MOTHER's Newsworthies: Congressman Richard Nolan, Poet Gary Snyder and Presidential Candidate Ed Clark

Lean more about congressman Richard Nolan and his family farm and government policy; Gary Snyder, whose latest poetry book is "The Real Work: Interviews and Talks 1964-1979"; and Ed Clark, a libertarian presidential candidate.

| July/August 1980

  • 064-054-02
    Congressman Richard Nolan introduced the Family Farm Development Act of 1980 in the House of Representatives. The intent of the bill was to redress the balance between agribiz and the family farm.

  • 064-054-02

Brief: Congressman Richard Nolan

The future of the family farm is a matter of urgent concern to Richard Nolan, Congressman from Minnesota's Sixth District. According to Nolan, the number of farms in the United States dropped from 6.8 million in 1935 to just 2.3 million in 1974 ... and will likely fall to under 1.5 million by 1981!

There's a reason for this decline, asserts the Minnesotan ... and it's not simply economy of scale: "U.S. government farm policies have tended to fuel the trend toward larger and fewer farms ... with production-oriented, crop-specific government payments to farmers and a continued emphasis upon specialization, bigger size, and mechanization in agricultural research, education, and extension." Nolan also points out that "U.S. tax policy gives the large farmer competitive advantages, too, by allowing artificial accounting losses to be credited against substantial off-farm income."

Well, the problems government policy has helped to create can be changed by adopting different policies ... and that's exactly what Nolan and Congressman George Brown Jr. of California plan to do. Nolan and Brown have introduced the Family Farm Development Act of 1980 in the House of Representatives ... and the intent of the bill is to redress the balance between agribiz and the family farm.

There are a number of separate provisions in the proposed legislation: One would redirect the USDA's focus toward research benefiting small-and-medium-sized family farms ... another would provide incentives to improve the energy efficiency, productivity, conservation practices, and economic viability of the smaller farms ... and yet another would set up farmers' home loan programs to offer balloon payment loans to growers who adopt sustainable agricultural techniques or integrated pest management programs.

On the other side of the coin, the bill would amend the IRS code to help prevent non-farm corporations and outside investors from using farm losses or expenses to offset off-farm profits.

All in all, it's a complex piece of legislation and impossible to summarize fully here. But we tip our hat to Congressmen Nolan and Brown ... for recognizing that the family farm is essential to America, and for their courage ... in taking on the giants of commercial agriculture in an effort to give small-scale farming a fair shake. 


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