The clock is ticking on the all-encompassing Farm Bill Americans have come to know.
Since the 1930s. the Farm Bill has covered an increasing variety of topics centered around agriculture and the nutritional needs of Americans. It offers various agencies the power to oversee some conservation efforts, support crop insurance and agricultural disaster related needs, and implement and maintain programs such as welfare offerings and lending opportunities, among other things.
Essentially, it serves as a mechanism authorizing spending bills as they relate to nutrition and farms. To account for inflation, other fluctuating pricing concerns and societal needs at the time, the Farm Bill is renewed about every five years.
“Without reauthorization, some farm bill programs would expire, such as the nutrition assistance and farm commodity support programs. Other programs have permanent authority and do not need reauthorization (e.g. crop insurance) and are included in a farm bill to make policy changes or achieve budgetary goals,” the Congressional Research Service stated in its Farm Bill Primer updated Feb. 22, 2023.
The inner workings of the upcoming farm bill continues to be debated as the Sept. 30, 2023 expiration date looms for the current farm bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 which included $867 billion in spending authorizations supporting American consumers and farmers.
Of the programs funded through the Farm Bill, the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program takes the majority coming in at about 82%, according to the America Farm Bureau Federation, focusing on maintaining and improving on food security in the United States.
The remainder of funding currently made available through the Farm Bill helps farmers stay in business and create new employment opportunities. It also funds projects such as ag research and conservation programs, and risk management and disaster related programming for farmer. Commodity programs can also be found inside the Farm Bill, making up
“The Farm Bill is one of the mightiest tools to protect our nation’s food supply and strengthen agriculture,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said.
AFBF delegates who attended the national convention in Puerto Rico in January helped shape the farming organization’s priorities by voting on and adopting policies which could give advocates a better idea of how they can work to influence legislators during Farm Bill negotiations.
Expanded funding, more flexible relief programming and extended protection for more specialty crops are just a few of the items delegates voted on during the convention, according to AFBF, all of which could be supported through the Farm Bill.
“Recognizing growing food insecurity in the United States, delegates approved new policy to support access to nutrition programs including connecting farms directly with food banks, increasing the number of SNAP-approved food sales outlets, and other efforts to make produce available to families living in food deserts,” AFBF stated in a press release.
Many of the priorities laid out by AFBF delegates were echoed by U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich), chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, when she gave a prepared opening statement at the “Farm Bill 2023: Trade and Horticulture” hearing Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023.
“I am committed to passing a Farm Bill that improves [farmers’] ability to manage risks and market their products. Our attention to their issues is vital to keep American-grown fruits and vegetables on our tables. Since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, we have seen continued growth in the organic sector, which exceeded $63 billion in sales last year. We need to continue to support our organic farmers, including those transitioning into the program,” she said.
“It is also important that we made the Local Agriculture Market Program permanent in the 2018 Farm Bill. And, we have seen a surge in demand for locally sourced foods during the pandemic, underscoring the need for more investments in our local and regional food systems. Globally, we are facing unprecedented levels of food insecurity, compounded by high food prices, supply chain challenges, and Putin’s war against Ukraine. Our farmers play a vital role in providing U.S. grown commodities to feed those in need, and Farm Bill development programs help to build resiliency on the ground,” Sen. Stabenow continued. “The Farm Bill also creates opportunities for American farmers to connect with consumers around the world by providing marketing assistance and credit access. Agricultural exports have grown from $66 billion in 1996 to a record of more than $191 billion in 2022. That’s more than 1 million American jobs on and off the farm.”
Sen. Stabenow continued supporting farmers during her opening statement, saying, “The success of our agricultural economy requires continued investment in markets and opportunities for all farmers. Whether they are selling to their neighbors or exporting products globally – and whether they are growing traditional commodities, specialty crops, or organics – the Farm Bill helps farmers put food on tables here and around the world. We all have a stake in continuing to make sure this happens. That’s what this farm bill is all about.”
While the Farm Bill is handled at the national level, it is felt at the local level throughout the country.
Delaware Farm Bureau Executive Director Don Clifton, following a recent conference call with AFBF staff, stated, “Recent Farm Bills have emphasized risk management programs as essential to an effective safety net for farmers and ranchers. AFBF has a amazing team monitoring Congressional progress on the Farm Bill. They keep us well informed in the states and we perform our due diligence staying in touch with our Congressional Delegation. We have recently discussed the Farm Bill with Senator Carper, Senator Coons, and Representative Blunt-Rochester. We are fortunate that each of these is a Farm Bill veteran and understands the issues.”
What is AFBF’s position?
AFBF supports the following principles to guide development of programs in the next Farm Bill:
* Increase baseline funding commitments to farm programs;
* Maintain a unified farm bill which includes nutrition programs and farm programs together; and
* Prioritize funding for risk management tools which include both federal crop insurance and commodity programs.
The food and farm bill has been a bipartisan effort in the past. The 2023 farm bill presents an important opportunity for lawmakers to rise above partisanship and work together again to pass legislation that protects food security for all Americans and the future success of our farmers and ranchers.
What is in the Farm Bill?
TITLE I – Commodity Programs
TITLE II – Conservation
TITLE III – Trade
TITLE IV – Nutrition Programs
TITLE V – Credit
TITLE VI – Rural Development
TITLE VII – Research and Related Matters
TITLE VIII – Forestry
TITLE IX – Energy
TITLE X – Horticulture
TITLE XI – Crop Insurance
TITLE XII – Miscellaneous