Food and Farm Policy
Slow Food USA (“SFUSA”) believes in the power of a food chain that is Good, Clean, and Fair for All! It starts with our personal decisions about what food is on our plates and continues through advocating for federal, state, and local public policy that affects every aspect of the food chain, from farm to fork. To learn more about how food policy is passed, head over to our Policy 101 guide.
Our Food and Farm Policy Steering Committee brings together diverse stakeholders within our Slow Food USA network to advocate at every level of government for policies that support our vision for a healthy food system. You can learn more about the structure of our committee here, and check out the policy recommendations and proposed rules that we have signed and commented on.
By advocating for positive change in public policy, we can forge the political, social, environmental, and economic links to develop a sustainable and fair food chain. This policy page will help keep you informed about food and farm challenges, opportunities, and times to be heard by policy makers.
Below are a list of organizations cultivating equity, inclusion, and justice in the food and agriculture system.
We recommend checking out their websites to learn more!
- Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund
- Restaurant Opportunities Centers United
- Food Chain Workers Alliance
- Farmworker Justice
- BCA Global
- National Latino Farmer and Rancher Trade Association
- United Farmworkers
- Alianza Nacional de Campesinas
- Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance
- Rural Coalition
Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act (CNR)
What is CNR?
Every five years or so, Congress and the President are supposed to reauthorize essential federal Child Nutrition programs that help provide healthy food and nutrition for more than 35,000,000 children and infants each year, including seven billion school meals! These programs are made possible by a piece of legislation called the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR). The last CNR, the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, was passed in 2010. We are long overdue for a CNR that builds upon the successes of the HHFKA of 2010, and restores subsequent roll backs made by the last Congress and present Administration.
Congressional Letter: To help ensure that the Child Nutrition Reauthorization aligns with our beliefs, Slow Food USA Executive Director, Anna Mulé, sent a letter to key Congressional Leaders outlining our priorities for a CNR that supports more equitable access to good, healthful, nutritious, climate friendly food for more of our nation’s children.
In the letter we call upon Congress to:
- restore and strengthen HHFKA nutrition standards
- further expand children’s access to nutritious meals
- make federally sponsored meals more climate friendly
- increase child nutrition program equity and inclusion
The Trump Administration is proposing a rule that would further roll back the nutrition standards set for school lunches, making it more difficult for our kids to access healthy meals. The rule claims to provide greater “flexibility” for schools, but in practice, it allows for more high-calorie meals and fewer healthy options.
We are working to counter this rollback and you can help us by providing a comment on the Regulations.gov page for “Simplifying Meal Service and Monitoring Requirements in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.” Use our suggested comment found here!
More Time for Lunch: A primary goal for Slow Food is to increase the allowed time of lunch periods in public schools. Read our op ed that outlines why this matters to our children.
Excerpt: Many schools allot just 20 minutes for school lunch. When the bell rings, students leave the classroom, walk to the cafeteria, wait in the food line, choose their meal, then find a place to sit. How much time do you think that leaves for eating? Answer: way less than 20 minutes. This curtailed time in front of a healthy tray has the greatest impact on children from lower income households, who rely on that meal for a significant portion of their daily nutrition.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization Policy Map
The House Committee on Education and Labor has jurisdiction over the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization. Check out our policy map to see if you have a representative serving on the committee.
The Farm Bill
What is the Farm Bill?
The Farm Bill is a massive piece of cyclical legislation that covers food from production to access. It consists of Agricultural Titles and a Nutrition Title.
Agricultural Titles include programs that address commodities, conservation, trade, rural development, horticulture, organic farming, crop insurance, subsidies, research, beginning and disadvantaged farmer and rancher development, and food and farm issues affecting indigenous people.
Nutrition makes up 76% of farm bill spending. The following major nutrition programs were reauthorized in the 2018 Farm Bill: SNAP; Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations; The Emergency Food Assistance Program; Commodity Supplemental Food Program; Community Food Projects; Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program; Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive grants. Learn more about these nutrition programs.
Slow Food USA, along with many farmers, ranchers, eaters, and their advocates, are very gratified that the Senate and the House were able to get the Farm Bill passed before the end of 2018. SFUSA members and partners worked hard to ensure passage by heeding calls to action, connecting with their Representatives, and making their voices heard. All should be proud of their efforts advocating for passage of a Good, Clean, and Fair Farm Bill.
Here are documents produced by Slow Food USA to advocate for our Farm Bill priorities:
- “Congress Passes 2018 Farm Bill” blog post, for more details on the programs included in this Farm Bill.
- SFUSA 2018 Farm Bill Priorities
- Constituent Letter to 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee Members
- SFUSA Farm Bill Priorities Letter to Congress
Read our other policy posts to learn more about the Farm Bill’s Reauthorization.
Important Federal Agricultural Programs To know
The Local Agriculture Market Program was created in the 2018 Farm Bill. It combines and streamlines two existing programs: Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) and Value-Added Producers Grant Program (VAPG). As a result of this integration, the FMLFPP and VAPG will have permanent and mandatory funding, funding for local and regional food systems will be better coordinated, and a new partnership program will help develop regional food economies. Learn more about LAMP.
Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP)
A grant program that funds education, extension, outreach, and technical assistance initiatives directed at helping beginning farmers and ranchers of all types. Learn more about BFRDP.
Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers (Section 2501 Program)
A grant program to help organizations and institutions that provide resources, outreach, and technical assistance to historically underserved producers. Learn more about Section 2501.
Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO)
FOTO coordinates USDA training and outreach to beginning, veteran, and social disadvantaged farmers. Learn more about FOTO.
Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018
The 2018 Farm Bill includes many Native American-related provisions that are unprecedented. The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 displays a new federal focus on Tribal governments and Native producers by addressing nutrition, conservation, rural development, credit, and forestry. These provisions are a long-awaited success since they address the inequities tribal governments face, as well as recognize tribal sovereignty. Learn more about the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018.
Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
The CSP rewards farmers and ranchers for adopting comprehensive conservation systems. Learn more about CSP.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
EQUIP provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers for addressing natural resources concerns and delivering environmental benefits. Learn more about EQIP.
Farm Bill Policy Maps
The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry and the House Committee on Agriculture have jurisdiction over the Farm Bill. Check out the following policy maps to learn if your Representatives serve on these Committees or Sub-committees.
Senate Agriculture Committee Map
House Agriculture Committee
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (msa)
What is the MSA?
The MSA is cyclical legislation that regulates marine fisheries in U.S. federal waters. Its goal is to promote long-term biological and economic sustainability of marine fisheries by addressing fish habitat decline, preventing overfishing, rebuilding overfished stocks, increasing long-term economic and social benefits, and ensuring a safe and productive supply of seafood.
Kevin Scribner, SFUSA Food & Farm Policy Committee member, founder of Forever Wild, and former fisherman, wrote a blog post for the Marine Fish Conservation Network about the endangerment of the flourishing existence of Bristol Bay.
Marine Policy Maps
The MSA is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). MSA legislative jurisdiction resides with the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Sub-committee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard and the House Committee on Natural Resources, Sub-committee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife. Check out our marine policy maps below to learn if your Representatives serve on any of these Sub-committees.
Senate Subcommittee on Science, Oceans, Fisheries and Weather
House Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife
Rulemaking and implementation
What are rules?
Once laws are created by Congress and signed by the President, federal agencies create rules and regulations to implement and operate programs pursuant to law. This process differs from legislation in that it does not need to get passed by the House and Senate. Since heads of federal agencies are part of the executive branch, creating and implementing rules and regulations is a form of executive, not legislative, responsibility. However, the public has an opportunity to comment on proposed rules, opposing or supporting them. These public comment opportunities allow individuals and organizations to voice their opinions and impact the outcome. Regulatory issues on which SFUSA has commented are below.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, is a federal program part of the Farm Bill legislation. As the nation’s largest food assistance program, SNAP provides a critical lifeline for households facing economic difficulties, the disabled, and elderly people. In addition to improving healthy food access, SNAP also supports the local economy and farmers by boosting demand for their goods.
The policy of Categorical Eligibility (Cat El) allows states to broaden SNAP’s reach in accordance with the federal eligibility rules. SNAP’s benefit structure rewards earnings and incentivizes participants to work for a greater income. However, if families experience a small increase in earnings that raises their gross income to over 130% of the federal poverty line (the threshold for federal SNAP eligibility), they could lose their SNAP benefits. Just because households no longer qualify for SNAP does not mean they do not need it. As people are working up the economic ladder and saving for the future, they can still have lofty housing and childcare costs.
This is where Cat El comes in: Broad-based categorical eligibility (BBCE) is a federal policy that makes most households categorically eligible for SNAP because they qualify for a non-cash Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefit or a state maintenance of effort (MOE) benefit.
In July 2019, the USDA proposed a rule limiting the benefits that confer categorical eligibility. This proposed regulation is an attempt to reduce the Cat El policy through executive action. Slow Food USA publicly commented on the proposed rule, opposing it and requesting it be withdrawn. In the comment letter, Slow Food USA’s Executive Director, Anna Mulé, explains that SNAP plays a critical role in addressing hunger and food security in low income communities, reaching vulnerable populations, bolstering local economies, and allowing children to receive free school meals. Preventing so many households from receiving SNAP benefits would be detrimental to low income communities and the nation.
Southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed is a pristine ecosystem that is home to the world’s largest remaining wild salmon run. It provides habitat for 29 fish species, including all five species of Pacific salmon—sockeye, Chinook, coho, chum, and pink.
As you may know, climate change has directly impacted our oceans and watersheds, threatening fish species and fish habitat. Threats to Bristol Bay from mining include toxic waste production and acid mine drainage, which could lead to surface and groundwater contamination. The Bristol Bay watershed is also home to the Pebble deposit, a large underground body of mineral ore. And, the Pebble Limited Partnership, a project of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd, hopes to mine for copper and gold there, in the heart of the Bristol Bay watershed.
Slow Food USA recently rallied up supporters to tell the EPA to save this unique, culturally and economically important fishery. Check out recent news for a copy of our letter.
The H-2A visa program allows U.S. farm employers or agents, who meet specific requirements, to legally hire immigrant workers to fill temporary agricultural jobs. The program is criticized for its bureaucratic complexity and exclusions, preventing many farmers from utilizing it, thus limiting its benefits and opportunities for migrant farmworkers.
Slow Food believes in a migrant farmworker program that provides ample farmworkers to sustain our food production, and that treats migrant farmworkers with respect: living wages, a path to citizenship, and freedom from fear of harassment, family separation, and deportation. Improvements in the program would not only help farmworkers, whose work sustains our food production, but help address the nation’s critical lack of farm labor.
In September 2019, the DOL proposed changes to the H-2A agricultural guestworker program. The changes would affect wage rates, transportation costs, and housing. The proposal does increase the surety bond amount required of H-2A labor contractors (which helps ensure compliance with regulations to protect migrant workers from harmful situations and exploitation), however the increase is insufficient. Read our public comment letter to the Department of Labor, opposing the proposed changes to the H-2A program.