How the Farm Bill Might Impact the Region’s Farmers

Local food advocates in western Massachusetts say the US Senate’s version of the 2013 Farm Bill — passed Monday night — would not impact the region’s farms as much as it may elsewhere. The nearly $1 trillion package expands the federal government’s contribution to insurance policies protecting farms from damaging weather and low market prices.  But Phil Korman — Executive Director of Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture — says those resources go to industrial scale farms in other parts of the country. He adds the bill includes an amendment limiting those payments for farms with annual revenue of over $750,000.

“It’s a first step to try and address some of the income inequality that we see in local farming. To try to ensure that not all support is going to the top five percent of farmers.”

Korman says some of those funds — about 2 percent — have been redirected to pay for organic crop research, expanding farmers’ markets and improving low income families’ access to fresh vegetables. He says those are programs that could benefit New England farmers. The Senate bill includes almost $4 billion in cuts to SNAP benefits — or food stamps — and the House bill proposes even greater cuts. Korman says low income families don’t use food stamps at farmers markets as much as they could. So he says cuts to the SNAP program wouldn’t hurt the region’s farmers too much. The House is scheduled to debate its version of the Farm Bill next week.