SPEARFISH — South Dakota farmers traveled to Washington, D.C. earlier this month to lobby policymakers for aid for small agricultural programs.
Jeremy Smith, owner of Cycle Farm in Spearfish, took part in a fly-in, which was hosted by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
“This fly-in brought producers from all over the country to Washington to speak about programs that benefit new and beginning farmers as well as other producers working toward sustainable agriculture,” Smith said.
The coalition is made up of several groups from all over the United States, including Dakota Rural Action, a group that is active in South Dakota and has a Black Hills chapter.
“I was sent by the National Young Farmers Coalition which is another group that advocates for new and beginning farmer policies to help the next generation of farmers get started in agriculture,” said Smith.
Smith was in Washington discussing the U.S. Farm Bill, also known as the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012. The bill expired in September but an extension of the bill was granted until March. Despite the extension, when the bill expires at the end of this month, 37 programs that aid farmers will be without funding for the next fiscal year.
“One that affects me personally is the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development program, which is the only national program that funds farmers-in-training,” Smith said. “We were lobbying to reinstate funding into those programs.”
Another program that will lack funding is the Farmers Market Promotion program, which helps farmers markets get started and also allows them to provide for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) recipients.
Yet another program whose funding has been affected by the farm bill is the Value-Added Producer Grant, which assists people trying to put together small processing facilities.
In Washington, Smith met with staff members from Sens. John Thune Tim Johnson’s office, as well as those with Rep. Kristi Noem. Smith said the farmers who spoke with members of the legislature were well received.
“The staff members of all three offices were knowledgeable about issues in agriculture in the state,” he said. “They were aware of issues facing small farmers and non-commodity crop farmers.”
Larger farms often have crop-insurance or have a larger income, which allows them to depend less on government funding than small farms.
“We talked about the practical ways of getting these programs reinstated and funding in this continuing resolution that is expiring at the end of the month,” said Smith. “The senate is voting on a new, continuing, resolution to fund government programs for the remainder of 2013, and it seems highly likely that these programs will get funding reinstated during that extension.”
The fly-in staff hosted more than 60 meetings in two days, all relating to the farm bill or agriculture in some way.
“Some people were there to talk about bills to be included in the farm bill when it gets put together later this summer,” Smith said. “Specifically, programs to help new and beginning farmers — the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act and the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act.”
Smith, along with his partner Patricia Jenkins, has operated Cycle Farm, located off of Evans Lane, for two years.
“We farm mixed vegetables for the farmer’s market in the park, as well as direct sales from the farm,” said Smith. “We are very much beginning farmers…we didn’t grow up in agriculture and are learning very quickly how to do this.”
Smith said area residents should have an understanding of the farm bill and know that it does affect local producers in South Dakota.
“If they do not include funding in the continuing resolution, there will be an entire year where these programs lack funding,” he said. “Many of the small local programs that rely on national funds will cease to exist.”
Smith added that the programs included in the farm bill take a small portion of funding, but have a large impact on communities.
“It’s a small percentage of the total farm bill — a small dollar amount — but it has a large affect,” Smith said. “The Beginning Farmer program has trained something like 35 families that are now involved in agriculture.
“These programs help promote local agriculture and stabilize local economies,” he said. “The affect is far-reaching in the country, and in South Dakota.”
Smith said that funding these programs is crucial, as they also promote small job creation.
“Our farm is just the two of us now, but the likelihood that we’ll have seasonal employees is pretty high,” Smith said.

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