NSAC's Blog

NSAC’s Top 10 of 2022: A Year in Review

December 22, 2022

Eggs from free-range hens held in a farmer's hands. Photo credit: USDA
Photo credit: USDA

The end of a year signifies a time to reflect on all of the most important accomplishments and tribulations of the past year. At NSAC, we had the opportunity to celebrate and find new reasons to expand our advocacy to support sustainable agriculture practices, small-scale producers, diversified farming, local food systems, and beginning and underserved farmers and ranchers. Here are NSAC’s Top 10 accomplishments of 2022: 

1. NSAC’s In-Person Engagement!

After two long, difficult years managing the COVID-19 pandemic, NSAC members gathered for the annual summer meeting in Durham, North Carolina for the first time since the pandemic began. With nearly 100 members in attendance, NSAC’s coalition celebrated a renewed commitment to sustainable agriculture with many in-person conversations, connections made, and visits to local farms and food processing facilities that are doing the hard work to make our food system more sustainable and equitable. 

The NSAC Summer Meeting subsequently launched more in-person engagement with our incredible members. September 2022 saw the first in-person NSAC Fly-In since the beginning of the pandemic, bringing together farmers and food systems professionals from across the country to Washington, DC to discuss important policy and program improvements for a more sustainable and resilient farm system. With visits to Capitol Hill to share grassroots stories, important themes came to the forefront, including the need for increased investment in conservation programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program, government support for local food systems, the passage of legislation like the Agriculture Resilience Act

These in-person events provided a much needed return to normalcy. Beyond Zoom meetings and computer screens, NSAC and our member organizations experienced the power and impact of in-person engagement both in the field and on Capitol Hill. 

2. NSAC’s 2023 Platform Has Launched!

With the 2023 Farm Bill reauthorization next year, NSAC staff and members have been busily developing recommendations for ways the Farm Bill can invest in healthy communities, level the playing field for small- and mid-sized farms, build a climate resilient future, and advance racial equity across the food system. After months of hard work from the NSAC staff and with valuable input from our members, we released NSAC’s 2023 Farm Bill Platform, a comprehensive set of policy recommendations for nearly every title of the farm bill informed by expert analysis and the experiences of farmers and food systems professionals on the ground. 

Since the release of NSAC’s 2023 Farm Bill Platform, staff have been busy setting up meetings all over Capitol Hill to share key recommendations. By proactively building solid relationships with Congressional offices now, NSAC is gearing up for an exciting and impactful farm bill year ahead. You can learn more about NSAC’s 2023 Farm Bill Platform by reading our blog series on the Platform here

3. Making Strides in Equity

2022 also saw  new initiatives to advance a more resilient and equitable food and farm system. 

In particular, the USDA began convening its new Equity Commission, a 15-member independent body dedicated to addressing the Department’s investments and commitments to improving racially and socially equitable outcomes for USDA programs. Implemented as part of USDA’s Equity Action Plan, the inaugural meeting of the Commission occurred in February 2022, and invited members of the public to register and provide oral comments for the Commission to consider as it began the work of formally addressing equity across USDA programs and policies. Subsequent meetings occurred in May and September of 2022. NSAC strongly supports efforts taken to ensure the equitable distribution of USDA resources such that farmers of all backgrounds, including people of color, beginning farmers, and veteran farmers, have the opportunity to thrive in our agricultural system. For more information on NSAC’s commitment to racial equity, click here

4. Breaking Climate Ground with the Inflation Reduction Act

During the summer of 2022, Washington, DC was abuzz with news that Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Chuck Schumer had negotiated the most comprehensive climate change bill ever passed in the history of the United States. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) offered more than 700 pages of substantive investments in a variety of climate-oriented programs, many of which were relevant to food systems. Of note, agriculture conservation programs, including the Conservation Stewardship Program, Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, Regional Conservation Partnership Program, and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program were reauthorized.  More than $20 billion dollars in incremental payments was allocated through 2026. Additionally, organic producers and those transitioning to organic received explicit support in the bill. Further still, the IRA codified key elements of conservation programs that NSAC has long fought for, including removing the requirement that 50 percent of EQIP funds go to livestock operations, which has long resulted in Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) receiving large portions of conservation funds. While the IRA did not address every issue in climate and conservation programs, it certainly made some major improvements. 

