Building a More Sustainable Farm and Food System Together
Over its 30-year history, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has played a central role in advancing federal policies and programs that promote conservation, foster family farm agriculture, build new markets and businesses, and progress sustainable and organic research. Select highlights of our work are included below:
Total funding levels for the Conservation Title preserved.
Adoption of cost-effective, high payoff activities within the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) incentivized by increasing payment levels for cover crops, resource conserving crop rotations, and management-intensive rotational grazing.
Ensures that all beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers enrolling in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) have the option to receive 50 percent of their cost share payment up front.
Authorizes a CSP “organic initiative,” including an allocation of funds for certified organic participants and those transitioning to organic production.
Establishes a Clean Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers (CLEAR) initiative within the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and reserves 40 percent of total continuous CRP acreage for water quality beneficial conservation buffer practices through CLEAR.
Includes the Senate provision to increase funding for the Conservation Reserve Program – Transition Incentives Program (CRP-TIP) from $33 million to $50 million over the next five years – including $5 million for dedicated outreach to connect retiring farmers with beginning farmers, veterans, and farmers of color.
The CRP Grassland Initiative was increased to 2 million acres by 2023, through which ranchers can maintain and enhance conservation cover on working grazing lands.
Funding increased for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) to $450 million per year for all five years of the farm bill and beyond. ACEP funds wetland restoration and farmland protection. Within ACEP, prioritizes projects that maintain farm viability and includes affordability protections.
In a major departure from the status quo, the FY 2018 funding bill included no cuts to mandatory spending for the farm bill’s largest working lands conservation programs, CSP and EQIP. One or both of these programs (in addition to other conservation programs) has suffered cuts through the appropriations process each year since 2003.
Funding increased for Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA), which provides farmers with on-the ground conservation support from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) local offices. CTA supports farmers’ resource management through conservation planning assistance, resource assessment, and monitoring of conservation activities. The bill provides an increase of $10 million (for a total of $874.1 million) to Conservation Operations, including $774.4 for CTA in FY 2019.
Farm bill mandatory funding protected for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which provides grants and loans to farmers and rural businesses that want to make energy efficiency improvements REAP funds the implementation of wind, solar, or other renewable energy systems. REAP also provides resources for farmers’ energy audits or renewable resources development.
Created opportunities for implementing conservation techniques and activities for organic and transitioning-to-organic farmers through the EQIP Organic Initiative
Ensured flexible support for local, innovative conservation projects through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.Secured permanent funding for the restoration and protection of agricultural wetlands through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.
Secured payments for conservation buffers to improve water quality and habitat through continuous enrollment options in the Conservation Reserve Program.
LAMP combines the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) and Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG) program together to provide baseline funding for the core priorities of each. LAMP also includes a new regional public private partnership provision that uses federal resources to leverage private investment and encourage “foodshed” level approaches to developing regional food economies.
NSAC was also a key champion of the Local FARMS Act, which provided much of the inspiration for LAMP.
This program also includes a produce prescription program, based on the Senate-passed farm bill’s “Harvesting Health Pilots Program” (part of the Local FARMS Act). The produce prescription program is provided up to 10 percent of the funds made available through FINI.
USDA instructed to allow farmers markets to operate an individual EBT (electronic benefits transfer) device for accepting SNAP benefits at more than one location. This change resolves a long standing barrier to operating efficient and cost-effective SNAP EBT systems at markets, a problem farmers and food advocates have been trying to address for years.
“Urban, Indoor, and Other Emerging Agricultural Production Research, Education and Extension Initiative” competitive grants program created with $10 million in mandatory funding in the form of a lump sum to be available until expended.
USDA instructed to create a new “Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Forms of Production” with a 15-member advisory committee and competitive grants authority.
Healthy Food Financing Initiative reauthorized and expanded it to include healthy food enterprises, as well as food retailers.
