• General

    Farm Bill 2023: A Major United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Policy

    Guest blog post by Sasha Miller, Purplebrown Farmstead and Farm Store

    Image Credit: Purplebrown Farmstead

    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.  

    Organic farmers have remained motivated to produce healthy food in healthy soil, in spite of social, economic, and political challenges. Because we’ve always known—and by now sufficient scientific research has proven—that organic practices are essential for healthy soil, healthy food, and a healthy planet. Small organic farms can, and must, carry the awesome burden of nourishing our communities if we are to see a brighter future for our planet.  

    Image Credit: Purplebrown Farmstead

    Supporting Small and Sustainable

    Small organic farms stimulate local economies and keep more dollars in communities, improve the quality of life for neighbors, and create meaningful job opportunities for diverse people. It would be extreme to say that small organic farms can feed the world, but they sure can steer us toward a more stable climate and healthy society. Still, major obstacles remain in place to expand organic production for wider benefit, because our policies are decided by those involved.   

    This year, the farm bill can substantially correct the course to positively and immediately affect our climate and social welfare, with a focus on organic production and small, diversified farms. Senator Sherrod Brown, a long-time supporter of small organic farms, is sponsoring several marker bills that promote soil health and climate resilience, support beginning and BIPOC farmers, strengthen regional and local food systems, and invest in organic and sustainable research. All these programs would meaningfully impact our collective future, as part of the 2023 Farm Bill.  

    Image Credit: Purplebrown Farmstead

    Give the Farm Bill the Attention it Deserves

    I encourage everyone to call their representative, talk to a neighbor, and learn more about the 2023 Farm Bill. It doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Do we want to see more quaint little farms dotting the rural countryside, growing organic food, employing local workers, and keeping our communities healthy? Or, do we want to continue with the large polluting farms, increasing weather extremes, and poor rural communities desperate for financial support? The future is clearly related to what happens with the 2023 Farm Bill. 

  • Farm Bill,  General

    Farm Bill Deadline and Stranded Programs

    Guest blog post by Amanda Hernandez, OEFFA Policy Intern

    Earlier this month, the Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, Glenn “GT” Thompson, announced that Congress will have to temporarily extend the 2018 Farm Bill because it will miss the September 30 deadline for enacting its successor. If you are someone who produces or eats food, this extension is extremely vital.

    In brief, the farm bill is a piece of legislation that is renewed every five years and affects our entire food system. It encompasses a variety of programs, from farm subsidies to food assistance. There are two deadlines within the farm bill—the first being September 30, which is the end of the fiscal year (FY), and the second is December 31 which is the end of the crop year. These dates are of high importance because some programs may expire after the FY deadline, while others expire after the crop year.

    So, What Happens if the Farm Bill Expires?

    For some agricultural programs, the farm bill’s expiration leads to the reversion of permanent (previous) laws. The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 and the Agricultural Act of 1949 are considered “permanent” laws and when the farm bill is passed every five years it supersedes these two previous laws. The crops that fall under these laws are dairy, wheat, rice, cotton, and corn. According to a report published on August 21 by the Congressional Research Service, if, for example, a new farm bill is not passed by the end of the crop year, then on January 1, 2024, the USDA is required to support these eligible commodities at levels that exceed 2023 market prices. For example, the USDA would have to buy milk at $50.70 per 100 pounds which is more than 2.5 times the current market price. 

    Congress can extend certain programs by passing separate funding bills to give agencies funding for ongoing operations. Other programs in the farm bill receive mandatory funding. This is a really important point as those programs do not have to ask for funding during the annual appropriations process when Congress decides which priorities they choose to fund. There are two types of mandatory-funded programs—those with baseline budgets and those without. A program without a baseline budget imposes budgetary costs that require authorization or an extension from Congress to continue.

    For instance, in 2008, Congress enacted a one-year extension of the farm bill, but it was required to be “budget-neutral.” This led to Congress not extending the mandatory funding for programs without a baseline budget. Below are some of the major programs within the 2018 Farm Bill and how not having a new farm bill in place will affect them.

    Breakdown of Programs

    Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP)

    Policy provisions that will expire at the end of the fiscal year:

    • Livestock funding
    • Payment limits
    • Organic payment limits

    Policy provisions that are extended until fiscal year 2031:

    • Wildlife habitat funding
    • Air quality funding
    • On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials

    Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

    Programs that are permanently authorized and funded:

    • Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP)
    • Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP)

    Programs that could continue IF funding is provided in appropriations acts:

    • SNAP and related grant programs (i.e., work training)
    • Purchase and distribution of The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) commodities
    • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
    • Nutrition assistance funding for Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands
    • Community food projects

    Programs that would require extension or specific appropriations language:

    • Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
    OEFFA has administered the USDA’s Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP), providing producers and handlers with assistance to reduce the cost of organic certification

    Potentially Stranded Programs

    Programs that may not have the authority to operate or continue to receive new budget authority after the fiscal year 2023:

    Title III: Trade

    • Market Access Program (MAP)
    • Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program
    • Emerging Markets Program (EMP) and technical assistance for specialty crops

    Title VII: Research

    • Organic Agricultural Research and Extension Initiative (OREI)

    Title IX: Energy

    • Biobased Market Program

    Title X: Horticulture

    • Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
    • Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP)
    • National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program

    Title XII: Miscellaneous

    • Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) Program
    • Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (“2501 Program”)
    • Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP)
    • Animal disease prevention and management programs
    • Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Development Trust Fund

    Using the Delay to Your Advantage

    Considering the farm bill affects everyone in the food system, please let your members of Congress know what is important to you and what you want given priority within the 2023 Farm Bill. Take advantage of this critical window of opportunity by making your voice heard! Visit action.oeffa.org/your-farm-bill to access fact sheets, talking points, and other resources to support your advocacy efforts.

