December 7, 2022
In November, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) released its 2023 Farm Bill Platform, a comprehensive vision for a more equitable and resilient farm and food system. NSAC’s platform includes title-by-title recommendations across farm bill programs and policies detailing how Congress can better support farmers and ranchers by strengthening their bottom lines, their communities, and their resilience. As the 118th Congress settles in and prepares to draft the farm bill after the new year, NSAC will be a constant presence on Capitol Hill, working to see these ideas take shape in the 2023 Farm Bill.
The policy proposals in this platform were developed in partnership with the farmers, ranchers, and communities that do the daily work of producing good food and making it widely and equitably accessible. In preparation for the 2023 Farm Bill, NSAC staff and our more than 130 coalition member organizations held listening sessions, conducted surveys, and ran workshops to gather feedback on the impact of federal farm policies and learn what improvements stakeholders hope to achieve in the next farm bill. Together with our members, NSAC used this stakeholder feedback to develop our 2023 Farm Bill recommendations and policy platform.
This is the first post in a multipart series on our 2023 Farm Bill Platform, meant to serve as an introduction to the platform and to NSAC’s overarching goals and priorities for the 2023 Farm Bill. In upcoming posts, we will introduce readers to the key takeaways and themes from our platform, including how the Farm Bill can invest in healthy communities, level the playing field for small and mid-sized farmers, build a climate-resilient future, and advance racial equity across the food system.
Policymaking does not happen in a vacuum, and the years since the 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law have been among the most tumultuous in our nation’s history. An increasingly disruptive and changing climate, the COVID-19 pandemic and societal impacts, and a long-overdue racial justice reckoning have conspired to thoroughly unveil the fragility of our current food system.
Far from being abstract and distant impacts, these events are affecting the daily lives and livelihoods of farmers, ranchers, and communities – both urban and rural – across the country. The loss and degradation of soil health, freshwater resources, and biodiversity—along with extreme weather events like droughts and floods—increasingly threaten our food supply. The fragility of our supply chains and workforces, made even more vulnerable during the pandemic and further tested by ongoing global conflicts, serve as a stark reminder of how quickly food access can be jeopardized. Moreover, the national conversation about racial justice has laid bare how agriculture— particularly the pursuit of sustainable agriculture—is rife with obstacles for Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color (BIPOC), including immigrants, migrants, and refugees.
Amidst all this, other trends within our food system have continued virtually unabated. Throughout the past century, farms in the United States have grown in size and dwindled in number while the average age of the U.S. farmer – now 57.5 according to the most recent Census of Agriculture – has continued to rise. Consequently, just as most people who manage U.S. agriculture are on the brink of retirement, the decades-long trend of farmland consolidation that is silently endorsed by federal policy has created tremendous barriers for new and beginning farmers. These barriers include the limited availability of affordable and desirable farmland, challenges in acquiring start-up capital and financing, and inadequate access to hands-on training and risk management tools – at a time when we need them most.
Since the 2018 Farm Bill became law, Congress has passed, and the President signed, additional legislation that has invested billions of dollars in beginning to address many of the obstacles laid out above. For example, the American Rescue Plan Act (PL 117-2) and the Inflation Reduction Act (PL 117-169), among others, have sought to stave off some of the most urgent impacts of the pandemic while simultaneously setting the stage for a re-envisioned food system that addresses the challenges of our times.
The challenges facing our food system, and the initial steps taken in recent years to address them, light a path for the 2023 Farm Bill. At this critical moment in our nation’s history, we must collectively work to address the challenges that have plagued our nation’s conscience, health, environment, and communities for too long. The 2023 Farm Bill should leverage the power of our nation’s food and agricultural system to seek solutions which ensure that America is resilient and healthy for generations to come.
NSAC’s campaign for the 2023 Farm Bill will advance programs and policies that build resilience and equity, restore competition, invest in science, and renew our environment for current and future generations. A Farm Bill modeled on NSAC’s platform will:
Invest in Healthy Urban and Rural Communities by strengthening resilient local and regional food systems; rebuilding local and regional meat processing capacity; expanding and enhancing USDA procurement programs and practices; and ensuring access to locally-produced, nutritious, culturally-relevant food.
Level the Playing Field for Small and Mid-Sized Farmers by supporting beginning farmers’ access to land and capital; fixing the flawed farm safety net and improving access for diversified farmers; and addressing corporate consolidation and restoring fair competition.
Advance Racial Equity Across the Food System by improving access to USDA funding and programs for farmers of color; increase funding for programs and policies that support farmers of color; and strengthening data collection and analysis to inform racial equity-driven decision-making.
Build a Climate-Resilient Future by advancing land stewardship through conservation program funding and access; increasing funding for sustainable and organic agriculture research programs; and prioritizing research that helps farmers adapt to and mitigate climate change.
NSAC’s 2023 Farm Bill Platform provides deeper discussion of these issues and detailed policy proposals for each. Stay tuned for the next posts in our series on the 2023 farm bill for more details on each of these priority areas. In the meantime, we invite you to read our platform and take action to endorse it here.