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Funding for Sustainable Agriculture: NOW is the time!

Like every spring, this spring NSAC and our members will be working to strengthen funding for sustainable agriculture programs through Congress’s appropriations process. Stay tuned for details here.

Top appropriations priorities for sustainable agriculture this spring:

  • STOP any cuts to conservation programs that help farmers use sustainable practices!
  • INCREASE funding for sustainable agriculture research and education!
  • INCREASE funding for technical assistance and outreach for socially disadvantaged and military veteran farmers and ranchers!
  • INCREASE funding for food safety training for farmers!

More on conservation programs:

We urge Congress NOT to limit mandatory 2014 Farm Bill funding for vital farm bill conservation programs, especially the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

Farmers and the environment alike get a big leg up from conservation programs.  Farmers count on them to conserve soil for future generations, keep our shared water and air clean, and create habitat for honeybees and other wildlife – all while farming profitably.  A suite of distinct but interrelated farm bill programs — Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, and others — work together to help farmers protect and rebuild soil, provide clean water and wildlife habitat, and supply other environmental benefits, while maintaining vibrant and productive farms and ranches. Congress must prevent cuts to mandatory funding for conservation programs.

  • The 2014 Farm Bill already cut $6 billion from the Conservation Title. As a result, over 2.9 million acres per year of crop, pasture, rangeland, and wetlands will not be enrolled. These programs cannot sustain any further cuts.
  • Demand for these programs is high! Applications for CSP and EQIP dollars outstrip available funds by two to three times on an annual basis.

More on sustainable agriculture research and education:

We urge Congress to fund SARE at $30 million – a slight increase over current funding and half the authorized level.

The Sustainable Agriculture Research Program (SARE) program is a highly cost-effective competitive research and outreach program that advances sustainable agriculture across the entirety of American agriculture. SARE is the only USDA research program with a clear and consistent focus on sustainability and whose research is exclusively farmer-driven.  For over 25 years, SARE has funded the crucial on-farm research that farmers and ranchers need, giving them the tools they need to build environmentally sound and profitable farming systems.

  • Despite SARE’s popularity and demonstrated efficiency, after over 27 years, Congress has only provided just over a third of its authorized amount, and only 1 out of 5 deserving proposals is funded, including less than 1 out of 10 meritorious research proposals.
  • For every $1 invested in publicly funded agricultural research such as SARE, $20 in economic activity is generated.
  • The Obama Administration has also requested an increase in funding for SARE, recognizing the importance of cutting-edge research that is easily accessible, regionally appropriate, and farmer-tested. The increased funding request is a response to the fact that USDA has only been able to fund 6 percent of eligible SARE proposals due to high demand and lack of funding.

More on technical assistance and outreach for socially disadvantaged and military veteran farmers and ranchers:

We urge Congress to fund 2501 at $10 million in discretionary funding in fiscal year 2017.

For decades, the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program (also known as the Section 2501 Program) has served as the only farm bill program dedicated to addressing the specific needs of minority farmers and was recently expanded to also serve military veterans. The 2501 Program helps institutions and nonprofits provide critical resources, outreach, and technical assistance to serve these historically underserved producers.

However, the most recent farm bill that was signed into law in 2014 drastically cut mandatory funding for the program from $20 million to $10 million per year.  Unfortunately, this significant cut in funding also accompanied a substantial program expansion to serve the needs of the influx of returning military veterans who seek assistance in pursing a career in farming.

This underinvestment in the Section 2501 Program will ultimately shortchange our nation’s most vulnerable and chronically underserved farmers and ranchers, and will slow the pace of progress and subsequent success of these farming operations, and thus, American agriculture as a whole. With additional demand for program resources from returning military veterans, it is essential that Congress scale up, not cut back, on support for our nation’s most underserved communities. We therefore strongly urge Congress to provide $10 million in discretionary funding for the 2501 program in FY 2017 in order to restore total program funding to previous total funding levels of $20 million.

