OMAHA (DTN) -- House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., on Friday released the Small Family Farmer and Rancher Relief Act, which he said would help small farmers and ranchers in the cattle industry.
"As I have said time and again, it is a crisis in this nation that we have lost an average of 17,000 cattle ranchers per year," Scott said in a news release.
"The drivers of this loss are complex and multi-faceted, and I applaud many of the efforts my colleagues have taken to try and improve the cattle industry.
"While their legislative proposals tackle issues like consolidation and transparency, I have not seen enough emphasis on direct help for our small farmers and ranchers. The Small Family Farmer and Rancher Relief Act that I introduced today does just that."
The bill includes subsidies for small farmers and ranchers and a program of marketing opportunities.
The bill increases the premium subsidy for producers who market 100 or fewer cattle per year, making it easier for them to buy into the Livestock Risk Protection (LRP) protection program.
The bill also creates the Beef Cattle Spread Coverage Program, an indemnity payment that would be administered by the Farm Service Agency and pay small cattle producers when the farmer's share of the retail dollar falls below 51.7%. The indemnity payment would be based on the spread formula between the fed cattle price, the price of boxed beef and the price of beef at retail. The fact sheet on the legislation states, "The program will provide small producers with protection against significant swings in the difference between cattle prices, wholesale beef prices and retail prices."
Along with those safety nets for smaller cattle producers, the bill also creates a block grant for helping smaller producers market cattle. The details include:
-- Establishing a grant program that helps small producers, cooperatives of small producers, or other eligible organizations aggregate, add value, and market meat and meat products to local and regional markets with a focus on direct-to-consumer and direct-to-institution sales. By connecting small ranchers with new and diversified marketing options, this bill will help increase profitability and inject more competition into the supply chain.
-- Eligible entities include individual ranchers, cooperatives of small cattle producers with a majority of members under a certain size (100 head or fewer), non-profits or Land-Grant Universities with experience working with small cattle farmers and ranchers, Tribal governments, food hubs, or those in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model. Program eligibility prioritizes underserved and limited resource farmers and ranchers.
-- Providing resources to USDA to educate farmers on how to best apply for and leverage these new programs.
In response, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) said Scott is bringing attention to the important issue of protecting vulnerable producers. The group then criticized the bill.
"NCBA is committed to working with the House Agriculture Committee to protect our most vulnerable producers, and we appreciate the chairman's attention on this important issue," said NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane.
"Unfortunately, H.R. 8590, the Small Family Farmer and Rancher Relief Act, as introduced prompts more questions than it provides answers.
"While collectively we would have preferred to provide input into the drafting of this legislation, we look forward to working with our partners in the livestock community to address the blind spots in this proposal."
-- H.R. 8950 -- Small Family Farmer and Rancher Relief Act https://agriculture.house.gov/…
-- Fact Sheet https://agriculture.house.gov/…
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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