A Local Food Policy is added to the list of new policies that USDA’s Risk Management Agency should develop in the coming years. The local food policy would be oriented toward livestock, poultry, and specialty crops in urban, suburban, and rural settings. This would include direct-to-consumer and farm-to-institution programs, community supported agriculture, as well as greenhouse/rooftop/hydroponic production. The policy would direct that local price premiums be included in revenue determinations.
Retained the FY 2017 increase of $15 million in discretionary funding for VAPG, which was a 40 percent increase over FY 2016 funding. Maintaining this funding level for VAPG was especially important this year, because the program has very little in mandatory funding left from the 2014 Farm Bill. VAPG is a major supporter of farmer entrepreneurship, helping farmers and ranchers to develop new farm and food-related businesses that boost farm income, create jobs that cannot be outsourced, empower local communities, and increase rural economic opportunity.
Provided $5 million in additional discretionary funding for the Farm to School Program. This funding is critically important to the Farm to School Program’s ability to continue connecting children with healthy local food, opening new markets for family farmers, and providing innovative agricultural education in schools across the country.
Increased opportunities for direct marketing from small family farms to consumers through the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program (FMPP). NSAC designed the legislation for FMPP in 2001, led the campaign to secure its addition to the farm bill in 2002, and secured mandatory funding for the program in 2008.
Expanded the scope of FMPP in the 2014 Farm Bill, transforming it into the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP), by crafting and securing legislative champions for the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act (LFFJA) – a marker bill which expanded support to local and regional food systems.
$435 million in mandatory funding provided for FOTO over the next ten years, which establishes permanent baseline funds and ensures that grants can continue into the future.
BFRDP strengthened (as part of FOTO) by: adding new priorities on food safety and succession planning; including farmer involvement in project design and implementation as an evaluation criterion for grant proposals; expanding eligibility for projects serving retiring farmers and non-farming landlords; and establishing a waiver for the matching funds requirement. Increases transparency, accountability and responsiveness to stakeholders within the 2501 Program (as part of FOTO) by requiring an external peer review process and strengthening reporting requirements of outcomes. Also, FOTO includes a priority for grants led by community-based and non-profit organizations.
Funding for the Conservation Reserve Program Transition Incentives Program increased from $33 million to $50 million over the next five years. This funding includes $5 million for dedicated outreach to connect retiring farmers with beginning farmers, veterans, and farmers of color. The bill also expands eligibility to all CRP contract holders, not just retiring farmers.
New data initiative on Land Access and Farmland Ownership developed to ensure that policymakers and the public have access to important trend data on farmland ownership, tenure, transition, barriers to entry, profitability and viability of beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers.
Important changes to allow historically underserved farmers to access USDA farm programs were made – these apply even if the farmers are operating on “heirs property” and cannot prove ownership.
National Beginning Farmer Coordinator position created at USDA, and designated coordinators assigned in each state to better coordinate USDA outreach efforts to new farmers.
Improvements made to the Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP), a risk management policy for diversified farms of all types. WFRP’s inclusion in the 2014 Farm Bill was a major victory for NSAC, and we have been working hard to continue improving the program ever since. The 2018 Farm Bill supports these continued efforts by:
Directing the Risk Management Agency (RMA) to engage with WFRP stakeholders to improve the program. As part of that process, RMA is directed to consider removing caps on livestock and nursery production coverage, reduce paperwork and simplifying record keeping, find better options for moderating the impact of disaster years on coverage, and improve insurance agent training to better reach the small farm sector and underserved regions.
Increasing from 5 years to 10 years the period of time that beginning farmers have to access WFRP’s beginning farmer 10 percent premium discount.
Directing RMA to investigate how and whether WFRP could better serve farmers engaged in local food markets.
Learn more about how the 2018 supports beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers here, and about how the farm bill addresses crop insurance and commodity subsidies here.
FY 2018 Appropriations:
The Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (also known as the “Section 2501 Program”), received a hard-fought additional $3 million in discretionary funding; this additional funding will be combined with the $10 million provided to the program by the 2014 Farm Bill. Section 2501 provides crucial services to our nations veteran farmers and farmers of color, increasing historically underserved communities’ access to and engagement with USDA programs.
