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Farm Bill programs target aid for smaller farms

Natalie Maynor

The Farm Bill was passed in February. But now, piece by piece, it’s taking effect. We’re beginning to see how parts of the farm bill are doing more to help farmers go small.

The Farm Bill contains about half a trillion dollars in spending over five years. The vast majority of that pays for huge programs like food stamps and subsidized crop insurance. But this time around, Congress carved out a little more room for local and organic foods, and it’s starting to show. 

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture handed out more than 50 million dollars to promote farmers markets and local food, and to research organic agriculture.

That includes:

-$1.9 million dollars for organic research and extension outreach from Iowa State University

-$50,000 for Community Crops in Lincoln, Neb., to help beginning farmers

-$100,000 for Omaha non-profit No More Empty Pots to kick start a regional food hub

Those amounts hardly measure up to the billions spent to support commodity agriculture, but it is a significant increase over past farm bills. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says as big farms grow bigger, small farms need a place to compete.

“That smaller producer may have a hard time based on market prices that are dictated by the larger producers and the larger market,” Vilsack said. “So what we’re trying to do is create an opportunity for that small, local producer to be able to sell directly to a school or directly to a farmers market.”

Vilsack says having a mix of big and small farms will be better for the rural economy in the long run.

Harvest Public Media's reporter at NET News, where he started as Morning Edition host in 2008. He joined Harvest Public Media in July 2012. Grant has visited coal plants, dairy farms, horse tracks and hospitals to cover a variety of stories. Before going to Nebraska, Grant studied mass communication as a grad student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and completed his undergrad at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. He grew up on a farm in southwestern Iowa where he listened to public radio in the tractor, but has taken up city life in Lincoln, Neb.
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