by Reana Kovalcik & Ed Yowell (Slow Food USA)
Every five years or so, Congress debates a new Farm Bill – our nation’s largest (and most costly) package of food, farm, and nutrition legislation. We are due for one this year and, in keeping with the political tenor of the last year, the process promises to be contentious. The Farm Bill is huge – the Congressional Budget Office recently scored the bill, estimating it will cost over $420 billion over the next ten years. This bill impacts every aspect of our food chain, from what food is produced how and where and with what environmental impact to how well (or poorly) we serve our hungry children and families in need of nutrition assistance.
Slow Food USA's Farm Bill Platform
Slow Food believes that active engagement on the farm bill is critical, not just for farmers, but also for every eater out there. Our mission is to advance a food chain that is Good, Clean, and Fair for All, and sometimes the best way to realize these goals is to engage in the weedsy world of policy. We believe that every one of us has the right to enjoy ample, healthy, sustainably and humanely produced food. We also owe it to our farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers to ensure that food is produced safely and in a manner that fairly supports their livelihoods. Finally, we have a responsibility to our planet (and to one another) to ensure that our food chain replenishes and supports natural resources – not damaging and weakening them.
Rooted in these beliefs, Slow Food is calling on Congress to put forward a 2018 Farm Bill that supports:
- Better Nutrition and an End to Hunger: All persons deserve access to fresh, healthful food, and we should all work together to ensure that none of our neighbors go hungry.
- A Level Plowing Field: Fairness and equity for farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers must be an important link in our food chain.
- Food for the Future: We must meet the 21st century challenges of food production; extreme weather, increasing population, new and more resilient pests and crop diseases, and a lack of new, skilled farmers and seed breeders.
Cross-cutting each of these priorities is the imperative that we advance racial equity throughout the food chain. For a full list of Slow Food’s Farm Bill priorities, click here.
Your voice is important in this pentennial process! You, as a constituent of Members of Congress, can help achieve a good, clean, and fair Farm Bill – thank your legislators for supporting issues important to you, or, if they have not, urge them to support those issues. More on this later.
Farm Bill Timeline and Process
In the run up to the Farm Bill, members of Congress introduce what are known as “marker bills,” which are intended to signal important issues and policy changes that they, and their constituencies, would like to see written into the final version of the bill. Following a marker bill’s introduction, Congressional sponsors will then seek additional support from their colleagues in Congress – by asking them to “sign on” to their marker bills. Generally, the more bi-partisan support a marker bill has from members of Congress, particularly those on the Agriculture Committees, the better the chances that the policies and programs contained in that bill will be included in the final Farm Bill.
Slow Food USA, along with our many like-minded and allied organizations, has been reviewing Farm Bill marker bills as they are introduced and have identified those that particularly align with our beliefs and priorities. These marker bills are listed below.
What You Can Do!
Your constituent voice is very important! If you’re in a state or district with a Senator or Representative on the Senate or House Agriculture Committee, then it is especially urgent that you make your voice and values heard now (click here to see members of the House Agriculture and Senate Agriculture Committees) – but each member of Congress eventually will vote on the Farm Bill, and that makes every member representing every state and district important! You easily can look up your Members of Congress and their contact information via govtrack.us.
If your Member of Congress is already sponsoring or cosponsoring one of these marker bills, please, thank them! If they are not yet supporting a bill you care about, contact them and let them know that you care about these issues and hope that they do too.
SFUSA Supported 2018 Farm Bill Marker Bills
Better Nutrition and an End to Hunger
- Farm to School Act of 2017 (S. 1767/H.R. 3687): Continue and expand the effectiveness of the Farm to School Grant Program. Sponsored by Sens. Leahy (VT) and Cochran (MS) and Rep. Fortenberry (NE).
- Tribal Nutrition Improvement Act of 2018 (S. 2409/H.R. 4967) and the Tribal Food and Housing Security Act (S. 2489): Enable Native American Tribes to assume the administration of federal school food and child and adult care food programs and improve food production, natural resource conservation, rural development, and affordable housing programs serving Native American Tribes. Sponsored by Sen. Udall (NM) and Rep. Grisham (NM) and Sen Heitkamp (ND), respectively.
A Level “Plowing” Field
- Local FARMS (Food and Regional Market Supply) Act of 2017 (S. 1947/H.R. 3941): Support the development and growth of vibrant local and regional food systems. Sponsored by Sen. Brown (OH) and Reps. Pingree (ME), Fortenberry (NE), and Maloney (NY).
- Young and Beginning Farmers Act of 2017 (H.R. 4201) and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2017 (H.R. 4316): Provide much-needed support to usher in the next generation of American farmers and ranchers, and make sure they have the resources and tools they need to succeed. Sponsored by Reps. Maloney (NY) and Costello (PA) and Reps. Walz (MN) and Fortenberry (NE), respectively.
- Urban Agriculture Production Act of 2017 (H.R. 3699): Promote and enhance urban agriculture, focusing on historically undeserved neighborhoods. Sponsored by Rep. Kaptur (OH).
Food for the Future
- Organic Agriculture Research Act 2017/18 (S. 2404/H.R. 2436): Increase and solidify organic agriculture research and extension initiative funding. Sponsored by Sens. Collins (ME) and Casey (PA) and Rep. Pingree (ME).
- GROW (Give our Resources the Opportunity to Work) Act of 2018 (S. 2557) and the SOIL (Strengthening our Investment in Land) Stewardship Act of 2018 (H.R. 5188): Strengthen conservation programs (e.g., the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, and Conservation Reserve Program) that help farmers to produce food sustainably, keep our waters clean, and build soil health. Sponsored by Sens. Ernst (IA), Brown (OH), Grassley (IA), and Casey (PA) and Rep. Walz (MN), respectively.
- Seeds for the Future Act of 2018 (H.R. 5208): Increase public resources for public plant breeding research to ensure that farmers have access to high-quality seeds that are well-suited for a diverse range of cropping operations. Sponsored by Rep. Pocan (WI).