Established sustainable and organic farming as “good farming practices” ending federal crop insurance program discrimination against alternative systems and eliminating the organic surcharge from crop insurance.
Advocated for better crop insurance rules governing cover crops, and better coverage options for organic crops.
Developing Opportunities for Sustainable Agriculture Research and Advancing Organic Agriculture
2018 Farm Bill:
Permanent, mandatory funding established for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI). The 2018 Farm Bill will more than double OREI funding, increasing it from $20 million to $50 million per year over the next five years. The program will receive $20 million in grant funding for FY 2019 and FY 2020, $25 million in FY 2021, $30 million in FY 2022, and $50 million in FY 2023 and each year thereafter. The establishment of permanent baseline funding means that OREI will receive at least this level of funding in perpetuity, rather than having to negotiate funding from scratch every five years when the farm bill is revisited again in 2023.
New reporting requirements established on public plant breeding through the National Genetics Resources Program. As part of these requirements, stakeholder input, data reporting, and metrics must be included in assessing existing cultivar research, research gaps, and any advancements needed to further public plant breeding research.
Funding authorized for a new urban agriculture research initiative. The new Urban, Indoor, and Other Emerging Agricultural Production Research, Education, and Extension Initiative received $10 million for competitive and extension grants over the next five years. This program will support research that contributes to: successful urban, indoor, and other emerging agriculture production; soil quality; local community needs; as well as explore technologies that minimize energy, lighting systems, water, and other food production inputs. There is also a data collection provision to gather information about community, rooftop and indoor gardens, urban farms, and hydroponic facilities.
1890 land-grant institutions awarded $40 million in funding for scholarships for students pursuing agribusiness, energy and renewable fuels, or financial management. 1890 land-grant institutions are Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that are authorized as land-grant universities under the Second Morrill Act of 1890, making them eligible for USDA capacity funding. Additionally, the bill makes important policy changes to ensure greater equity in extension funding for 1890s.
New soil health priorities added to both the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) and OREI. The bill also adds new beginning farmer and rancher research priorities, including increasing viability of young, beginning, socially disadvantaged, veteran, and immigrant farmers and ranchers and farm succession and transition.
$5 million in mandatory funding is provided for the Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives, which facilitates the collection and distribution of organic market information, including data on production, handling, distribution, retail, and consumer purchasing patterns.
Directs the allocation of funds to states to support organic production and transition under the Conservation Stewardship Program. Funds will be allocated based on the number of certified and transitioning producers in the state, as well as the number of certified and transitioning acres.
Farmers who participate in the Transition Incentives Program (an option for farmers with expiring Conservation Reserve Program contracts) are now able to get a two year head start on transitioning that land coming out of CRP into certified organic production. Additionally, contract-holders with expiring CRP contracts can now use the last three years of their CRP contract to begin the organic certification process.
Learn more about the 2018 Farm Bill and organic agriculture here, and more about research and plant breeding here.
FY 2018 Appropriations:
Increases funding for USDA’s flagship sustainable agriculture research program, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, by 30 percent. This increase raises SARE’s total funding to $35 million for FY 2018, the program’s highest funding level to date.
After two straight years of $25 million increases, AFRI received an additional $25 million increase, bringing it to a funding level of $400 million for FY 2018. This funding, which was above the level funding initially proposed in both House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations bills, is a positive sign for the future of agricultural research and development.
The Organic Transitions (ORG) research program reached its highest funding level in the FY 2018 bill ($5 million), which will allow ORG to ramp up its support of the growing contingent of American organic farmers and livestock producers.
Fought for expanded food safety training and outreach provisions and secured language to add new functions to FMLFPP and VAPG, which will allow both programs to provide financial assistance for food safety infrastructure upgrades and certification.
FY 2018 Appropriations:
Increased support for the Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP) by $2 million, bringing total funding to $7 million. With ~100,000 farmers estimated to be impacted by the new regulations of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) over the course of 2019, this increase is particularly timely and welcomed.