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March 26, 2024Farm Bill Updates

Blog Post

Margaret Reeves, Co-Coordinator of Coming Clean’s Chemicals, Food, Agriculture and Climate (CFAC) team 

What is the Farm Bill?

About every five years, the U.S. Congress passes the biggest set of food and farming policies that define the majority of federal farm, food, nutrition, and rural economic programs. At a cost of about $440 billion over five years, these programs influence: What is grown; who grows it; how it is grown or produced; what is done with those products and where they are sold; who can access and afford those goods; and how we invest in rural communities. Historically, the farm bill has not included food and farmworker rights and protections, pesticide protections or laws, or amendments to the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. About 77% of farm bill funding goes to the nutrition title, primarily the food stamp program (known as SNAP). Other sectors address conservation programs, and support for crop production, mostly the large commodity crops such as corn, soy, rice, and wheat.  

Farm Bill engagement is movement-building

The Senate and House Agriculture Committees write the various “marker” bills that constitute the Farm Bill. Hence, advocates focus on influencing their representatives on the ag committees. Having engaged in work on the past three farm bills, I can honestly say that one of the most exciting features of this farm bill work is an elevated level of cross-sector collaboration and movement-building not seen previously. In 2023, we wrote letters to both Agriculture Committees that were endorsed by 50 organizations; and sent members to D.C. where they held 23 in-person meetings with members of Congress that we complemented with another five virtual meetings. We also endorsed and supported initiatives from aligned organizations, such as the transformative farm bill statement issued by the Union of Concerned Scientists with hundreds of supporters, and the Farmers for Climate Action: Rally for Resilience, organized by the HEAL Food Alliance.

We continue our farm bill work this year, with a focus on supporting CFAC member organizations, including Alianza Nacional, National Family Farm Coalition, Family Farm Defenders, the Center for Food Safety and others on the ground in D.C. We will provide them with our group’s priorities as described below, and provide communications support for their advocacy work.  

Farm Bill timeline 

The farm bill timing is still up in the air. While there is a chance that we’ll see a bill this spring that seems highly unlikely. The House has not yet presented its version, the House and Senate are quite far apart from one another. Once there are two bills they will still have to conference resulting in a final bill for a vote by the full Congress.  Though the Senate Ag chair Debbie Stabenow has been adamant about passing a bill this year, the two sides seem to be at an impasse. So our work carries on albeit with an uncertain timeline.

CFAC Farm Bill Priorities

Our coalition has two  high-level priorities. The first is to protect the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding for climate priorities. This is a major source of funding for the conservation programs we support. CFAC is not directly engaged, but we fully support ongoing efforts to bolster IRA funding for sustainable farming. Our second priority is to support specific marker bills, highlighted and grouped below in six issue areas below. 

1: Prioritize Community Food Sovereignty/Security 

    • Local Farms and Food Act (H.R.2723, S.1205): Increases farmers’ and local communities’ access to market opportunities, catalytic investments, and healthy food. 
    • Make NO cuts to SNAP. Closing the Meal Gap Act (H.R.4077, S.2192) and EATS Act of 2023 (Enhance Access to SNAP) (H.R.3183, S.1488)
    • Increase funding for the USDA Local Agriculture Market Program (only CFAC and NFFC)
    • Require Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) on beef, pork, and dairy products

2: Address the Historical and Continual Inequities Faced by Indigenous Peoples, Black Farmers, and Farmworker Communities

    • Increasing Land, Access, Security & Opportunity Act (H.R.3955, S.2340): Strengthens land access, retention, and transition while improving access to capital and markets for underserved farmers
    • Justice for Black Farmers Act (H.R.1167, S.96): Addresses the history of discrimination against Black farmers by the USDA and identifies reforms to prevent future discrimination.
    • Provide compensation for farmers who have been discriminated against with respect to land access and farming opportunities. Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Grant Program (FOTO) Reauthorization Act of 2023 (S.2380)
    • Increase funding for Title VI: Rural Development, making explicit improved housing and clean water facilities for farmworkers

3: Protect Workers against Exploitation, Violence, and Health Harm

    • Protect America's Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTPA) (S.3283)
    • Voice for Farm Workers Act (S.2702): Reauthorizes and expands the role of the USDA Farmworker Coordinator.
    • Uniform heat protections and disaster relief for farmworkers; Asunción Valdivia Heat Stress Injury, Illness, and Fatality Prevention Act (H.R.2193, S.1068)
    • Agricultural Worker Justice Act (H.R.4978, S.2601): Offers reforms to USDA purchasing to address worker safety and fair wages and empower states to do local procurement.

4: Redirect Commodity Program Funding to Regenerative, Climate Resilient Practices

    • Agriculture Resilience Act (H.R.1840, S.1016): Provides a comprehensive roadmap to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and help farmers mitigate and adapt to climate change. Fully fund the Conservation Stewardship Program to meet farmer demand by providing $4 billion in mandatory program funding per year.

5: Eliminate Support for Industrial-Scale Livestock Operations

    • Farm System Reform Act (H.R.797, S.271). Moratorium on subsidies to factory farms (CAFOs)
    • Strengthen the Packers and Stockyards Act to protect livestock and poultry producers from anti-competitive practices

6: What to OMIT from the Farm Bill – Oppose Preemption Bills

    • There are two bills before the Ag Committees designed to eliminate local and regional governments from providing greater protections to their constituencies than is provided under federal laws. County authorities are opposed as are a large and growing number of community organizations. 
    • The two bills are: 1) Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act of 2023 (H.R.4417, S.2019); and 2) Agricultural Labeling Uniformity Act of 2023 (H.R. 4288). This bill would prohibit local and state governments from enacting pesticide laws that are more protective than federal regulations. It’s no surprise that Bayer and the industry-funded CropLife America have made passage of the measure a priority.

Recent Policy Improvements 

Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has also strengthened several related policies by rulemaking that are worth highlighting. 

    • USDA recently proposed a rule that will strengthen antitrust and fair competition laws that apply to livestock and poultry producers, replacing a Trump-era rule that provided a blanket defense for corporate integrators in the poultry, hog, and beef markets at the expense of small-scale producers. 
    • In a recent policy win, the USDA newly mandated that all meat products sold with the “Product of U.S.A.” label must in fact be derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the U.S.

CFAC is engaged in additional activities that we will report on in subsequent updates. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to support the farm bill work of CFAC and our partners in this inspiring movement to build a climate-friendly, fair, and just food and farming system for all.

About CFAC 

The Chemicals, Food, Agriculture, and Climate (CFAC) team unites those fighting to expose the corporate capture of our food and farming system by the petrochemical chemical industry. We expose the harmful impacts experienced by those on the front lines of production of hazardous pesticides to those routinely exposed to their use in chemical-intensive agriculture — from farmworkers and farmers to consumers and the environment. We also work to derail that system by advocating for federal policies that support climate-friendly and socially just agricultural production that eliminates those harms and provides ample healthy food to all, is resilient to and helps mitigate climate change, and supports vibrant, rural communities. The Farm Bill is the place to do just that.


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