  • 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.  

    Envisioning a Better Food System

    NSAC’s vision of agriculture is similar to what we value here at OEFFA: one where a safe, nutritious, ample, and affordable food supply is produced by a community of family farmers who make a decent living pursuing their trade—while stewarding the environment and contributing to the strength and stability of their communities. All pieces of this vision relate to OEFFA’s narrative by focusing on the whole picture of a person, what makes them unique, what is important to them, and treating the world as a regenerative system that we must not just exploit but appreciate and protect. 

    Together, the alliance of grassroots perspectives helps level the playing field against dominant big agribusiness corporations. Those on the ground are often overlooked and stories from our peers are not always on the top of a member of Congress’ desk. OEFFA and other NSAC members like us bring grassroots voices, problems, and solutions to the table to ensure that the needs of communities are being met.

    Within NSAC, we gather input from farmers, educators, and producers from diverse backgrounds to direct our policy work. Community members are empowered by being represented when policy issues are shared with members of Congress and federal agencies like the USDA and EPA. This encourages engagement in our policy processes and advances our narrative for change in the sustainable agriculture movement. The power of doing this together with approximately 50 member organizations and many other supporters is a true example of a grassroots movement.  

    NSAC Successes

    NSAC has led in the development of working lands conservation programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The coalition has also supported beginning farmers through the creation of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). Aside from the clear big wins like these two programs, there have been hundreds of examples where—working together—we make programs work better for people and advance a truly sustainable agriculture and food system. 

    Being NSAC members provides benefits that go beyond the policy arena—it allows us to be in community with one another. In each area of the country, we face specific environmental challenges that directly affect our food supply chain. NSAC provides a space for information sharing, strategizing, and holding emotions about the many difficulties related to dealing with the climate crisis and food systems challenges.

    NSAC 2023 Summer Meeting

    Two members of our team, Amalie and Nicole, just traveled to Boulder, Colorado for the summer NSAC 2023 conference. We were able to be in deep conversation with one another on pushing farm bill priorities across the United States. We collaborated on ways to broaden the reach of local food systems, promote climate-friendly farming, support beginning and BIPOC farmers, and invest in the future through sustainable and organic research.

    This diverse, transformative group provides so many opportunities and we encourage you to check them out! 

    Many of our marker bill priorities are in response to advocacy by NSAC and other coalitions. Learn more about how you can advance them in the 2023 Farm Bill by reaching out to our team at policy@oeffa.org for support. We are stronger together! 

  • Soil Health,  State Policy

    State Soil Health Policy: An Update

    Pictured (left to right): Amalie Lipstreu, Dave Brandt, Lauren Hirtle

    It’s been a while since we’ve shared in-depth updates on our soil health policy efforts in Ohio. But rest assured, behind the scenes and at the Statehouse, OEFFA’s policy team, the Ohio Soil Health Initiative (OSHI), member leaders, and partners have been working hard to make progress to prioritize soil health in Ohio. 

    Introducing the Soil Health Pilot Program 

    This winter, with the previously proposed Soil Health Task Force Bill (HB 669) on pause and the legislative session heading towards a state budget review process, OSHI saw an opportunity. We set forth a budget proposal for the Soil Health Pilot Program. The program would fund innovative projects around the state focused on improving soil health, establishing farmer networks to share their knowledge on soil health practice implementation, and helping to increase farm resilience and profitability while alleviating Ohio’s water quality concerns and more. 

    Following the steps of the biennial budget process, we first met with Ohio House Representatives who would potentially help us move this proposal forward and include it in their version of the budget. To help in these efforts, we contracted with a well-connected consulting firm with a great track record and reputation in Ohio policy matters. We were able to meet with dozens of representatives who were members of either the House Finance or Agriculture committees. These meetings were opportunities to initiate relationships, secure legislative champions, and introduce OEFFA, OSHI, the farmers we work with, and the pilot project proposal.   

    The Importance of Soil Health, as Told by OEFFA Farmers and Members 

    Pictured (left to right): Lauren Hirtle, Jim Linne, Amalie Lipstreu

    In March, OEFFA Soil Health Ambassador, Jim Linne of White Clover Farm in Hillsboro Ohio, and OEFFA’s Policy Program Director, Amalie Lipstreu, gave testimony in favor of amending the House version of the budget to include the pilot program.  

    This project garnered impressive support from our community. OEFFA members, organization partners, and OSHI members offered many letters of support for the project which were shared with the elected officials we met with. Additionally, many OEFFA supporters submitted requests to their representatives to support the pilot program.  

    While the House debated and eventually passed its version of the budget, we wasted no time in meeting with key senators at the Statehouse. Once again, we met with members of the Senate Finance and Agriculture committees over a series of weeks in late March and early May.  

