• Climate Change,  Conservation,  Marketplace Equity,  Soil Health

    Conservation, not Consolidation (Take Action!)

    Over the last few weeks, we have been posting an educational ‘Farm Safety Net Fridays’ series on our Instagram page. This has all been leading up to a week of action titled: Conservation, not Consolidation. You may have seen a blog post from us a few weeks back about the farm safety net. In it, we outlined how some folks on Capitol Hill want to use climate-smart agriculture funding to prop up commodity programs.  

    Some lawmakers in Congress are being pressured to raise commodity program subsidies by $20 to $50 billion. These include the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program, which makes payments to commodity farms relative to a price floor, or a “reference price,” fixed in legislation. Just 0.3 percent of farms are projected to benefit most from an increase in PLC reference prices.  

  • Climate Change,  Conservation,  Soil Health

    Protecting Ohio’s Most Valuable Natural Resource

    It is impossible to overstate the importance of what is under our feet. Healthy soil is at the root of healthy water, food, economies, and communities. When taken care of, soil has the potential to store carbon and help mitigate the climate crisis. Yet, even with all that relies on healthy soils, this natural resource is increasingly becoming lost or degraded. The value of soil is simply overlooked and those who do recognize the importance of healthy soils are without the support to preserve them.

    There is a need to educate the public on the importance of healthy soils while celebrating this natural resource. That’s why OEFFA and the Ohio Soil Health Initiative (OSHI) are planning an Ohio Soil Health Week—a weeklong celebration that will bring together farmers, community members, organizations, state leaders, and legislators to amplify different voices and share how powerful and important Ohio’s soils are.

  • Climate Change,  Conservation,  Organic

    New Year, New Organic Rules

    Welcome to 2024! To help us ring in the new year, we wanted to highlight some recent changes to the USDA organic standards and share what’s on the horizon. There have been some notable updates to the standards, some of which will go into effect in 2024. While we still have significant room for improvement, these updates help to strengthen the USDA organic label and foster more consumer trust.  

  • Climate Change,  Conservation,  General,  Marketplace Equity

    Finding “Common Ground” Around Sustainable, Equitable Food Systems

    In early November, OEFFA Grassroots Policy Organizers Lauren and Nicole had the pleasure of participating in a happy hour and movie screening of Common Ground. The screening was hosted by our partners at the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council.

    The Food Policy Council is an initiative of Green Umbrella and a collaboration between individuals and organizations working toward a vision of a resilient food system.

    Common Ground is a follow-up to the film Kiss the Ground. Both highlight the importance of investing in local food systems and planetary health to foster a resilient food safety net. 

  • Climate Change,  Conservation,  Farm Bill,  Marketplace Equity,  Organic,  Soil Health

    Holistic Needs to Address in the 2023 Farm Bill

    This post was written by OEFFA Grassroots Policy Organizer, Nicole Wolcott, and originally appeared on the Marbleseed blog.

    A sustainable and resilient agriculture system is built from the ground up: from the grassroots. Our food system has a foundation in the soil, the very base of the earth. Keeping with this theme, our support building, education, and advocacy must be centralized in our communities. The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) has done deep work to cultivate a narrative that is centered in this thinking.

    We believe that all living things have intrinsic value, and it is up to us to make good, healthy, nutrient-rich, and sustaining food a right. Your voice and your opinions have power. As we continue to push for building a diverse and just food system in the 2023 Farm Bill, we need you to share your stories and truths. No matter your background or understanding of agriculture, you have a stake in our food system. You are a steward of the land; you eat and thrive off the land. Therefore, this groundswell of rich work is crucial to formulate an equitable living world for all.

  • Climate Change,  Conservation,  Farm Bill,  General,  Organic

    Here’s Another Acronym: What is NSAC?

    The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is a coalition of grassroots organizations that focuses on advancing sustainable agriculture and food systems. NSAC accomplishes these goals by advocating for federal policy reforms. Across this network, relationships are built so that we can achieve a nationwide reach of fighting for just, sustainable, and equitable food systems

    OEFFA became a member of NSAC when our policy program was developed more than 11 years ago. Being a member means that we bring issues of importance to our members to the table and are part of the decision-making process. We work together to advance policy to support small and mid-size farmers, protect natural resources, promote healthy rural communities, and ensure equal access to healthy, nutritious food.  

