Magee Farms, Carper celebrate passage of Farm BillLegislation depends on House to pass
Ellen Magee of Magee Farms said the proposed Farm Bill will bring much-needed funding to local farmers.
The $955 billion Farm Bill passed the U.S. Senate 66-27 June 10.
Magee recently installed irrigation under the plastic at her Lewes strawberry field. She said Farm Bill funding could help other farmers install irrigation, which is necessary for many Delaware farmers to thrive in the hot, sandy, summer climate.
Sen. Tom Carper celebrated the passage of the bill, which was delayed last year after the U.S. House failed to approve the measure.
Carper said he is optimistic that the House will pass the Farm Bill this year. The Farm Bill is set to expire Sept. 30 and Congress will need to figure out a way to extend the current bill if the new legislation doesn’t pass the House, said Katie Wilson of Carper's office.
"The bill cuts wasteful spending, cracks down on fraud, boosts agricultural job programs and improves conservation and our environment," Carper said. "This bill includes specific provisions that I was proud to sponsor to help a wide variety of folks in Delaware, from poultry growers on Delmarva to conservationists who work to protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed."
Total federal government payments to Delaware farmers were $21,013,900.
Delaware detailed government payments for 2011:
Poultry farmers will ultimately be helped by the bill because it will make research into improving chicken feed a priority. Improved feed will help reduce pollution from chicken houses to the Chesapeake Bay and other watersheds, Carper said. It also includes funding to study the possibility of a crop insurance program for poultry growers.
During a recent visit to Magee Farms, Sen. Carper said the Farm Bill makes smaller fruit and vegetable growers eligible for crop insurance, which was not funded in the past.
Last year, cherry growers in Michigan lost entire crops due to the weather, but they had no recourse because under the old bill, fruit and vegetable growers were not covered, said a spokeswoman for Carper's office. This new farm bill, if signed into law, will protect those types of growers.
For the Magees, crop insurance for their strawberry fields will protect the family's finances during drought, Carper said.
Magee Farms tills about 1,200 acres in Selbyville and Lewes, growing corn, soybeans and fruits and vegetables.
"We've been here a long time, and we enjoy what we're doing," Magee said.
Commodity farmers growing corn and soybeans can use new crop insurance programs that stem waste and provide subsidies that will replace blanket payouts under the old direct-payment program, Carper said.
Under existing regulations, farmers can insure 75 percent of their crops. If passed by Congress, the Farm Bill could increase that number to 85 percent.
The farm bill approved by the Senate is expected to reduce the deficit by $23.6 billion, Carper said.
"I hope the House takes up a farm bill right away so Congress can finish the important work of reforming and improving our nation's food and agricultural policies," Carper said.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, "Rural America has been too long without a comprehensive, multiyear Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. Passage of this legislation by the Senate is a promising development and an important one for rural communities and families."
Highlights of Senate's Farm Bill:
• Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – $760.5 billion over the next 10 years for food stamps and nutrition programs, including $10 million for the USDA to establish a Pulse Products Pilot program to purchase pulse crops like chickpeas and beans for school breakfasts and lunches. Pulse crops are cost-effective sources of fiber, potassium and protein.
In Delaware, last year's pilot program allowing food stamp cards to be used at four farmers markets resulted in a total of $463 in sales. This year, two more markets are allowing food stamp card sales.
• $89 billion for crop insurance programs over 10 years, a switch from direct payments to subsidies, and reduced payments to farmers making more than $750,000 annually.
• $3.6 billion over 10 years for trade programs to improve international relations and promote U.S.-grown products overseas. The section also includes about $60 million to purchase local food in developing countries instead of shipping U.S. food.
For more information on the Farm Bill, go to www.ag.senate.gov/issues/farm-bill.