    Senate Testimony with the Late, Great Dave Brandt

    In mid-May, along with Amalie, the late and great Dave Brandt gave testimony to the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. He also established a connection with his own senator, Tim Schaffer, who chairs the committee. Dave, as he always did, showed up for what he believed in: educating others about the importance of soil health and advocating for wider adoption of good soil health practices throughout the world. Personally, I feel so lucky to have worked with a truly impressive farmer and advocate such as Dave. I hope to embody his spirit of community and education as I continue my soil health work with OEFFA.  

    As the Senate prepared to debate their version of the budget, we delivered organic seedlings to each potential senate champion’s office as a final nudge of encouragement for them to consider supporting soil health innovation in the budget with the pilot project.  

    Unfortunately, we learned in late June that our proposal wasn’t included in the Senate or the final budget. 

    Moving Forward with Our Commitment to Soil Health 

    As ever with our policy work, we reflect on our efforts, evaluate successes and setbacks, and look forward to our goals. Building on the momentum of our budget process work, we now have the opportunity to deepen the relationships we forged in the Statehouse and workshop new legislative proposals. 

    We’re in the process of reviewing legislative options from our National Healthy Soil Policy Network (NHSPN) partners to narrow down our best choices moving forward with soil health legislation in Ohio. Our next steps are to work with you (soil health advocates and OEFFA members!) to identify the best legislative solution to advance soil health work in the legislature for the remainder of this session and mobilize Ohio soil health supporters to reach our goals. 

    After honing in on our next legislative direction, we hope to identify two Republican and two Democratic champions who will advance the legislation in the Ohio House and Senate. 

    Reach out to me at lauren@oeffa.org about ways you can be involved with our state soil health work. 

    Ready to take action for soil health NOW? Click here and ask your members of Congress to support soil health in the 2023 Farm Bill! 

  • Farm Bill

    Let’s Get Started Together: A Beginner’s Guide to the Farm Bill

    Hey there! My name is Nicole Wolcott, and I am new to the OEFFA policy team. I am thrilled to join this amazing group. Over the past five years, I have been so lucky to have incredible mentors that have coached me in building relationships and movements. I am passionate about making connections and helping to build healthy communities. Now, in this role with OEFFA, I can combine my organizing skills with my love for organic foods. 

    Growing up in the organic food industry, I often thought about why I had such an easy time accessing healthy foods. I found myself wondering, “Why is this a privilege and not a right?” Since moving to Cincinnati, I’ve been diligent in working to broaden my understanding of the inequities and challenges in the food system. Without a background in farming, there is a lot I need to learn.

    As I got started in this position, I was introduced to many names, acronyms, policies, and pieces of literature. It was certainly overwhelming and a real example of “drinking through a firehose.”

    Diving into all this information, there were key things I was disheartened to notice that I wasn’t taught as a kid or even know as an adult. The modern food system is complicated and contains so many players. It serves certain interest groups for this work to feel too complex to bother learning. If we don’t engage, they keep their power. Whether those with power are stewarding their communities’ best interests is a long conversation—but I believe we all have power. We can use it to have shared responsibility and respect for our communities and natural resources. 

    Shaping Our Food System

    We are at a critical time to make important changes in our food system. Major movement is happening right now in the federal government to create the next farm bill. The reauthorization process only happens every five years.

    Critically, the farm bill directly impacts how and where food is grown, what kind of food is grown, and more. This massive legislation is crucial to the health of each of us as individuals and as community members. Whether it is climate change, public health, or the recognition that we depend on the land, air, and water for our survival, this bill will have an impact.

    Do you remember food scarcity issues at the height of the pandemic? Currently noticing costs going up at grocery stores? Know a farmer who works one or more off-farm jobs to make ends meet? All of that is greatly affected by the farm bill. More so, food connects us to the earth, history, culture, and each other.  

    The Farm Bill: Omnibus Legislation That Impacts Every Bite

    The 2018 Farm Bill is 530 pages long. This length and density makes it nearly impossible for anyone to really be an expert.

    In the spirit of thinking that everyone should know what the farm bill is and how it affects them, I want to map out how I am going into this learning process and how you can too.  

    Below are some wonderful resources to help you learn about the 2023 Farm Bill, sustainable food systems, ways to engage, and much more. No matter your understanding of policy or agriculture there is a place for you to get involved. I encourage us all to deepen our understanding of this movement! 

    Sustainable Agriculture and Farm Bill Background

    Organizing and Narrative Resources

    • Changing Our Narrative About Narrative: What “narrative” power is and how to build it. “We must remember that a few big clouds do not water the earth below them—millions of drops of rain do the watering.”
    • At the Intersection of Power and Hope: Grassroots Policy Project’s framework of storytelling and narrative building that illustrates how communities can make change and use tactics to build impactful movements.
    • Talking Climate in a Purple State: Dr. Katherine Hayhoe’s presentation to OSU’s Environmental Professionals Network, which highlights the science behind how our beliefs shape our identity and the key role values and solutions can play in our conversations about the climate crisis.

    It is up to us to ensure that we meet the needs of our communities while acknowledging the importance of sustaining a healthy world. Our policy team is eager to answer your questions and provide further resources. If you want to shape the 2023 Farm Bill, we are here to help!

