If you like to eat, care about where your food comes from, pay taxes, or care about local land use, then the Farm Bill is probably the most important piece of federal legislation for you to follow!
The Farm Bill is passed by the United States Congress every five years. It plays a crucial role in agriculture, nutrition, and rural development throughout the country. It has a significant impact on the livelihoods of farmers, the availability of food assistance programs, and the sustainability of agricultural practices in the US. The Farm Bill was up for renewal in September 2023, however with the looming threat of a government shutdown, Congress passed a year-long extension to allow time to collaborate on amending it. Because it must balance the requirements of numerous stakeholders, including farmers, consumers, environmentalists, and lawmakers, the Farm Bill is a complicated and frequently contentious piece of legislation.
Why Does it Matter?
The Farm Bill was created in response to the economic and environmental crises of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl to address three main goals:
- to maintain fair food prices for farmers and consumers
- to guarantee an adequate food supply
- to safeguard and sustain the nation’s essential natural resources
These primary goals remain the same, but as our food system and climate have changed drastically since the 1920s, so have our most pressing issues, and the make up of our entire food system. Therefore, the Farm Bill must evolve as well. It has a profound impact on just about every aspect of our food system.
About a third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are linked to food, which is about the same as the transportation system’s total climate emissions. According to the United Nations, our industrial food system is one of the largest causes of pollution in our water, air, and environment.
Consider These Facts
- 99% of the nation’s meat comes from factory farms/CAFOs
- Less than 2% of Americans farm or ranch as their occupation
- Industrial agriculture’s massive footprint occupies over 60% of the contiguous U.S.
- Due to consolidation in the nation’s agriculture sector, only 6% of farming operations produce 90% of all meat, dairy, and poultry
The modern state of our food system makes it clear that now is the time to refocus our resources and prioritize support for sustainable food system reform in the Farm Bill.
- Listen to the “Is it time to rethink how the farm bill works?” episode of NPR’s On Point podcast
- Borrow or buy The Farm Bill: A Citizens Guide by Daniel Imhoff at your favorite bookstore or at bookshop.org
- Read Farm Aid’s blog: “Farm Bill 101”
- Check out this thought-provoking 3-part blog series “Agriculture, Climate and 2023 Farm Bill” from EarthJustice
You may have seen the Farm Bill in the news recently. Congress passed a resolution to keep the Farm Bill’s funding in place until the end of September 2024, just before the next presidential election. While this gives lawmakers a year to write a new Farm Bill, they have a limited amount of time to reach bipartisan agreements on critical issues. It is essential that we reach out to our elected officials to encourage them to pass a Farm Bill that promotes sustainable agriculture and makes climate action a priority. Here are two ways you can take action:
- Urge the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry to better support sustainable agriculture in the 2023 Farm Bill by submitting this form.
- Send a quick email to your members of Congress to make climate a priority in the 2023 Farm Bill via this form from the Environmental Working Group.