Support Section 12301's (FOTO) Inclusion in the 2018 Farm Bill Organizational Sign-On Letter
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Dear Rural Coalition members and allies,

We are writing to provide a brief update about the 2018 Farm Bill debate and to request your organization’s support for the enclosed sign-on letter. The letter expresses our shared support for the Senate language on the “Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) Program. This language, in the Senate’s Section 12301, provides permanent authority and funding for the Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (also known as 2501) and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

Brief Update - The Senate-House Farm Bill Conference Committee held their first formal meeting on September 5, 2018 to make introductory statements and emphasize their priorities for the 2018 Farm Bill. They must now resolve differences between their two bills to make a single package for final passage in both the Senate and House.

Over the past week, our members and allies across the country helped secure the signatures of 53 US Representatives on a Dear Colleague letter to the Conference Committee expressing the strong support for keeping the Senate’s much stronger Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program (FOTO) language which also allocates $50 million annually shared equally between the two programs.

As soon as possible, please sign on your organization to our letter supporting these changes, using this link. We further ask you to share this sign on request with as many other supporters as possible.

The deadline is close of business day next Tuesday, Sept 11, 2018.

Thank you so much for all you are doing to ensure that the Farm Bill serves our farmers and ranchers, protects workers and the environment, and provides healthy nourishment to all!

Sincerely,

Rural Coalition / Coalición Rural

______________________________________________________________________________________________

The Honorable Pat Roberts
Chairman, Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry
United States Senate

The Honorable Debbie Stabenow
Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry
United States Senate
The Honorable K. Michael Conaway Chairman, Committee on Agriculture
U.S. House of Representatives

The Honorable Collin C. Peterson
Ranking Member, Committee on Agriculture
U.S. House of Representatives

September XX, 2018

Dear Chairs and Ranking Members:

During the final negotiations and deliberations of the Farm Bill Conference Committee, we the undersigned _____ groups write to express our strong support for permanent investments in both the next generation of farmers as well as our nation’s most chronically underserved farmers – including socially disadvantaged, veteran, new and beginning farmers and ranchers. We therefore urge the conference to adopt Section 12301 of the Senate Bill, which establishes the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) Program. FOTO efficiently merges the authorizations for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) and the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (OASDVFR) program (also known as the 2501 Program).

While we appreciate the continued support for the two programs contained in sections 7507 and 11201 of the House Bill, Section 12301 of the Senate bill more fully ensures that the risk management, credit, and marketing challenges of our new generation of producers are addressed in a timely and practical manner. Senate Section 12301 directly tackles the increased demand for technical assistance by two growing populations of producers: military veteran farmers and ranchers, and historically underserved producers, including Tribal producers and African American, Latino, and Asian Pacific American producers. This investment also helps grow the next generation of farmers that the future of our country’s food and farming system relies on.

The Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) Program (Sec. 12301 of the Senate Bill) would:

- Provide permanent authority and invest permanent mandatory funding of $50 million split equally between the two linked programs, with authority for additional appropriations up to $50 million in each fiscal year through 2023.

- Increase transparency and accountability to ensure the program remains responsive and accessible to those serving our nation’s most vulnerable farming communities, by establishing an external peer review process and outcomes reporting to assure the complementary needs for direct, hands-on technical assistance in accessing programs, coupled with training and education are met through the community-based organizations and educational institutions best prepared to deliver these services.

- Allow improved function, coordination, and accountability of the two programs with each other, with their overlapping constituencies, and with the relevant Advisory Committees on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers, and Minority Farmers and Ranchers housed in the USDA Office of Advocacy and Outreach, and the Tribal Advisory Committee housed in the Office of Tribal Relations.

For over a decade, the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program (BFRDP) has been the only USDA program dedicated to training the next generation of farmers. OASDVFR has for almost three decades served as the only Farm Bill program dedicated to addressing the specific needs of minority farmers and ranchers. In 2014, both programs were expanded to also serve military veterans.

With additional demand for program resources from returning military veterans and increasing numbers of diverse and young farmers, Congress must scale up and make permanent investments in the next Farm Bill to support for our nation’s most underserved communities.

Adequate funding for these critical programs will support new-entry farmers and ranchers including veterans, expand economic development opportunities in rural communities, advance intergenerational land tenure, and promote familial and community wealth for beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran producers. We therefore strongly urge the conference committee to accept the Senate language and the important improvements and stability it provides to these vital programs.

Thank you for your consideration and attention to the matter.

Enter your organization's information to endorse this letter urging Congress to include Section 12301 (FOTO), as detailed within the letter, in the 2018 Farm Bill.

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