    We are actively looking for community members to call their representatives, write a letter to the editor, and more. Read about our 2023 Farm Bill platform and look at our resources page to get started. Reach out to our team at policy@oeffa.org for support. We are stronger together! 

  • Farm Bill,  General

    What’s OFF with Checkoff Programs?

    The history of checkoffs is full of controversy, greed, and legal challenges. The initial idea was for farmers to pool their resources to boost product sales and increase farm profitability. But, over time, checkoff programs have become a way for corporations to consolidate wealth and power into ever-fewer hands.

    Why Do OEFFA Members Care About Checkoff Programs?

    We are now in a situation where very few people control a great deal of what we eat, where it is grown, how it is grown, and who profits. This has very real implications for public health, for the ability of beginning farmers to access land, for everyday farmers to just make a living, and much more.

    As a significant contributor to consolidation in the food and agricultural system, checkoff programs operate virtually without oversight. Farmers, who fund this program, are not privy to how the $850 million collected in annual checkoff fees are spent.

    What is a Checkoff?

    Checkoffs are mandatory Department of Agriculture fees assessed on a per-unit basis that fund boards designed to promote the commodity as a whole. Farmers and ranchers pay the mandatory fee when they sell any of a diverse range of 22 commodities. Most people are familiar with slogans such as “Got Milk?” and “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner,” but aside from dairy, beef, corn, pork, and soybeans, there are quite a few more.

    While checkoff programs take money from every producer of these 22 commodities, not all of them benefit. Worse, oftentimes their best interests are harmed.

    As Farm Action so eloquently put it, “The history of checkoffs is dripping with controversy, greed, and legal challenges.” Deviating far from their intended purpose, checkoff programs are now largely under the control of powerful corporate lobbyists. As a result, more wealth and power are being concentrated in a smaller group of hands—and most certainly not trickling down to the honey, mushroom, or blueberry producers who are funding the system.

    Image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0. Author: BenFranske

    So… What’s the Beef?

    • Lack of transparency: The dairy checkoff has the largest pool of money (has been implicated in collusion with lobbyists) and is required to submit annual financial reports to Congress. Despite that requirement, those reports have not been made for the past three years.
    • Working against some producers: All of these commodity programs are for “conventional products,” meaning that they are not certified organic. For years, organic farmers and ranchers paid into a program that encouraged the public to buy conventional commodities. This has undermined organic producers’ ability to receive a higher price for goods raised without most synthetic chemicals and requiring more labor.
    • Playing fast and loose: There have been instances of commodity contractors spending checkoff dollars for lobbying and vacations—clearly not a statutory use of commodity checkoff funds. The Guardian reported that the American Egg Board conducted an extensive campaign to sink a non-egg-based mayonnaise company.

    Checkoff programs are prohibited from influencing governmental actions or disparaging other commodities. If cases of bad behavior like those mentioned above were in isolation, we may deem some aspects of checkoffs as “bad.” Unfortunately, there are many more, indicating systemic problems with checkoff programs.

    How Does This Relate to OEFFA’s Farm Bill Priorities?

    These programs reward the consolidation of power into fewer and fewer hands and encourage commodity production at scales that cause environmental harm. They can also put smaller producers out of business. It can be really complicated to track the flow of how checkoff funds contribute to concentration, but it’s no secret that big food companies like to work with big farms—which means higher costs and fewer markets for smaller farms.

    Take a minute to listen to Wisconsin dairy farmer Sarah Lloyd speak about the impacts of this concentration

    Ultimately, we are all impacted by the negative effect of consolidation and the lack of real competition in food and agricultural markets. Currently, commodity checkoff programs make things worse, leading to higher prices at the grocery store.

    So, What Can We Do?

    U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Mike Lee (R-UT) led a bipartisan effort to reform agricultural checkoff programs. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) have joined.

    The Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act will make checkoff programs more responsive to the farmers who are required to contribute to them. Countless farmers, ranchers, and other producers have seen their checkoff dollars squandered or used against their interests. This bill would prohibit certain wasteful, anti-competitive, and deceptive behavior from checkoff boards.

    Act Now

    In March, OEFFA joined 130 other organizations in urging the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry and House Committee on Agriculture to enact meaningful reforms to checkoff programs by supporting the OFF Act. Join us in addressing conflicts of interest, lack of transparency, and misuse of funding to better support small and organic producers.

    OEFFA staff are available to help you call your members of Congress, write a letter to the editor or opinion piece for your local newspaper, or take other action. If you want a better shake for farmers, contact OEFFA Policy Director, Amalie Lipstreu, at amalie@oeffa.org today.

  • 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.

    OEFFA’s five high-level farm bill priorities are: 

    1. Increase investments in local and regional food systems
    2. Address consolidation in the food and agriculture system
    3. Invest in organic and sustainable research
    4. Promote soil health and climate resilience through conservation policy
    5. Provide more support for beginning and BIPOC farmers

    Bills Supporting Local and Regional Food and Farming Systems

    Roundtable with Senator Sherrod Brown (August 2022)

    Local Food and Farms Act (LFFA) (S. 1205, H.R. 2723) Championed by Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown

    This act would strengthen local and regional food system infrastructure and promote rural and urban community economic development. LFFA offers reforms that would make it easier for applicants to use the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP), Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP), and Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP). Investments would be prioritized toward small producers and underserved areas.

