Challenges of new/beginning farmers a key topic at Farm Bill discussion in Wilmington


WILMINGTON — Young or new farmers, along with smaller operations, accounted for much of the input at a roundtable discussion as work begins on the next Farm Bill.

The office of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, convened the roundtable held Thursday at Wilmington College where about 15 area farmers and WC ag students attended, plus a local Extension educator and agriculture professors.

The discussion was facilitated by Jonathan McCracken, who works for Brown as ag policy adviser and who grew up in Wilmington.

The combination of low crop prices with land values that have stayed pretty high, said McCracken, is making it hard for people to be production farmers if they’re not born into a farming business or marry into one.

“There’s nothing inherently wrong with big farms, having big operations, right? But there shouldn’t be a big hurdle if you’re a smaller operation, or if you’re a new entry in the market,” McCracken said.

Tony Nye, OSU Extension educator for agriculture, said some of the criteria to be classified as a new and beginning farmer for some loans require that a person already be in farm production a number of years. It’s been his experience at Extension helping farmers that by that time, a lot of people “either got it or are out of it [farming].”

More generally, Nye said new farmers face the challenge of how to get their foothold either by purchasing land or acquiring an opportunity to farm some land.

The Extension educator said across the country mentoring is a big thing.

Local farmer Mark Cowman said that young and beginning farmers often need a “jump-start.”

McCracken suggested raising the cap on loan guarantees for new and beginning farmers. He thinks the cap currently is $200,000 or $300,000, and he wonders whether it would make more sense with today’s expenses to bump that up to $500,000.

The federal Farm Bill deals with crop insurance, livestock programs, rural development programs, nutrition and more. Rural development is a key part of a Farm Bill, said McCracken, who remarked that the strength of the farm economy directly relates to what happens in rural small towns.

Rural development provisions in the Farm Bill deal with things such as rural housing, rural broadband access, and wastewater loans and grants.

“How do we do a better job of reaching some smaller communities for some of the different water and sewer challenges they may have?” McCracken asked, as an example of the type of concern that can guide discussions on how to improve the Farm Bill.

Helping small towns survive, and be around for another 150 years, can be part of agricultural policy because of how inter-twined the farm economy and rural towns are, he said.

McCracken feels that the research part of a Farm Bill is very important.

One reason the U.S. agriculture is the envy of the world, he said, is due to the work done in universities for more than 100 years. The research has led, he said, to all sorts of improvements in equipment, seeds, pest control, and more that have come out of universities working in conjunction with the private sector.

The budget proposed earlier this year by the Trump Administration recommends reducing funding for the Agricultural Research Service by $360 million, or 26 percent.

According to McCracken, most Republicans and Democrats disagree with the proposed cut, believing instead that “there is return on the investments.”

Just this week, Goodyear in Akron, Ohio, said it will make tires utilizing soybean oil, McCracken said. A bio-based research program had looked into other uses for soybeans, he said, and came up with alternatives.

The Farm Bill Listening Roundtable in Kelly Center on the WC campus was the 13th roundtable discussion Brown’s office has hosted around the state as work begins on the 2018 Farm Bill.

The current farm bill will expire Sept. 30, 2018.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.

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Joining the discussion were, from left in the foreground, Clarksville-area farmer Jon Branstrator and a young area farming couple; and in the background in front of the window is Wilmington College Agriculture Professor Monte Anderson.
http://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2017/09/web1_roundtable_p_f.jpgJoining the discussion were, from left in the foreground, Clarksville-area farmer Jon Branstrator and a young area farming couple; and in the background in front of the window is Wilmington College Agriculture Professor Monte Anderson. Gary Huffenberger | News Journal

Farm Bill Roundtable facilitator Jonathan McCracken of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office, left, interacts with area farmers and Wilmington College agriculture students. Next to McCracken is WC Farm Manager Randy Gerber.
http://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2017/09/web1_mccracken_vert_p_f.jpgFarm Bill Roundtable facilitator Jonathan McCracken of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office, left, interacts with area farmers and Wilmington College agriculture students. Next to McCracken is WC Farm Manager Randy Gerber. Gary Huffenberger | News Journal

Chris Cowman, 25, farms locally with his father Mark Cowman. Both father and son participated in the discussion.
http://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2017/09/web1_c_cowman_p_f.jpgChris Cowman, 25, farms locally with his father Mark Cowman. Both father and son participated in the discussion. Gary Huffenberger | News Journal
What will ensure generational shift?

By Gary Huffenberger

ghuffenberger@wnewsj.com

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