Every five years, Congress passes a massive omnibus bill known as the farm bill. What began as a modest, 26-page bill first passed during the Great Depression to increase growers’ “purchasing power to raise revenue for extraordinary expenses” has now grown into a permanent piece of legislation that authorized $956 billion in the 2014 farm bill.
As we head toward 2018, legislators have started drafting a new farm bill. What is finalized can either advance or halt the progress toward building an agricultural system beneficial to the environment, citizens (especially the most vulnerable) and, of course, America’s farmers. For those who share our vision for greater equity in the food and farm system, we want to outline a few priorities.
First and foremost, we support a 2018 farm bill that would finally recognize the multiple reasons and benefits of investing in organic agriculture. By increasing funding toward sustainable agriculture, we can move away from petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers and increase organic matter in the soil, helping sequester carbon that aids the fight against climate change. Well-funded programs that promote conservation and land stewardship are vital to protecting our springs and waters.
Also at the top of our list is a national succession plan. With the average farmer nearly 60 years young and with approximately 100 million acres of farm land expected to be passed down to the next generation over the next five years, resources are needed to train young farmers and help them access affordable farmland. The upcoming farm bill can also aid growers of all sizes and experiences more fully comply with regulations set forth in the Food Safety Modernization Act.