    Strengthening Local Meat Processing Act (SLPA) (S. 354, H.R. 945) Also being championed by Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown

    SLPA promotes competition within agricultural markets and invests in economic development. The bill addresses critical livestock and poultry supply chain issues, advances training programs for resilient community food systems, and supports small meat and poultry processing plants.

    The Farmers’ Market and Food Bank Local Revitalization Act of 2023 (H.R. 2378) Championed by Ohio Representative Marcy Kaptur

    This bill would provide increased financial assistance for farmers’ markets and farmers’ market nutrition programs, and increase local agricultural production through food bank in-house production and local farmer contracting.

    Bills Addressing Consolidation

    Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act (S. 557, H.R. 1249)

    This marker bill opposes the funneling of checkoff tax dollars into deceptive and anti-competitive lobbying groups. A call for increased transparency and accountability in commodity checkoff programs is central to this legislation.

    Checkoff fees are deemed mandatory by the Department of Agriculture for certain commodities (corn, soybeans, beef, eggs, etc.). They fund boards and councils that research and market the commodity as a whole.

    Farm System Reform Act of 2023 (S. 271)

    This bill promotes marketplace competition and fairness. It would reduce monopolistic practices of meatpackers and corporate integrators, suspend large factory farms, or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), and support mandatory country-of-origin labeling requirements.

    There will be other marker bills on crop insurance reform, but they have not been introduced yet. In the interim, check out OEFFA’s Crop Insurance Platform here.

    Bills Supporting Organic and Sustainable Research

    Alexis Dragovich (Mud Run Farm) and Emily Jackle (Mile Creek Farm) at Rally For Resilience (March 2023)

    Seeds and Breeds for the Future (S. 2964)

    This legislation promotes the development of regionally-adapted seed varieties to increase yields and resilience. This would support farmers through challenges with drought and varying growing conditions.

    Strengthening Organic Agricultural Research (SOAR) Act of 2023 (H.R. 2720)

    This bill would direct the agricultural research service to expand organic research. The legislation would also fund research projects that help farmers become more efficient, productive, and profitable.

    Biochar Research Network Act (H.R. 1645)

    This bill would create a national network to test biochar’s ability to absorb carbon and increase crop production.

    Agrivoltaics Research and Demonstration Act of 2023 (S. 1778)

    This bipartisan legislation would support research into how agrivoltaic systems (land being used for agriculture and solar photovoltaic energy generation) can generate clean energy, keep farmland in production, and strengthen rural economies.

    Organic Science and Research Investment Act (S – just introduced)

    The Organic Science and Research Investment (OSRI) is Democrat-led legislation that would expand funding for USDA’s Organic Research and Extension Initiative, providing more grants to research agencies and universities. It would also require the USDA to study the feasibility of certifying more research land as organic and would create a grant program for producers transitioning to organic.

    Bills Supporting Climate Resilience

    Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA) (S. 1016, H.R. 1840)

    This comprehensive bill is promoted to support farmers as the climate crisis expands and impacts their ability to produce and thrive. Six policy areas are prioritized: research; soil health; farmland protection and viability; pasture-based livestock; on-farm energy; and food waste. 

    Zero Food Waste Act (S. 177, H.R. 652)

    This bill would divert food waste from landfills and ensure hungry Americans have access to food that is often thrown away.

    Cultivating Organic Matter through the Promotion Of Sustainable Techniques (COMPOST) Act (S. 179, H.R. 4443)

    COMPOST was introduced to redirect food waste away from landfills and promote local composting infrastructure. The bill would add composting as a conservation practice for the USDA’s conservation programs, in addition to providing funding for home, farm, and community-based compost projects.

    Bills Supporting Beginning and BIPOC Farmers

    Rally for Resilience (March 2023)

    Justice for Black Farmers Act (S. 96)

    The introduced legislation would reform the USDA, provide debt relief, establish a farm conservation corps, and create a land grant program. It would also increase funding for programs that support all socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

    There will be more bills related to research, conservation, beginning and BIPOC farmers, consolidation, and climate introduced soon. This is a great opportunity to reach out to your members of Congress and let them know you want them to sign on in support of these marker bills. 

    If you are interested in doing that, please reach out to us at policy@oeffa.org and we would be glad to provide talking points and resources.

  • Farm Bill

    FARM BILL 2023 | Nutrition Marker Bills

    This post originally appeared on the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council blog. It is the second one in their Farm Bill 2023 series that focuses on marker bills.

    The Nutrition Title of the Farm Bill

    Something you may not know is that the Farm Bill is categorized into twelve titles. Each title focuses on a category of legislative topics related to the food system at the federal level. The fourth title is the Nutrition Title. Our previous marker bill blog post highlighted marker bills from the other eleven titles. The Nutrition Title requires a blog post of its own, because this title receives a massive portion of the funding that is authorized by the Farm Bill.

    2018 Farm Bill Projected Funding Amounts (final amounts not yet known). The Nutrition Title accounts for the largest portion. Chart Adapted from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

    As the chart adapted from National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) shows, the Nutrition Title received over 75% of the projected funding from the 2018 Farm Bill. In addition to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is one of the most well-known USDA programs, the Nutrition Title also includes:

    • The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
    • Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)
    • Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) grants
    • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations and Other Territories
    • Commodity Supplemental Food Program
    • Community Food Projects

    The Congressional Research Service has a primer on the Nutrition Title programs that provides some additional information.

