We held a Farm Bill Update webinar on June 5th and you can view the 34-minute video here:
Presenters: Juli Obudzinski, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (sign up for NSAC updates); Lorette Picciano, Rural Coalition; Rodrigo Rodriguez, Southwest Organizing Project; Nora Leccese, PC(USA) Office of Public Witness
Farm Bill Update: What’s Up
The US government has until September 30, 2018 to pass a new Farm Bill. The House brought their Farm Bill to the floor and it was rejected on May 18 by every Democrat, and some moderate and Freedom Caucus Republicans, the latter wanting action on a restrictive immigration bill first.
Below, I mention five areas of concern about the House bill, which they are still planning to put up for another vote, as of today. The Senate will reportedly unveil its Farm Bill in June.
You may know the routine of bill passage. Once a bill makes it out of committee, each full chamber rejects or passes. When you have two bills, as in the case of the Farm Bill, the passed versions go to a joint committee where they are reconciled into a single bill. That bill goes back to the full House, then the Senate, and if passed in both, to the President for approval or veto.
Concerns about the House’s version:
- SNAP – benefits would be cut by about $17 billion over ten years, primarily by toughening the work requirement rules, which would push an estimated 1.6 million beneficiaries off of SNAP.
- Conservation – the House bill would erase support for resource stewardship on 70 million acres (that’s an area the size of Nevada) of working farm and ranchland by completely eliminating the Conservation Stewardship Program.
- Local food – the House bill abandons local farmers by cutting all funding for several programs that invest in helping farmers connect to local and regional buyers and in improving healthy food access.
- Beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers – the House bill misses the mark by failing to invest more in beginning farmers, military veteran farmers, and farmers of color. With the average age of farmers continuing to rise, the status quo is not enough to ensure the success of these key farmer communities.
- Crop insurance and commodities – because prices are low compared to production costs and because of the many risks of farming, not least of which is extreme weather due to climate change, crop insurance is critical for farmers. But the House bill opens major new loopholes allowing for unlimited subsidies that will continue to distort land prices and create an unfair playing field for farmers.
For your guide to the Farm Bill — complete with questions you can ask your local, state or federal candidates — download the PC(USA)’s Eater’s Guide to the Farm Bill
Should we rename the Farm Bill?
This hard-working bill covers everything—from crop insurance to community food projects, from Meals on Wheels and SNAP (food stamps) to energy, conservation, and international food aid. Calling it the Food Bill would at least pique the curiosity of those that eat!
No matter what it is called, though, as disciples of a loving God, we are called upon to care for poor and vulnerable people and urge Congress to reform the Farm Bill so that it reduces hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world. We call for strengthening rural communities, supporting farmworkers, farmers and all who work in the food system, and caring for the land as God’s creation.
Learn why we should care about this bill by watching this great 4-minute video from our friends at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition!
Our nation’s food and farm policies as embodied in the Farm Bill impact people and communities from rural America to developing countries. In the current budget climate, the Farm Bill’s resources must be effectively targeted where the needs are greatest. Therefore, we stand behind the following Farm Bill principles:
- Protect and strengthen programs that reduce hunger and improve nutrition in the United States.
- Promote investments and policies that strengthen rural communities and combat rural poverty.
- Ensure that farmers in the U.S. and around the world receive fair prices so they can sustain their farms and their livelihoods.
- Ensure that crop insurance and other programs include payment limitations and rules giving equitable access to small- and medium-scale farmers.
- Strengthen policies and programs that promote conservation, reduce carbon emissions, and protect creation from environmental degradation.
- Protect the dignity, health, safety, and fair compensation of those responsible for working the land.
- Promote research and incentives related to clean and renewable forms of energy that do not negatively impact food prices or the environment.
- Safeguard and improve international food aid in ways that encourage local food security and improve the nutritional quality of food aid.
- Advocate for policies that honor treaties and land claims by Indigenous Peoples, support farmers and food chain workers of color, and promote food sovereignty in the Global South.
The Farm Bill is reauthorized every five years, and this one comes at a time of increased income and wealth inequality, ongoing racism, environmental degradation, and climate change. Given this historic moment and based on the Social Witness Policies of the PC(USA), we call on Presbyterians to advocate especially in these five areas:
A) Food security, rural support and sustainable regional food economies
B) Access to resources and land for people of color, immigrants and farmworkers, and beginner farmers
C) Land, environment, and climate stewardship
D) Food chain and farm workers, and at-risk farmers & producers
E) International food aid that strengthens food sovereignty
- Download the PC(USA)’s Eater’s Guide to the Farm Bill
- Farm Bill Principles and Five Areas in Word or PDF