By Jaci Schreckengost
As the 2018 farm bill discussion continues, many growers are pressing to get their voices heard by those writing the bill.
At the inaugural Florida Organic Food & Farming Summit in Gainesville, a workshop on September 18 allowed growers to discuss their concerns and suggestions for the farm bill. Sarah Hackney, grassroots director at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), was one of the panel members at the workshop. She said her job with NSAC is to be a liaison between those in Washington, D.C. creating the bill and the stakeholders of that bill, ensuring those who will be affected by the bill get their voices heard about what benefits and hinders them.
Some of the main concerns growers have for the 2018 farm bill include research and education, Hackney said. During the workshop, many growers and educators spoke on concerns of the availability of education for students.
Crop insurance is another issue for organic growers that was discussed in the workshop. Hackney said that in the past, organic growers have only been eligible for a payout at a conventional price. However, Hackney said advocacy by growers and groups such as NSAC has allowed this to change to be more favorable for organic growers by adding organic-price elections.
Hackney also said the farm bill’s Value Added Producer Grant program positively benefits organic growers. “Anything from labeling to going organic to doing processing, like cucumbers into pickles” are some of the ways growers can access these grants, she said. Hackney emphasized this is one of the few provisions that is a grant available to farmers, rather than a loan.
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