    Members of Congress have submitted several marker bills related to the Nutrition Title and its programs to date. More nutrition marker bills will probably be submitted by the middle of April 2023. Below, we’ve listed the Nutrition Title marker bills that have been submitted through April 6, 2023.

    There’s Still Time to Contact Your Congress Members!

    Before we jump to the marker bills, let’s first discuss what we can do with this information. The Farm Bill will not be reauthorized until September 2023. You can contact your Congress Members, even if they are not on an Agriculture Committee. Every Congress Member will vote to approve the bill drafts of the Farm Bill when they enter the chambers.

    In addition, the Senate Committee is taking public comment, as is the House Committee. Again, you can submit your opinion, even if your Congress Members are not on either of the Congressional Agriculture Committees!

    A collective voice saying similar things helps motivate Congress Members to listen to constituents and show support for topics that are important to those they should represent.

    Spotlight on Three Nutrition Title Marker Bills

    Among the dozens of marker bills we researched, the three below were among those that speak to some of the issues the Food Policy Council and its partners are working on in our region.

    Closing the Meal Gap Act

    Date Introduced: June 23, 2021

    Summary: This bill amends the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to require that supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits be calculated using the value of the low-cost food plan, and for other purposes.

    Introduced by: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand with 6 Cosponsors

    • 5 Democrats Cosponsors
    • 1 Independent Cosponsor

    SNAP Access for Medically Vulnerable Children Act of 2023

    Date Introduced: February 1, 2023

    Summary: This bill amends the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to allow households with children with chronic medical conditions to deduct allowable medical expenses incurred by such household member that exceeds $35 per month.

    Introduced by: Representative Shontel Brown with 7 Cosponsors (all Democrat)

    Improving Access to Nutrition Act of 2023

    Date Introduced: March 9, 2023

    Summary: This bill amends the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to repeal the particular work requirement that disqualifies able-bodied adults for eligibility to participate in the supplemental nutrition assistance program.

    Introduced by: Representative Barbara Lee with 41 Cosponsors (all Democrat)

    2023 Nutrition Title Marker Bills by Topic

    2023 Nutrition Title marker bills are listed below. They are loosely categorized by the nutrition program the bill highlights. Some marker bills cover several programs, so each bill is categorized under the bill’s primary program. Though this list may not be comprehensive, the vast majority of the marker bills submitted as part of the reauthorization process of the Farm Bill are included below, irrespective of partisan affiliation or other political perspective.

    The Food Policy Council provides this information as an educational resource, and inclusion in this list does not indicate support by the Food Policy Council staff, partners, members, or supporters.


    • Marker Bills Related to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
    • Marker Bills Related to the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations and Other Territories
    • Marker Bills Related to the Commodity Supplemental Food Program
    • Marker Bills Related to the Community Food Projects

    Marker Bills Related to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

    Bill Name (with link)Summary
    Improving Access to Nutrition Act of 2023A bill to amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to repeal the particular work requirement that disqualifies able-bodied adults for eligibility to participate in the supplemental nutrition assistance program.
    H.R. 1763A bill to amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to exclude from income for purposes of eligibility for the supplemental nutrition assistance program the basic allowance for housing received by members of the uniformed services.
    Jobs and Opportunities for SNAP ActA bill to amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to restore and standardize work requirements for able-bodied adults enrolled in the supplemental nutrition assistance program.
    America Works Act of 2023A bill to amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to standardize work requirements for able-bodied adults enrolled in the supplemental nutrition assistance program.
    SNAP Second Chance Act of 2023A bill to amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to limit the use of business integrity and reputation factors when determining the eligibility of a retail food store or a wholesale food concern to be approved to redeem supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits.
    ID for EBT Act of 2023A bill to amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to require States to include a photograph on electronic benefit cards issued to provide supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits.
    Let’s Get to Work Act of 2023A bill to amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to modify work requirements under the supplemental nutrition assistance program, and for other purposes.
    SNAP Theft Protection Act of 2023A bill to amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to provide for the reissuance to households supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits to replace benefits stolen by identity theft or typical skimming practices, and for other purposes.
    SNAP Back Act of 2023A bill to amend the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 to repeal drug felon ban for participation in the supplemental nutrition assistance program under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008.
    Opportunity To Address College Hunger ActA bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to require institutions of higher education to provide notice to students receiving work-study assistance about potential eligibility for participation in the supplemental nutrition assistance program, and for other purposes.
    SNAP Access for Medically Vulnerable Children Act of 2023A bill to amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to allow households with children with chronic medical conditions to deduct allowable medical expenses incurred by such household member that exceeds $35 per month.
    Closing the Meal Gap ActA bill to amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to require that supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits be calculated using the value of the low-cost food plan, and for other purposes.

