Obama will propose to Congress a $30-billion package of federal aid to help new farms grow and thrive, including $10 billion in direct federal funding for commercial farmers, the White House announced Wednesday.
The $30B package will include $3 billion for new agricultural research and $10 million in loans to small farmers, including through a new program that was put in place under the Agriculture Innovation Act.
In addition, the Obama administration is providing $1.5 billion in loan guarantees to small and mid-sized commercial farmers.
“The farm bill I am proposing would help millions of American families, businesses and communities,” Obama said.
The White House said the Agriculture Department is the fastest-growing and largest USDA agency, with nearly $4 trillion in farm, food service and environmental products.
Critics have questioned the appropriateness of the USDA’s new farm assistance program.
Last month, a House panel released a report finding that the USDA program is a giveaway to big agribusiness, particularly for the largest corporations and the wealthiest individuals.
Some Democrats on the panel called the USDA a “cash cow” for the corporations, and said the government should spend less money on other types of assistance.
But Republicans argued that the $30bn would help grow the nation’s economy and improve our agricultural environment.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., said he believes the program should be directed toward the most vulnerable members of society, not the wealthy.
“We’re giving these small farmers a hand up,” Lamborn said.
“They’re not millionaires, they’re not billionaires, they don’t even know how to drive a car.
They just want to get their farmers back to work.”
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., who chairs the House Agriculture Committee, said that many farmers are struggling to find enough cash to make ends meet and need the program to help.
McGovern said that his committee is currently considering whether to send $30 million to help farmers who have experienced foreclosure.
He said that could include loans for borrowers who have lost their homes, and also other aid to small farms.
Other Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Ron DeSantis, R, Florida, have criticized the program as a giveaway, saying it has allowed corporations to take over farms.
“I’m not saying this program is fair, but it does seem to me that a lot of the farmers that I work with are not getting the support they need,” DeSantis said.