  • Climate Change,  Conservation,  Farm Bill,  Marketplace Equity,  Organic

    Key Marker Bills for the 2023 Farm Bill

    The work on a transformational 2023 Farm Bill is underway as climate scientists, activists, food and agriculture businesses, community leaders, anti-monopoly advocates, and policymakers pool together ideas and input for the new legislation. The reauthorization of the farm bill is supposed to be completed by the end of September. Because of the fight over the country’s debt limit and partisan battles, it will likely take until the end of this year or early next before we have a new farm bill.

    Despite a longer timeline, things are moving and we wanted to lay out the key marker bills OEFFA is supporting.

    A marker bill is legislation that is introduced to advance policy proposals and assess their level of support, with the hope of making it into the first bill draft advanced by the leadership of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.

  • Climate Change,  Farm Bill,  Organic,  State Policy

    OEFFA Members Making Change

    There are few windows of opportunity to make changes to something as big as our food and farming system. When those opportunities present themselves, we have to be prepared to act. Fortunately, OEFFA staff and members have been working for months to advance positive change.

    Last year, OEFFA members attended community and virtual listening sessions or participated in an online survey leading to the development of OEFFA’s 2023 Farm Bill priorities. During the fall, member leaders and staff formed groups to support beginning and BIPOC farmers, increase investments in organic and sustainable research and regional food systems, address consolidation, and promote soil health and climate resilience.

  • Climate Change,  Conservation

    Inflation Reduction Act Funding for Climate-Smart Agriculture

    The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was signed into law on August 16, 2022. Among its other aims, the act includes investments in federal programs that address the climate crisis, like those in support of climate-smart agriculture practices. As such, part of the IRA’s $19.5 billion package includes funding for oversubscribed conservation programs implemented by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). In fiscal year 2023, this means $850 million will be available for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

  • Climate Change,  Conservation,  Farm Bill

    A Transformational Approach to the 2023 Farm Bill

    Written by Ricardo Salvador, 2023 OEFFA Conference Keynote

    The upcoming reauthorization of the farm bill will be the 23rd iteration of this legislation. According to Jonathan Coppess and Chris Adamo—Vermont Law School teachers of a course on the “modern farm bill”—this version could be revolutionary. They see the main driver of this potential departure being the role agriculture could play in mitigating climate change. 

    A Push for Business As Usual—But a Need for Something New

    Aerial view of green combine harvester in brown wheat field

    A problem with this otherwise sensible prediction is that it would require genuine change in farm practices and the policies that incentivize and support the structure of farming.

    Already, the incoming chair of the House Agriculture Committee is on record stating that he “will not have us suddenly incorporate buzzwords like regenerative agriculture into the farm bill or overemphasize climate.” The president of the Iowa Farm Bureau—the most influential state chapter of the powerful national federation—wants the bill to stay the same, and continue to distribute public largesse without any expectation that it will return verifiable environmental benefits.

    Of greatest concern is that in its recent announcements of nearly $3 billion in “climate smart commodity” awards, the USDA has amply demonstrated that the politics of farm country and agribusiness will dilute the Department’s ability to promote and support effective climate change action through agriculture.

    There is a scientific component to this, but the most important factor is political. A patchwork of “climate friendly” voluntary practices used during any given production year will have limited ability to reverse greenhouse gas contributions—regardless of farmers’ positive intent. For this sector to meaningfully reverse its emissions, the massive changes in land use and row-crop and livestock production that are needed can only be brought about by the wide-reaching legislative power of the farm bill.

    Revolutionary Farm Bills Throughout History

    A New Mexico farmer meets with a county representative in 1934 to discuss provisions of the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) farm program. The farmer's son stands by closely as planting decisions—following the the first, and arguably most transformational farm bill—are talked about. Photo Source: USDA (Public Domain)

    This brings us to the Coppess and Adamo analysis. On their telling, there have only been three truly revolutionary farm bills. They define these as legislation that completely shifted the direction of farm policy.

