American Agri-Women — the nation’s largest coalition of women in farming, ranching, and agribusiness — has released the recommendations of its Farm Bill Task Force. AAW President Heather Hampton+Knodle said the organization’s philosophy is to focus on fundamentals of on-farm flexibility, access to capital and programs, and promotion of U.S.-grown products.
The Task Force engaged members ranging from West Coast wineries and timber production, Sun Belt produce growers, to canned vegetable bean, sugar beet, cotton, wheat, soybean and corn production in the Midwest, and exporters, meat and potato processing on the East Coast. The organization has members in 42 states in all.
“Innovation happens every day on farms and ranches. Our members were concerned by prescriptive requirements in conservation programs that limit their abilities to manage on-the-ground, real-time decisions that will ultimately be the best for the soils, plants, and animals in their local environment,” said Hampton+Knodle.
AAW recommends conservation programs that allow farmers and ranchers flexibility in selecting their choice of private industry technical experts and service providers that meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service technical criteria and qualifications. Members also endorsed removing criteria from easements that limit livestock grazing patterns during hunting seasons. Enabling joint research capabilities between NRCS and institutions of higher learning with qualified agriculture programs and setting easement rates below local cash rent rates were other points within the Conservation section.
Hampton+Knodle noted that another example of flexibility to farm can be seen with the expansion of precision agriculture technologies and their ability to tailor cropping patterns and land management decisions within fields. She said that’s a reason why the organization supports applying conservation funding to accelerate adoption of technologies for varied farm sizes and applications in conjunction with expanded on-farm research trials.
AAW highlighted the need to have consistent definitions for terms of “disadvantaged,” “rural,” and “underserved” through USDA programs.
Hampton+Knodle said, “Our members also want the government to abide by eligibility requirements that recognize women as disadvantaged farmers and consider any young farmer who may have experience earning income from farming or ranching through their high school and college years as eligible for ‘beginning farmer’ grant and loan programs.”
The AAW Task Force document features support for cornerstone programs of the Farm Bill such as continuing food and nutrition programs, sustaining crop insurance as a risk management tool, and investing in research at a range of universities and USDA labs as well as recommendations for rural development programs and active forest management.