    Marker Bills Related to the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations and Other Territories

    Bill Name (with link)Summary
    S. 949 (Senate Version)A bill to amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to transition the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to the supplemental nutrition assistance program, and for other purposes.
    Puerto Rico Nutrition Assistance Fairness Act (House Version)A bill to amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to transition the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to the supplemental nutrition assistance program, and for other purposes.
    Tribal Nutrition Improvement Act of 2023A bill to amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to improve nutrition in tribal areas, and for other purposes.

    Marker Bills Related to the Commodity Supplemental Food Program

    Bill Name (with link)Summary
    H.R. 2287A bill to provide for a limitation on availability of funds for US Department of Agriculture, Food Assistance and Nutrition Service, Commodity Assitance Program for fiscal year 2024.
    H.R. 2294A bill to provide for a limitation on availability of funds for US Department of Agriculture, Food Assistance and Related Programs, Commodity Credit Corporation Export (Loans) Credit Guarantee Program Account for fiscal year 2024.
    Healthy Food Financing Initiative Reauthorization Act of 2023 (Senate Version)A bill to amend the Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act of 1994 to authorize mandatory funding for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative.
    Healthy Food Financing Initiative Reauthorization Act of 2023 (House Version)A bill to amend the Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act of 1994 to reauthorize the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, and for other purposes.

    Marker Bills Related to the Community Food Projects

    Bill Name (with link)Summary
    Military Family Nutrition Access Act of 2023A bill to amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to exclude a basic allowance for housing from income for purposes of eligibility for the supplemental nutrition assistance program.
    H.R. 1765A bill to amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to repeal the limitation on the maximum deduction for shelter expenses allowable for determination of benefits under such Act.
    Food Deserts ActA bill to direct the Secretary of Agriculture to make grants to States to support the establishment and operation of grocery stores in underserved communities, and for other purposes.

    Nutrition Marker Bills Unrelated to the Farm Bill

    The majority of the US’s federal nutrition programs fall under the purview of the USDA. However, not all USDA Nutrition Programs are directed by the Farm Bill. Confusing, huh?

    The general rule of thumb is: if the primary focus of the nutrition program is to feed children, then the program is directed by the federal package called The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, rather than by the Farm Bill. Examples of nutrition programs that are not part of the Farm Bill are the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).

    Congress Members have submitted marker bills focused on these other nutrition programs to the Congressional Agriculture Committees (who also oversee Nutrition Programs), and these marker bills may influence the conversations and decisions that shape the Farm Bill. For that reason, below we include a few of those nutrition-focused marker bills submitted during this round of Farm Bill reauthorization but not strictly related to the Farm Bill.

    Bill Name (with link)Summary
    S. 984A bill to amend the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to permit video or telephone certifications under the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children, and for other purposes.
    S. 974A bill to amend the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to require the Secretary of Agriculture to make publicly available information on infant formula procurement under the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children.
    Farm Fresh Food for Families Act of 2023A bill to amend the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to modernize the farmers’ market nutrition program under the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children, and for other purposes.
    Helping Schools Feed Kids Act of 2023A bill to amend the Keep Kids Fed Act of 2022 to extend additional reimbursement rates for certain child nutrition programs, and for other purposes.
    Protecting Children with Food Allergies ActA bill to amend the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to require the provision of training and information to certain personnel relating to food allergy identification and response, and for other purposes.
    Healthy Meals Help Kids Learn Act of 2023A bill to amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to increase reimbursement rates of school meals, and for other purposes.

    Want to get into even more of the details?

    We have a “living document” tracking submitted marker bills:

  • 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.

    Groups began meeting regularly to discuss organic agriculture, and how to ensure the crop insurance program works for everyone. Organized by OEFFA, the Ohio Soil Health Initiative—a state-level coalition of farmers, organizations, agency staff, and soil scientists—continued working to support soil health innovations from Ohio farmers.

    When the new year began, we were ready for action. What follows is a summary of OEFFA advocacy in the first quarter of 2023.

    Advancing Priorities in the 2023 Farm Bill

    OEFFA members Eli Dean and Celeste Treece joined OEFFA staff Amalie Lipstreu and Julia Barton for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s (NSAC) winter meeting and fly-in in Washington, DC. After much discussion and preparation, we hit the Hill to meet with Senators Sherrod Brown and JD Vance, new Ohio Representative Max Miller (R-7), and Representatives Shontel Brown (D-11) and Marcy Kaptur (D-9).

    It was an important opportunity for three relatively new lawmakers to learn more about OEFFA, organic agriculture, and the small to mid-scale farms that make positive economic and environmental contributions to their communities. Key messages included:

    • Bipartisan support for local and regional food systems;
    • Research to support organic and sustainable farmers;
    • Support for soil health best practices;
    • Increased support for urban farmers;
    • Allowance of just one subsidy per farm; and
    • Promotion of a crop insurance program that is Fair, Functional, and Informed.

    Eli Dean presented a well-researched perspective about how, under the current structure of subsidized crop insurance, larger farmers have the upper hand when buying up land. He went on to explain why we need to provide more risk management support to smaller and more diverse growers and keep the crop insurance subsidies in place for the majority of growers, but ask those at the very top of the economic pyramid to shoulder more of their own costs for crop insurance.

    Farmers for Climate Action: Rally for Resilience

    Joining with NSAC, the Rural Coalition, HEAL Food Alliance, and other organizations, OEFFA staff Heather Dean, Lauren Hirtle, and Amalie Lipstreu accompanied 11 OEFFA members and staff from Rural Action and Ag Noire for Rally for Resilience. The mass action was organized around a request for members of Congress to make climate change policy a priority in the 2023 Farm Bill.

