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
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.
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for support. We are stronger together!