September 29, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Laura Zaks
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Washington, DC, September 29, 2022 – This week, advocates and farmers from across the country came to Washington, DC to champion the federal programs important to them and their communities. Hosted by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), a cohort of farmers, ranchers, and food systems advocates from 12 states joined NSAC for approximately 30 meetings with Congressional leaders and USDA officials to encourage them to prioritize sustainable food and farm needs in the upcoming farm bill and in ongoing program implementation efforts.
“We are grateful to have these amazing farmers and advocates join us this week in Washington Farmers’ voices and experiences are critical to informing federal food and farm policy. They carry solutions, opportunities, and examples of the challenges farmers face every day, and they deserve to be part of the conversation as 2023 Farm Bill development gets underway,” said Sarah Hackney, NSAC Coalition Director.
“Coming to Washington, DC is a great opportunity to share some of the obstacles farmers are facing with our legislators who recognize the importance of agriculture. We are bringing real-world on-the-ground experiences to help inform decision-making,” said Lindsey Shapiro, a Pennsylvania-based farmer at Root Mass Farm and organizer with Pasa Sustainable Agriculture, an NSAC member.
Important themes of the Fly-In included the need for increased investment in federal working lands conservation programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program, opportunities for the federal government to support local food systems, urgently needed reforms to key farm programs like crop insurance, and much more. Advocates highlighted big-picture needs like addressing the climate crisis and advancing equity along with specific bills to support, including the Agriculture Resilience Act and the Strengthening Local Processors Act.
Farmers in all regions increasingly confront climate-related challenges like extreme weather events, pests, and hotter and drier conditions, among other impacts. These challenges impact productivity and livelihoods and take a toll on natural resources. Farmers urgently need greater support and access to federal programs in order to implement effective solutions.
“Farmers in the Pasa network are coming up against climate change as weather volatility makes it difficult for crop planning and anticipating yields. In the next farm bill, I hope to see more funding for conservation programs and an acknowledgment that land access is an issue especially as you’re trying to transition into the next generation of farmers,” Shapiro commented.
Farmer Becky Hume of woman owned and operated VRDNT Farm in Bastrop, Texas shared her experience with a farmer co-op where she sits on the board. The co-op received a Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) to expand its capacity to distribute local produce but moving through the grant process was challenging due to several bureaucratic hurdles. Hume would like to see renewed Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) funding, including for VAPG, along with smoother processes for farmers to access financing services in the next farm bill.
NSAC member Wallace Center at Winrock International supported the attendance of several fly-in participants who focused on key local and regional food systems infrastructure needs like these.
Hume came to Washington, DC to have a candid conversation about strategic ways to support local food systems and the economies that depend on them, because “local food systems are insanely important!” she said, adding “I would like lawmakers to understand the challenges of being a beginning, small, family farm.”
NSAC thanks all of the participants for taking time out of their busy lives to join our successful fall fly-in, as well as the Senators, Representatives, USDA officials, and staff members. We look forward to continuing to work closely with grassroots stakeholders and our champions in Congress as the 2023 Farm Bill reauthorization approaches.
About the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Learn more and get involved at: https://sustainableagriculture.net