    People united around farmer-led solutions to climate change, racial justice in the farm bill, and a focus on communities over corporations. The three-day event included motivating speakers such as OEFFA member Sophia Buggs from LadyBuggs Farm in Youngstown and Lindsay Klaunig from Trouvaille Farm.

    We were also there with the Organic Farmers Association, where Amalie serves on the Steering Committee and member leader Scott Myers serves on the Policy Council. In meetings with seven members of Congress and three USDA agencies, we advocated for the following:

    • Strong enforcement of organic integrity
    • Organic as a key solution to the climate crisis
    • Increased investments in organic research

    Ongoing communication with and from our members helps to develop strong relationships that build over time. During a meeting at USDA, we learned that different parts of the agency cannot communicate effectively with each other because of outdated and conflicting IT systems. If investments were made in system upgrades, the result would be more efficiencies that would cut bureaucratic and red-tape hurdles that farmers face in accessing resources and programs. Whether from OEFFA members or USDA staff, voices should be heard and remembered.

    National Organic Coalition Fly-In

    On our next trip to Washington, DC, Julia Barton was accompanied by OEFFA members Kim Bayer of Slow Farm in Michigan and Angela Schriver of Ohio’s Schriver Organics, LLC. As an organic grower, Kim is fond of saying that she “pays for the privilege of not applying poisons on her farm.” She led with poignant examples in several legislative meetings, sharing her experiences with cost share and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) programs. She also highlighted the need for inter-agency collaboration and information sharing.

    Angela Schriver spoke eloquently about the holistic suites of synergistic practices in use by organic farmers and similar challenges her farm has faced in engaging with various programs. She shared how extreme weather events impact organic farmers and conveyed the need for a Fair, Functional, and Informed crop insurance farm safety net. Angela and Kim had never met prior to their trip to DC, but they made an amazing team in six legislative meetings, nurturing ongoing relationships with offices, and cultivating new ones.

    The Ohio Statehouse

    Lauren Hirtle, OEFFA’s state-level policy organizer, has been leading the charge of the Ohio Soil Health Initiative. This year, we are taking advantage of the biennium budget cycle by working to secure funding for farmer-led soil health pilot projects across the state.

    We met with and were well-received by eight House members involved in agriculture and finance. OEFFA’s soil health ambassador, Jim Linne of White Clover Farm, provided powerful testimony to the House Finance Subcommittee on Agriculture, Development and Natural Resources. You can view his testimony here.

    Interest was piqued when Jim shared the positive outcomes that come from investing in soil health. He has increased his soil organic matter from one to four percent, increased the water filtration and holding capacity of his soil, and increased the days of photosynthesis on his farm by over 100 days per year. Together, these benefits have sequestered tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide and improved his farm’s profitability. It is exciting to imagine the exponential benefits we could see by supporting more farmers to do the kind of intentional soil health management that Jim has implemented!

    Looking Ahead

    OEFFA members have been leading the way for change during the first quarter of this year. To build on this exciting momentum we will be hosting a farm bill advocacy training in June and an OEFFA DC fly-in during July. We will also be promoting opportunities for members to meet with their representatives in community during the month of August when they are back “in the district” for summer recess.

    Consider joining us to take advantage of this once-in-every-five-year opportunity to make real change in our food and farming system! To find out more information about how you can be involved, contact policy@oeffa.org.

  • Farm Bill,  Organic

    NOC Members Urge Congressional Leaders to Advance Organic Agriculture

    This post originally appeared on the National Organic Coalition (NOC) blog.

    Twenty six farmers, scientists, policy advocates and organic company representatives from the National Organic Coalition advocated for organic agriculture last week in Washington, D.C. On Wednesday, we criss-crossed Capitol Hill, where we met with 56 Congressional Offices. 24 meetings were with Members of Congress (or their staff) who sit on the House and Senate Agriculture Committees – the committees responsible for writing the 2023 Farm Bill.

    During visits with congressional offices, we focused on four themes to advance organic in the 2023 Farm Bill:

    • A proposed Opportunities in Organic Program, which will establish a suite of flexible, easy-to-access tools to reduce barriers to organic agriculture.
    • Strengthening organic integrity, which is all about ensuring the continuous improvement of USDA’s organic standards.
    • Expanding organic research, which will provide tools to address production, marketing and environmental challenges.
    • Strengthening USDA’s conservation programs for organic farmers, which highlights that organic farming is climate-smart and environmentally sound.

    NOC has developed a detailed list of organic priorities for every title of the Farm Bill.

    NOC also met with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Jenny Moffitt, where we had a productive conversation about the organic dairy crisis, future updates to the organic standards, and the USDA’s new Organic Transition Initiative. NOC thanked Under Secretary Moffitt for championing organic agriculture within USDA and for the agency’s work to finalize the Origin of Livestock and Strengthening Organic Enforcement rules.

    The photos below show some of the highlights from our time in DC.

    Follow NOC on social media (Facebook @NationalOrganicCoalition and Twitter @NationalOrganic) to see updates from last week’s Congressional and USDA meetings.