Beyond conservation program support, the Section 22006 of the Inflation Reduction Act provided $3.1 billion in funding for USDA to provide relief for distressed borrowers with at-risk agricultural operations. Nearly $800 million has already been disbursed to distressed borrowers with direct or guaranteed loans administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA).

As we round out 2022, NSAC staff are busy responding to requests for comments from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on ways to best implement the expansive funds that have been allocated to agricultural conservation programs in the IRA. With immense dedication and input from our members, our staff have prepared a substantive comment filled with recommendations on how to improve programs and implement new funds for conservation. 

5. Moving Forward on Appropriations

This year NSAC worked with the Biden-Harris Administration and with Congressional appropriators to seek increased sustainable agriculture investments in Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 federal spending, including for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, conservation technical assistance, and much more. The fiscal year 2023 omnibus appropriations bill, as it currently stands, includes significant funding for key NSAC priorities including a. If the bill makes it through the House and Senate this week, we will see a $5 million increase for SARE, and a more than $40 million increase for CTA, while GLCI would receive flat funding at $14 million. As of this writing, the omnibus FY23 bill is awaiting final passage before the end of 2022.

6. Celebrating Crop Insurance, Competition, and Credit Reforms 

Throughout the year, both crop insurance and credit programs have seen huge improvements that NSAC has been advocating for. 

In July 2022, NSAC released a report on the benefits of crop insurance payment caps entitled “An Economic Analysis of Payment Caps on Crop Insurance Subsidies,” which calculated the potential savings of taxpayer dollars that would result from the implementation of modest payment caps on crop insurance subsidies. This policy would address both the outsized capacity for larger-scale producers to continually receive subsidies on crop insurance while also allowing for greater investments in conservation and other programs that provide farmers with the capacity to manage disasters that might affect crops in other ways. The report was updated in October 2022 to further demonstrate the minimal negative impacts of crop insurance payment caps. 

NSAC also supported a number of updated rules to the Packers and Stockyards Act, which advanced the Biden Administration’s commitment to giving extra teeth to the enforcement of antitrust law and giving livestock producers a fair shake. The first of the rules that NSAC supported included provisions to reform the Poultry Tournament Payment System, which will allow for smaller family farms to receive greater transparency from poultry production companies regarding their contracts. The second rule contained provisions to prevent prejudice against market-vulnerable individuals and to prohibit the use of false or misleading statements regarding contract formation, performance, and termination, among other protections. These two new rules offered significant advancement to ensure a fairer livestock system for producers and keeps in check the antitrust and otherwise unfair practices of powerful livestock and poultry companies. 

In late August, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced several changes to improve the effectiveness of the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) program, the only insurance product designed to protect a farmer’s entire operation. RMA also announced a Road Show that offered two virtual workshops in October 2022 which developed into a series of virtual and in-person events this fall to educate producers and crop insurance agents about WFRP. NSAC supports a number of the new provisions that RMA has announced, including increasing maximum revenue limits, adjusting yield reporting requirements, and increasing maximum insurable revenue limits. NSAC looks forward to continuing to work with RMA to continue these positive changes, as well as prohibit negative provisions, such as the ability to adjust price and production expectations at the time of a loss claim, which causes significant discouragement from enrolling in WFRP. By advocating for good WFRP policies, NSAC hopes that more farmers will be able to protect their sustainable, diversified operations. 

7. Making Investments in Local Agriculture Programs

In September 2022, USDA announced its intention to establish Regional Food Business Centers, designed to provide technical assistance and capacity building for local and regional supply chain rebuilding from the impacts of COVID-19. NSAC celebrates this distribution of funds to strengthen local food systems to increase their resilience, and the particular focus on overcoming market barriers for underserved farmers, ranchers, and food businesses. 

The Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Grant Program (LFPA) also saw massive infusions of funds this year, with over $900 million dedicated to state, tribal, and local governments to facilitate local food purchasing to expand economic opportunities for local and underserved producers. This large investment in local food economies shows great potential for supporting smaller food producers, and also offers state and other regional government entities the flexibility to meet local needs. This program further expands on the extensive support that local food systems received through the American Rescue Plan and other supports throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. NSAC will be working to ensure that these and similar programs find a more permanent home in the 2023 Farm Bill to bolster local food systems in the long-term. 

