Iowa’s Feenstra, other House lawmakers driving farm-focused legislation

Reps. Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa) and Angie Craig (D-Minn.), members of the House ag committee, on June 6 introduced the Crop Insurance for Future Farmers Act, which is intended to help new farmers and veterans gain better crop insurance protections, provide them better access to the critical farm safety net program while securing the next generation of U.S. landowners and producers.

The legislation would expand who qualifies for federal crop insurance programs meant for beginning farmers. Current law covers the first five crop years. Feenstra and Craig’s bill would double the “beginning farmer” definition to the first 10 years. The legislation also would increase premium subsidies for veteran farmers.

A little more than a third of all U.S. farmland is owned by people older than 65, while less than a tenth is owned by those younger than 35 years old. Feenstra said the next generation needs help to get ready to take over the sector.

“As inflation breaks records, interest rates in­­crease and economic un­­certainty persists, it is exceedingly difficult for the next generation of producers to enter the farming community and make a good living,” Feenstra said.

Ag & Manufacturing Bonds

Also on June 6, Feenstra (R-Hull)—this time with Darin LaHood (R-Ill.), Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), and Dwight Evans (D-Pa.)—introduced the Modernizing Agricultural and Manufacturing Bonds Act to update “outdated rules and regulations” related to manufacturing and agricultural bonds to help domestic manufacturers and family farmers “expand their operations and remain profitable and productive.”

“Industrial development bonds and first-time farmer bonds are vital to economic development, manufacturing and our farm economy,” Feenstra said, adding that “outdated rules and regulations” have kept domestic manufacturers and family farmers from using the bonds.

The bill would raise the maximum manufacturing bond size to $30 million from $10 million, updating this threshold for inflation and economic changes, and ties future increases to inflation. It also would update the definition of a “manufacturing facility” to include high-tech manufacturing processes, including biotechnology, design and formula development. It would increase the amount of bond proceeds that can go to first-time farmers to $1 million from $450,000 and allow new farmers to use bond proceeds to upgrade existing agricultural buildings and property and purchase farm equipment.