By the time the next Farm Bill expires in five years, 125,000 American farmers will have retired. This fact may well be the biggest threat to national food security, but you wouldn’t know it if you’ve been following this year’s Farm Bill hearings.
Instead, the conversation is about “managing risk” for the Big Five commodity crops (i.e. crop insurance, subsidies, and margins for large agricultural interests) and not about the challenges to our food system as a whole. The recent House Committee on Agriculture’s Farm Bill “Field Hearings” were dominated by established farmers, with little if any time for new farmers to talk about their needs. Here in New York’s Hudson Valley, a group of beginning farmers considered a trip to the Saranac Lake to participate in one of these hearings, but decided against it when we learned that there would be no time to add our experiences to the chosen panelists. Beginning farmers like us didn’t fare much better in similar Senate hearings.
That’s why it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the needs of the next generation have yet to be met in the current draft of the Farm Bill, recently approved by the Senate Committee on Agriculture.