    The most recent was the disastrous “Freedom to Farm” bill of 1996. It attempted to eliminate farm subsidies through a transitional program, but instead led to the consolidation of farmland into larger operations, and the failure and displacement of thousands of family farms. The system of government support was rapidly restored in the subsequent 2002 Farm Bill.

    The first farm bill in 1933 was revolutionary precisely because it recognized the government’s essential role in agriculture: to manage the market for agricultural products in a way that farmers could not accomplish on their own. Farmers, and all of U.S. society, have lived since then with the reality of the determinative role of government programs in farming. All farm bill debates have largely been about whom and what to support with this massive public intervention (the current bill is a $428 billion package of tax dollars).

    This brings up the remaining revolutionary farm bill, and a lesson for how to break the impasse created by powerful organizations and corporate interests dependent on government support—and which therefore have a stake in shaping and controlling “status quo” farm bills. The 1985 Food Security Act expanded the traditional interest groups vying for public tax dollars by bringing in the anti-hunger community.

    This is what Coppess and Adamo identify as the beginning of the “modern” farm bill era, since the “Farm Bill Coalition” created to pass that bill has not only persisted, but the new “nutrition programs” they sponsored have become the lion’s share of the bill, capturing 76.1 percent of the most recent farm bill spending. The “farm side” and “nutrition side” need one another to be politically viable. And this is the ultimate lesson that Coppess and Adamo drew: it is all about the coalitions you bring to the debate.

    Shaking Up the Status Quo

    A transformational farm bill can support a farm like this one, with sun setting over a green field of corn

    At the Union of Concerned Scientists, we have been working with a large number of partners, including OEFFA, to shape a new, broader coalition for the farm bill debate. By definition, a status quo approach to the farm bill begins with the existing legislation as a template, and is about making minimal adjustments.

    A transformational approach calls for us to ask what we need from a 21st century food system, and to then craft that legislation without the constraints of programs designed to answer different questions from a different era.

    The new coalition is led by the notion that many have a stake, in particular groups representing large communities historically excluded from shaping farm and food policy. We see the bill as a vehicle to center the racial justice issues accounting for farming being a dominantly white occupation, with the labor side of the farm and food system being a conspicuously Brown and Black work force.

    This is why the coalition marks the return of the labor sector, which was an essential partner with farmers—as a grassroots, working-class coalition—in shaping the original agricultural policies embedded in the 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Act. 

    No matter your perspective, we can agree this is indisputably a transformational approach to the traditional “farm bill debate.” Accordingly, the coalition’s priority demands are seen as a package, a set of issues so interrelated they cannot be effectively addressed by breaking them apart. They are:

    • Center racial justice
    • End hunger
    • Meet the climate crisis head on
    • Increase access to nutritious food
    • Ensure safety and dignity for food and farm workers
    • Protect farmers and consumers
    • Ensure the safety of our food supply

    All of us who are involved are pragmatic, and understand this approach is a long shot. This is because of powerful entrenched interests (the agribusiness lobby is larger than the defense lobby), and not because this suite of issues is not well-framed, urgent, and relevant to the times in which we live.

    The status quo interests have vulnerabilities, key among which is the difficulty they will have in making the straight-faced argument that they need more of the lavish public support that has led to historical farm profits and farmland values. Coppess, who has authored what I consider to be the landmark book on the farm bill’s history, has been warning Midwest farm groups that the sailing might not be smooth for the “bipartisan approach” (code word for status quo) that such groups would like to see in the bill.

    At the upcoming OEFFA conference, we will discuss the prospects, strategy, and progress of this transformational campaign, and the key role that OEFFA can play in advancing this work. After all, the farm bill is legislation in which every person in the nation has a stake, and no effort to take part in the farm bill process can be credible without the genuine and active participation of farmer groups.


    Ricardo Salvador is an agronomist and the director and senior scientist of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. His keynote address, A Transformational Idea for the 2023 Farm Bill, will take place on Saturday, February 18 at the 2023 OEFFA Conference. Learn more about OEFFA’s 2023 Farm Bill Platform.