The farm bill debate continues to take shape as congressional leaders discuss the critical points of this year’s legislation. U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack has advised leaders that the farm bill should help the 90% of farmers who struggled even as farm income hit record levels since 2021. But some lawmakers feel conflicted, saying Vilsack has not produced enough information or bipartisan support to justify the ask.

Republican Senator John Boozman of Arkansas says feedback from his farming constituents tells him that the safety net is top of mind for producers. Boozman says it’s critical not to get caught up in the farm size debate when discussing what a robust farm safety net could look like. He notes that 89% of U.S. farms are classified as “small,” generating nearly 18% of total farm output. The top 3.2% of farms contribute more than 46% of production.

However, Vilsack argues the debate isn’t about “small vs. large” farms but rather all farmers who fall under the 90% needing help category. Vilsack argues that a refusal to prioritize those farmers will contribute to the “hollowing out” of rural America; something that could be avoided by creating more revenue streams for small- and mid-sized farmers.

Read more on ongoing farm bill discussions here.