to members of Congress this week calling for an expansion of a program that incentives people to buy more fruits and vegetables, including getting a prescription from doctors. Others want reforms in commodity programs or checkoffs. (DTN file image)

Groups of every stripe are ramping up their messaging, trying to put their stamp on the farm bill debate.

Groups Call for Farm Subsidy Reforms

On Thursday, a collection of 13 groups largely opposed to traditional commodity programs wrote to members of Congress calling for reforms in food and agricultural policies. Most of these groups, more than likely, aren't going to get their opinions heard before the House and Senate agriculture committees. The groups cited that larger farmers receive subsidies while beginning farmers struggle to afford land, and smaller farmers are the ones hardest hit by higher input prices.

"Farm subsidies primarily benefit large landowners and agricultural operators growing commodity crops such as corn and cotton," the groups stated. "Meanwhile, many small, diversified farms growing fruits, nuts and vegetables carve out niche markets and innovate with little to no government support."

They cite that farm programs distort markets and land prices, and lead to farm consolidation. Program payments also take away incentives for farmers to diversify their crops as well.

With all of that, these groups called on reforms to the commodity, conservation and crop insurance titles of the farm bill.

The press release included a podcast from Taxpayers for Common Sense earlier this year with a Nebraska father and son who farm. The father makes the comment that premium subsidies for crop insurance essentially get rolled into the cash rent for ground.

"Why can't crop insurance just be a private enterprise that's not subsidized? Yeah, the premium is going to be more, but in the end, I don't know that I'm really worse off," said Scott Kinkaid, who farms in northeast Nebraska.

Letter calling for farm-bill reforms:…



Calling for Expansion of Gus Schumacher Nutrition Program

Separately, more than 600 groups signed a letter to the House and Senate agricultural committee leaders calling on lawmakers to expand the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, called "GusNIP" in the farm bill.

Schumacher, a former USDA undersecretary, founded Wholesome Wave and pitched the idea of prescriptions for fruits and vegetables. DTN interviewed Schumacher in 2013 about the idea.

"Our objective is that some of that money should go to our farmers to provide health with food as medicine -- farmers as pharmacies -- to help improve the health of people who are diabetic or obese," Schumacher explained.

See, "Some Doctors Are Writing Prescriptions for Farmers Markets,"…

Schumacher passed away in 2017, but his idea began with a pilot in 2008 and has become part of subsequent farm bills. USDA states GusNIP has led to $270 million in funding for 197 projects nationally.

In their letter of support, 637 groups want to continue expanding GusNIP to reach more low-income people and boost their buying power of fruits and vegetables, as well cut back on the non-governmental matching requirements and improve the produce prescription part of the program as well.

The full letter for GusNIP and the organizations backing it:…

Demanding Checkoff Reforms

The group Farm Action was among those able to participate in a White House listening session on agricultural competition issues on Thursday. The event was closed press so it's unclear at the moment exactly who participated and got a chance to speak.

Farm Action, in it is comments, called on the Biden administration to back checkoff reforms in the farm bill. The group maintains there is a lack of oversight and transparency for the checkoff programs.

"It is time for change, and the opportunity now exists for reforming checkoffs to shift the balance of power from consolidated corporate interests back to America's farmers and ranchers," continued Huffman. "Farm Action looks forward to working with the Biden administration to advance agriculture competition as a key part of the President's economic plan and the 2023 Farm Bill."

Farm Action stated that "the majority of organizations in attendance shared Farm Action's call for checkoff reform." The group also highlighted the need to bring back country of origin labeling and strengthen the Packers and Stockyards Act.

It should be noted there are checkoff-funded groups that vehemently oppose any government mandates on their members, but maintain strong support for mandated checkoff payments by their producers.

Also see, " NCGA Calls on Groups to Advocate for Farm Bill Passage,"…

Chris Clayton can be reached at

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