COVID-19 relief also included more capacity for the Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG), which as part of the LAMP program, offers resources to create or expand local value-added producer-owned businesses. Through COVID-19 relief funding, VAPG grants saw reductions in matching requirements and overall increases in funding available, enhancing access to this valuable business assistance program and contributing to local economic development.

Photo credit: USDA

8. Expanding Food Safety and Inspection Opportunities for Smaller Operations

NSAC’s Food Systems Integrity portfolio has also seen an exciting year with a number of key programs receiving both fiscal and programmatic support, leading to better conditions for smaller producers and processors. 

The Strengthening Local Processing Act (SLPA), initially introduced in 2020, supports small meat processors dealing with supply chain challenges. Changes made to the legislation in reintroduction will expand access to workforce development funds for a wider variety of groups. NSAC supports this expansion and is advocating for SLPA’s inclusion in the 2023 Farm Bill. 

2022 saw other administrative efforts to support small meat processors. In November 2022, it was announced that USDA would invest over $70 million in 21 grant funded projects in the initial round of the Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program (MPPEP) – a program which aims to increase options for livestock producers, promote competition across the economy, and lower costs for American families. NSAC was very supportive of these grants, recognizing that their implementation allows for more proactive steps from the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to anticipate the unique capacity and personnel challenges that smaller processors face and support them in building their resilience.

Further, the Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant (MPIRG) program prioritized smaller plants looking to become USDA-inspected, which further supported smaller processors in meeting the need for more independent, regional meat processing capacity.

9. Introducing the SARE Marker Bill and Other Research Advancements 

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, or SARE, is a keystone program that supports and funds critical research to advance sustainable agriculture practices across the United States. NSAC strongly supports the SARE Program and is keen on supporting new marker bill legislation that will ensure that SARE receives adequate funding and support to continue to inform our agricultural system’s advancement towards a more sustainable landscape. NSAC hopes to set the stage for increased SARE and other research investments in the 2023 Farm Bill. 

Organic programs at USDA also saw significant investments this year, including $300 million dollars invested in the Organic Transition Initiative (OTI) which will help build new income streams for organic producers. Increased funding to OTI, and other similar programs, such as the Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP), are already facilitating stronger organic producer networks to help organic farmers gain the top dollar for their products. NSAC is proud that many of its coalition members are strong partners within TOPP, and hope that their influence will continue to strengthen the transition of many producers to more sustainable organic systems.

10. Coming in 2023: The NSAC Climate Rally for Resilience!

The Farmers for Climate Action: Rally for Resilience was announced this year at the 38th annual FarmAid Concert, held in September 2022. Led by NSAC and supported by a number of other farm and food organizations from around the country, the Rally for Resilience, scheduled for March 2023, will be a mass mobilization of farmers and producers from across the United States demanding meaningful climate resilience action from the federal government. The entire slate of programming will include a march, rally and concert, and a fully lobby day dedicated to bringing attention to the critical role that farmers play on the frontlines of climate change. To be involved with NSAC’s efforts for the Rally for Resilience, click here

While successes have been plenty, there will certainly be tough battles ahead. As the 2023 Farm Bill reauthorization process gets underway, NSAC will be spending dedicated time and energy to ensure that the successes seen in 2022 continue to grow in the Farm Bill and beyond, all in line with the important proposals put forward in NSAC’s 2023 Farm Bill Platform. As we pause before the New Year, we want to take a moment to celebrate the monumental victories that our coalition has accomplished this year. We cannot do our work without the support and engagement of our members, allies, champions, and supporters. Thank you for a highly impactful year, and we look forward to creating more sustainable, equitable food systems change in 2023. 

Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers, Budget and Appropriations, Carousel, Commodity, Crop Insurance & Credit Programs, Competition & Anti-trust, Conservation, Energy & Environment, Coronavirus, Farm Bill, Food Safety, Grants and Programs, Local & Regional Food Systems, Organic, Research, Education & Extension, Rural Development

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