House Agricultural Committee Chairman Rep. David Scott (D-GA) recently introduced the Small Family Farmer and Rancher Relief Act (H.R. 8590). The act attempts to serve small farmers and ranchers in the cattle industry and address a “growing crisis” in decreasing cattle numbers.
The measure is intended to take a “two-pillar approach” to expanding and diversifying marketing opportunities while helping ranchers to preserve their operations for future generations.
The House’s news release states, “Currently, cattle farmers do not have an adequate safety net to protect against volatility in the marketplace — the improved safety net addresses that gap and helps small producers capture a fairer share of the food dollar. The second pillar of this legislation will connect small ranchers to help them market, improve, or differentiate their products. This ensures that small ranchers are not dependent upon a single option to sell their cattle or finished products.”
However, there are some reservations to the plan — or, perhaps, to the lack of a clear plan. In a statement, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association expressed disappointment in the Small Family Farmer and Rancher Relief Act, saying that the act provides more questions than it does answers and that it doesn’t go into enough detail in many spots. NCBA was not included in the drafting process for the legislation, but the association said it hopes to be included in identifying “blind spots” in the proposal.
Despite those kinds of concerns, Scott’s office remains steadfast.
He said that the following measures are included in Pillar One to provide a stronger safety net for small producers:
- Livestock Risk Protection insurance program improvements that increase the premium subsidy for ranchers who market 100 head or less per year.
- Creation of a Beef Cattle Spread Coverage Program
- USDA indemnity program administered by the FSA, provides relief to small producers when the farmer’s share of retail dollar drops below 51.7 percent.
- Indemnity rates will be calculated based on the difference between the price of fed beef cattle and boxed beef sold at wholesale or retail prices.
- Protects producers against significant swings in the difference between cattle prices, wholesale beef prices, and retail prices.
- Outreach and Education: resources will be provided to USDA’s Risk Management Agency and Farm Service Agency to educate producers and insurance agencies.
Pillar Two will address increased competition and market access through the following:
- Creation of a Small Rancher Market Access competitive grant program administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service.
- Connect small ranchers to new and diversified marketing options to increase profitability.
- AMS resources to help educate farmers on how to apply and use new programs.
For more information on the Small Family Farmer and Rancher Relief Act, click here.