The farm bill virtually structures our entire food and agricultural system in the United States.
It was created in the 1930s to stabilize a struggling agricultural market caused by the Great Depression, but has since grown from supporting producers of staple commodities (corn, soybeans, wheat, etc.) to affect food access for low income families (SNAP), rural broadband internet development, beginning farmer support, crop insurance, and much more.
As noted by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), “Every five years, the farm bill expires and is updated: it goes through an extensive process where it is proposed, debated, and passed by Congress and is then signed into law by the President. Each farm bill has a unique title, and the current farm bill is called the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. It was enacted into law in December 2018 and expires in 2023.“
OEFFA members fought for many of the programs included in the Agriculture Improvement Act in the 2018 Farm Bill and, working with our national partners, were able to secure many critical wins that will help to reshape our food and agricultural system over time. We aim to do even more in 2023.
The 2023 Farm Bill will shape the future of agriculture for years to come. The OEFFA policy team is actively working to ensure this transformative bill supports our vision for a future in which sustainable and organic farmers thrive, local food nourishes our communities, and agricultural practices protect and enhance our environment.
Getting Ready for the 2023 Farm Bill
What more could you do if you had support and resources? Based on your vision and experiences, what would you like to see in the 2023 Farm Bill?
Over the past year, OEFFA asked those questions to farmers and consumers across the state. Their answers, this vision for a sustainable food and farming system, revealed five key planks which comprise the OEFFA 2023 Farm Bill Platform.
Promote soil health and climate resilience through conservation policy
Farmers have seen the effect of a changing climate, resulting in wetter fields in the spring and greater heat stress on crops and livestock in the summer. They know healthy soil helps them better withstand these stresses, and that good soil practices help draw down carbon.
To achieve this, our members seek conservation programs that incentivize covered cropland and encourage longer-term and diverse crop rotations. Farmers want to “cut the red tape” and receive resources for soil testing to show they are on track. They support federal conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Reaching our goals for clean water, beneficial habitat for wildlife, increased soil health and carbon sequestration will require significant investments in technical assistance for USDA conservation programming.
Increase investments in local and regional food systems
For many farmers, their livelihood depends on strong local and regional food systems, including support for cooperative development; urban agriculture; supply chain investments; more regional facilities for flash-freezing and meat processing; and programs such as Produce Perks, which make healthy, local foods more accessible.
For food advocates, local and regional food systems directly link to better public health outcomes, more food system jobs and less worry around supply chain disruptions. These investments need to include resources for community leadership in designing education and outreach strategies.
Address consolidation in the food and agriculture system
Our members emphasized that small farms can and do feed the world, and that consolidation in the food and agriculture system does not benefit the economic or environmental health of their communities. They want to support an agriculture system that includes farms with diverse operations and scales that make it possible to care for—instead of exploit—the land.
A frequent example cited is the concentration in meat processing and the inability to get livestock processed without traveling hours and, often, having to book your processing time more than a year in advance. It’s impossible for many organic farmers to find a certified organic processing facility for their livestock and poultry. Addressing consolidation in the industry will make investments in local and regional food production, processing, aggregation, and distribution viable.
Invest in organic and sustainable research
Our members expressed a need for long-term, agroecological research on cover crops, organic no-till, and natural sources of fertility. Farmers that use holistic, synergistic suites of agroecological practices should see a fair share of federal research dollars directed toward their practices, and research that helps them farm in the most responsible manner and illustrates the benefits of this approach.
They want farm policy based on science showing the relationships between food and disease, as well as the benefits of nutrient-dense foods. Furthermore, the results of these studies need to be widely disseminated in a way that is accessible to farmers.
Provide more support for beginning and BIPOC farmers
OEFFA has worked to address land access for beginning farmers at the state level, often hearing more needs to be done to make it easier for people to enter farming, including disadvantaged farmers and farmers seeking to transition to organic production.
When it comes to farm credit issues, we heard “bankers don’t like new ideas.” We need to increase access to credit and support for beginning and underserved producers, including those not fitting the corn and soybean biculture mold. Farmers growing food to feed people and using ecological practices should be prioritized for support.
Members are coming together around each of the five planks of our farm bill platform to talk more in months to come. We will review the bills Congress introduces for their alignment with our values and priorities. We will take action and make our voice heard by writing letters, sharing farmer stories, and organizing calls and meetings with members of Congress.
Join us today by emailing your name and contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org.