More on food safety training for farmers:

We urge Congress to fund the Food Safety Outreach Program at $10 million in FY 2017 to help expand this new initiative so that farmers have the training they need to implement and comply with new food safety regulations.

In 2010, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) – the first major overhaul to our nation’s food safety laws since the 1930s.  Recognizing the importance of training as a part of a food safety system focused on prevention, Congress created a competitive grants program in FSMA, to be administered by USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture, to fund farmer and food processor training efforts.  The Food and Drug Administration is in the process of implementing FSMA and finalizing new, expansive food safety regulations for farmers and food processors.

  • Compliance with the new regulations once finalized will be a significant burden for farmers – particularly small- and mid-sized farms, and historically underserved farmers — and training is a critical aspect of easing the burden of compliance.
  • A two-year, $300,000 grant through the program to a farmer-based organization is estimated to result in the training of approximately 1,000 farmers to pass food safety audits. Activities include working directly with farmers to prepare food safety plans, hosting food safety workshops for farmers, and creating user-friendly food safety resources and materials.
  • Without training resources available, the final regulations will inevitably fall far short of the goal of improving food safety.

A Huge Step Forward for Farm to School!

Great news! Today we are a HUGE step closer to helping 3 million more schoolchildren get involved in farm to school programs. That means 3 million kids could soon be eating better at school, digging into bountiful school gardens, and learning from local farmers where their food comes from.

Here’s what just happened: on January 20, the Senate Agriculture Committee voted unanimously to send their draft Child Nutrition Act reauthorization on to the full Senate, and it includes 10 million dollars a year – doubled funding! – for farm to school grants nationwide, along with a host of fixes that will help the grant program work better for schools and farmers.

Can you help us THANK Senators who helped champion this issue and encourage the full Senate to move it forward? Use our handy tool to send your Senators a quick email!

Farm to School badge v.2.2 (1)


Want to help support farm to school? Encourage your legislators to support passing a Child Nutrition Act this year that includes the increased funding and support for farm to school! Use the hashtags #CNR2016 and/or #farmtoschool!

For schools:

Here’s what #farmtoschool looks like in action! @[Your Legislator], invest in our future & support #moreF2SinCNR

With #farmtoschool, our students enjoy eating healthy fruits & vegetables every day. That’s why we need #moreF2SinCNR

For farmers:

#Farmtoschool allows farmers like me to feed my community healthy, local food. I support #moreF2SinCNR

As a farmer, I believe in participating in #farmtoschool in [your community] because [your reasons here]. I support #moreF2SinCNR!

For everyone: 

Congress: #farmtoschool is a win for kids, farmers & communities. Pass #CNR2016 with #moreF2SinCNR!

Kids in #farmtoschool are more willing to try new, healthy foods + do better in school #moreF2SinCNR

.@USDA #FarmtoSchool Grants helped +12K schools improve healthy meals. Let’s not stop there! We need #moreF2SinCNR

Farm to School badge v.2.2 (1) Farm to School badge v.1.3 (1)


How Can I Get Involved with NSAC?

If you care about getting healthy food to everyone, protecting our natural resources, and supporting the next generation of American farmers, then you’ll want to get involved this year!

  • STAY INFORMED: Sign up for Action Alerts on our homepage; this is our #1 means to communicate with people like you when it’s time to take action.
  • GROW THE MOVEMENT: Share this page with your friends and family and ask them to join our campaign!
  • TELL YOUR STORY: Are you a farmer who has benefited from – or struggled with – federal farm programs? We want to hear from you! Contact us to share your experience and potentially be part of our farmer storybank.
  • GET TO KNOW YOUR LEGISLATORS: Do you know who your Senators and Representative are? Do you know how they vote on sustainable agriculture issues? Find out who represents you here; send ’em an email and ask them how they voted on the issues that matter to YOU.
  • JOIN US ON SOCIAL MEDIA: Did you know that many legislators really do read what folks share with them via Facebook and Twitter? Follow NSAC on Facebook and Twitter – and consider following your legislators, too!