Sep 19, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Agriculture Secretary raises alarms over protecting small and midsize farms

Photo of Tom Vilsack during an Axios event.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack speaks during an Axios Event on Sept. 19. Source: Axios

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said Tuesday during an Axios Event that the Biden administration is "deeply concerned" about small farmers getting crushed by "consolidation of farmland in farm profit."

Why it matters: Vilsack said crafting the next farm bill is an opportunity to reevaluate how the Biden administration and Congress addresses the consolidation of farmland and supports small farmers.

Driving the news: Vilsack noted to Axios' Niala Boodhoo that the vast majority of farm revenue last year went to "the top seven and a half percent of farms" — a huge challenge for small and midsize farming operations.

  • The farm bill  which faces an end of month deadline — is reauthorized every five years by Congress. It sets national agriculture, nutrition, conservation and forestry policy.
  • He added that the Inflation Reduction Act was key to maintaining funding and resources for best climate practices with respect to small and midsize farms.

Details: Vilsack told Axios that the Agriculture Department is looking for "other tools available" to create new revenue streams for struggling small and midsize producers.

The big picture: Vilsack signaled confidence that the farm bill will be passed.

  • "It's just a question of what will the farm bill be, it's not a question of when, it's going to happen," he said.

GOP negotiators in Congress previously told Axios they want bipartisan agreement on their versions of the farm bill, but there's been conflict over IRA ag conservation funds.

  • The IRA pumped nearly $20 billion of supplemental money into four farm bill conservation programs, per POLITICO.

What he's saying: "'I'm hopeful that as we craft this farm bill, that we understand that it's one of many tools to be able to help American agriculture move to the next to the next iteration," he said.

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