“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. 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.
While their legislative proposals tackle issues like consolidation and transparency, I have not seen enough emphasis on direct help for our small farmers and ranchers. The Small Family Farmer and Rancher Relief Act that I introduced today does just that.
I have tremendous respect for our small farmers and ranchers. 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. This must stop – I believe my Small Family Farmer and Rancher Relief Act is a crucial first step in that direction and a critical piece in helping us stem the tide.
The first pillar of my bill provides small cattle operations with financial assistance by strengthening the safety net. The legislation achieves this by:
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. Similar to how the Micro Farm Program provides a targeted insurance policy to small producers, 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 my bill creates opportunities to increase competition and help small ranchers access new marketing opportunities. The legislation achieves this 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. By connecting small ranchers with new and diversified marketing options, this bill will help increase profitability and inject more competition into the supply chain.
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 Small Family Farmer and Rancher Relief Act delivers much-needed support to our small farmers and ranchers in the cattle industry. I urge my colleagues, and all those who care about the future of agriculture in this country, to support it.”