U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, introduced the Small Family Farmers and Rancher Relief Act that he says will help small cattle producers with financial assistance and new marketing opportunities.
“As I have said time and again, It is a crisis in this nation that we have lost an average of 17,000 cattle ranchers per year,” Scott said in a statement. “The drivers of this loss are complex and multi-faceted, and I applaud many of the efforts my colleagues have taken to try and improve the cattle industry.”
Scott says that while other legislative proposals tackle issues like consolidation and transparency, there is not enough emphasis on direct help for small farmers and ranchers. “I have tremendous respect for our small farmers and ranchers,” Scott said. “It is a shame that we have lost so many of them because they have been unable to capture their fair share of the food dollar.”
Scott described the bill with two pillars. The first will provide small cattle operations with financial assistance by strengthening the safety net. The financial assistance provisions are:
- Offering an increased premium subsidy for small ranchers (including beginning and veteran ranchers) insuring a herd of 100 cattle or less under Livestock Risk Protection insurance policies. This additional premium assistance will make a key risk management tool more affordable for our small producers.
- Offering incentives for insurance agents to better market Livestock Risk Protection policies to small producers.
- Creating a USDA indemnity program that provides relief to small producers when the price spread dramatically exceeds a historical average. This program provides small producers with a safety net to protect against volatility and unfairness in the marketplace.
- Providing resources to USDA to educate producers and insurance agents on the utility of the livestock insurance programs and the safety net program. This makes existing insurance products more accessible and facilitates enrollment in the new program.
The second pillar of the bill aims to create opportunities to increase competition and help small ranchers access new marketing opportunities by:
- Establishing a grant program that helps small producers, cooperatives of small producers, or other eligible organizations aggregate, add value, and market meat and meat products to local and regional markets with a focus on direct-to-consumer and direct-to-institution sales.
- Eligible entities include individual ranchers, cooperatives of small cattle producers with a majority of members under a certain size (100 head or fewer), non-profits or Land-Grant Universities with experience working with small cattle farmers and ranchers, Tribal governments, food hubs, or those in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model. Program eligibility prioritizes underserved and limited resource farmers and ranchers.
- Providing resources to USDA to educate farmers on how to best apply for and leverage these new programs.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) found some concerns with the legislation.
“NCBA is committed to working with the House Agriculture Committee to protect our most vulnerable producers, and we appreciate the Chairman’s attention on this important issue,” said NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane. “Unfortunately, H.R. 8590, the Small Family Farmer and Rancher Relief Act, as introduced prompts more questions than it provides answers. While collectively we would have preferred to provide input into the drafting of this legislation, we look forward to working with our partners in the livestock community to address the blind spots in this proposal.”
Rep. David Scott/NCBA