A new farm bill’s being crafted already, and the Center for Rural Affairs is urging Iowans to take an interest in what will go into it. The Center’s John Crabtree says the most important work in 2006 will be creating a “vision” for that update to national farm policy. He says the Farm Bill shouldn’t just subsidize commodity production but rather invest in creating a future for rural people and rural communities. That means investing in agriculture, but also in rural economic development, in small business and “micro-enterprise” development, in value-added ag ventures that really create economic opportunity.
Programs should invest farmers, he says, instead of focusing on commodity subsidies — and should target small and mid-sized farmers. One of the most important issues also is shifting the focus from commodity programs that send most of the nation’s resources to large “mega-farms” to having limits on that kind of subsidy and using the savings to invest in farms, ranches and rural people.
While rural communities continue to dwindle in size, Crabtree doesn’t see them fading into history. “The truth is that people have been saying rural America and rural communities are going to dry up and blow away for twenty and 30 years.”
Rural people are stubborn, he says, and they’re innovative and they work hard, and they find ways to keep their communities vibrant and moving forward. When rural people stand up and work together and fight for a different kind of future, he says, they find a way to make it happen. Crabtree says the Center for Rural Affairs works to make that easier to do.