Small farms, ranches hope for better treatment in new Farm Bill


Farah Siddiqi

Congress passed a one-year extension of the current Farm Bill, which means the debate over a new bill will continue well into 2024.

Advocacy groups said they will be using this time to push for bold policy changes, including an end to subsidizing factory farm manure management, and taking steps to restore competition in livestock markets, so independent producers can stay in business.

Darvin Bentlage, a Midwestern cattle farmer, said when it comes to waste, it is more than just the odor communities are left with.

“The corporations in the last five or six years have made billions of dollars, where the communities are left with — well, the manure and the smell, and the dead animals,” Bentlage asserted.

Bentlage and family-farming advocates would also like to see mandatory country-of-origin labeling to better inform consumers about their purchases. The Farm Bill officially expired in September, but Congress has not taken the necessary steps to pass a new one.

Family farmers also support updating and improving enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act, to limit meat packers’ power over pricing. Bentlage noted packers are able to pay low prices to cattle farmers, then charge high retail prices, squeezing producers’ profits.

He argued it especially hurts small, family-run cattle operations and has forced many out of business.

“A lot of pricing formulas that they have gives them — the meat packers, I’m talking [about] — the upper hand over the producers,” Bentlage asserted. “I think the modernization, to do that would kind of limit that power.”

Bentlage added it would help earn higher profits for local cattle farmers if there was a requirement for packers to purchase 50% of beef on the open market.

This article originally appeared on Public News Service and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.