Farm bill renewal is on the horizon

By Brian Depew
Center for Rural Affairs

Congress will write a new farm bill in 2018. Initiatives that support conservation, beginning farmers, local and regional markets, and rural businesses are up for debate.

We believe the new farm bill should:

Protect and improve farm conservation programs — Stewardship of our land and water for future generations is a core tenet of our work at the Center for Rural Affairs. Programs that support working lands conservation help to steward our natural resources, while keeping land in production to support local economies. We’ll work to retain gains made in conservation programs in the last two farm bills, while also streamlining programs so they work better together.

Reform commodity programs — Under current policy, the very largest farms can collect crop insurance subsidies without limit. That blocks beginning farmers and ensures that, as the largest farms grow, they collect even more subsidies. We support a $50,000 cap on crop insurance premiums. One government report showed this cap would reduce subsidies to the largest 2.5 percent of farms, helping to level the playing field.

Protect investment in beginning farmers and entrepreneurial development — Entrepreneurial development is a proven strategy to create opportunity in rural America. Programs that support beginning farmers, local and regional markets, rural businesses, and small towns are all set to expire with the current farm bill. Extending, improving, and building on these programs are key strategies for driving change in small towns across the nation.


Brian Depew is an executive director and interim program director for the Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) at the Center for Rural Affairs. He may be reached at

Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, nonprofit organization, based in Lyons, Neb., working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action-oriented programs addressing social, economic and environmental issues.