The Growing Access to Environmental Sustainability (GATES) Act seeks to reduce barriers that producers face in accessing agricultural conservation programs.
Congressman John Duarte (R-CA-13th District), who is also a farmer from California (shown above), is on the coalition behind the act. He says current adjusted gross income (AGI) limitations of $900,000 disproportionately limit producers with high input costs from participating in certain USDA conservation-focused programs.
“That sounds like a lot of money, but a farming operation, a family farm can have a good year, and make over a hundred thousand dollars and be in a position to make some of these types of investments but be disqualified from the incentives be able to do that,” he said.
The GATES Act would exempt the AGI limitation for farms that get 75% of their income from farming or related farming practices such as agritourism, direct-to-consumer marketing of agricultural products, and the sale of agricultural equipment owned by a person or entity. Duarte says specialty crop farmers are especially blocked when it comes to AGI limitations.
“You can easily run into a broccoli or greens or vegetable grower running up against these limits and to be competitive in that industry, these vertical family farms have to reach a certain size,” he said. “If they’re going to serve the larger grocery chains, if they’re going to have a cold storage and marketing and a grower-packer-shipper model, they’re going to need to reach a certain critical mass or they’re just not going to be relevant.”
The GATES Act would apply to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Congressman Duarte says it’s important to allow more access to these programs.
“In a broad sense, we want farmers doing these things. Whether it’s a Conservation Reserve Program or the EQUP or the Conservation Stewardship, these are things that are good for the communities and for sustainability in general,” he said. “We don’t want to block out larger farmers from being able to participate in these important programs.”
Click below to hear Sabrina Halvorson’s radio news report for Michigan Ag Today.