The sign of a good documentary is that it leaves you with more questions than answers.
If this is the case, then Food Chains did exactly that. There was hardly enough time to cover all of the thoughts, ideas, and questions that arose during the Sunday film screening and the panel discussion that followed.
That said, we’d like to elaborate on some of the points and programs that were brought up by our panelists and engaged members of the audience.
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.
February is quickly approaching and our policy team is preparing for another action-packed OEFFA Conference!
We’ve put together a series of great workshop offerings focusing on a variety of policy-based topics. If you want to see how policy can bring real change in our food and farming system, you’re going to want to make time for these seven workshops at the 45th annual OEFFA conference, Cultivating Care.
Online registration closes on February 1, so be sure to secure your three days of learning, sharing, connecting, and shopping today!
We are so thankful to have an impactful and close-knit policy team that plans change-making goals together. At the beginning of December, Policy Director Milo Petruziello, Grassroots Policy Organizers Lauren Hirtle and Nicole Wolcott, and Communications and Media Specialist Heather Seely got together to debrief 2023 and plan for 2024.
The priorities we talked through included:
- Building our interpersonal relationships;
- Furthering our state policy and soil health work;
- Advocating on the farm bill and federal policy;
- Strengthening impactful connections with our member leaders; and
- Leaning into the OEFFA Narrative in all the work we do.
Because of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the 2018 Farm Bill, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has nearly $5 billion in funding for conservation practices in 2024. Agricultural producers and forest landowners are encouraged to apply now to receive support for participation in voluntary conservation programs and the adoption of climate-smart practices.
Well suited for a wide variety of producers—including organic and urban producers—USDA is now accepting applications for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).
On November 16, 2023, President Biden signed a short-term spending bill for the government. But what does this have to do with the farm bill? Well, this also included a one-year extension of the 2018 Farm Bill.
Farm bill programs and the USDA will now be able to continue operating until September 30, 2024—exactly one year from when the 2018 bill originally expired. This had to happen because the 2023 Farm Bill was not finished being written, debated on, and budgeted for.
With next year being a big election year, we are hoping that the final farm bill implementation will happen in the springtime. If this does not get moving as soon as the new year comes around, there is a worry that it could get pushed even further.
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.
Every August, members of Congress spend time back in their districts. This is a great time for them to connect with their constituents, support local businesses, and be in their community. Between August and October, we had four in-district meetings with legislators directly, or their local staff. We are so grateful for all our member leaders who helped put these together, participated in the visits, and shared their stories.
Our Midwest state has a lot to offer regarding agriculture and food markets. All are unique and important for creating a food safety net that is sustainable for generations to come.
It’s not often that you get to enjoy locally grown food and listen to some of rock’s greatest legends while knowing that you’re contributing to a better food system. That’s why the Farm Aid festival is so meaningful. As John Mellencamp pointed out during the pre-concert press conference, “I don’t think any of us, in our wildest dreams, believed that 38 years later we would still be doing—and need to do—this.” The fight for family farmers will continue after a new farm bill is drafted, but the autumn air was crisp and full of hope and potential for the 22,000 who descended upon Noblesville, Indiana from September 22-23.
Guest blog post by Sasha Miller, Purplebrown Farmstead and Farm Store
More folks should discuss the farm bill when it renews every five years because it affects so much of our society through its policies and funding allocations. The farm bill not only determines in part what we eat and how much it costs, but also influences the wages of workers, who is able to become a farmer, the level of social support for improving food access, and what type of support is provided at all.
And, in the context of current climate challenges, the farm bill has a major impact on our collective carbon footprint, by encouraging certain agricultural production methods through its policies. For instance, conventional agriculture practices include nitrogen and topsoil runoff, major algae blooms in our lakes, methane pollution from CAFOs, and deforestation of vital forests for pasture and crops. These practices are incentivized through the farm bill and other USDA programs and lead to climate instability, tragic droughts, more frequent floods, wildfires, and more.