The 2018 Farm Bill: Why it Matters
Updated: Jul 15, 2018
2018 is a crucial year for our food and farm system. How so? It’s crucial because this year, Congress will establish new legislation for the Farm Bill.
WHAT IS THE FARM BILL?
The Farm Bill is a set of laws that governs all agricultural processes and food programs throughout the United States. This bill is one of the most important pieces of federal legislation because it outlines every code, regulation and standard revolving food, from how we produce, distribute and even dispose of it. The bill is composed of 12 different sections that represent every facet of our food system, whether that is crop insurance for farmers or food access and nutrition for low-income families. Even sections regulating environmental conservation, forestry and energy are noted in the bill. Because this bill is only renewed every four to five years, this is a monumental period in which we can fight for the right of good, clean and fair food for all. The future of our food system is determined by the bill’s outcome.
A FRAMEWORK FOR THE FUTURE
As an organization striving for an equitable future, we have taken action. A letter, outlining sections of the Farm bill in alignment with the Slow Food mission, was addressed to Congress. The Slow Food USA Executive Director, Richard McCarthy, and Slow Food State Governors addressed three marker bills that would support a food chain that is fair to all from farm to fork and more. Marker bills are compiled of several related provisions that have been grouped together to be voted on as a whole. The bills that Slow Food press include:
The Farm to School Act of 2017 (S. 1767/H.R. 3687), an act that continues to expand the Farm to School Grant Program.
The Local Food and Regional Market Supply Act of 2017 (S. 1947/H.R. 3941l Lo) is aimed at furthering the development of regional food economies.
Urban Agriculture Production Act of 2017 (H.R 3699, Urban Agriculture Production Act of 2017) promotes growth in back yard farming and other urban agricultural practices, especially in food dessert areas.
These bills are the groundwork for the three main objectives that Slow Food stands for. The first initiative is to push for better nutrition and an end to hunger. All people have the right to food, therefore we asked congress to preserve and enhance the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. Other programs that enhance food security and promote food waste reduction are also important facets that should be included in the next farm bill.
Slow Food also strives for legislation that support the food producers of our world. We call for a level “plowing” field in which small and mid-scale family farmers and ranchers have access to resources such as risk management tools, grants, and credit programs that will help make farming a more secure occupation. A level-plowing field also aims legislation at protecting immigrant farm workers from unfair treatment and promotes the movement of backyard farming and urban agriculture. Slow Food believes that creating an urban agriculture office in populated areas will be beneficial in providing technical and financial assistance to new and old urban farmers alike.
Finally, Slow Food highlights food-centered issues revolving a continuously increasing population, dwindling agricultural resources, and climate change. In order to help combat these challenges, we must facilitate a farming transition of ownership from its current operations to the next generation, expand conventional plant and animal breeding research and development, improve conservation programs and focus on rural renewable energy.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Public farm and food policy can either help or hurt the Good, Clean, and Fair food movement for which we stand for. Our passion for these beliefs and our like-minded community provide a solid foundation to support policies that help promote a sustainable and equitable food chain and oppose policies that will hinder that goal. We believe that Slow Food can play an important role in shaping national farm and food policy that is Good, Clean, and Fair for All. We encourage our community members to take action as well. There are ways in which a person can become involved!
We Can Support a Food Policy Council or Coalition.
Joining or supporting a local council or coalition allows you to meet like-minded individuals who are also invested in building a more equitable farm and food system. These groups are usually made up of a range of different individuals such as farmers, farm laborers, SNAP recipients, sustainable gardeners, food pantries, and anyone who just care about the future of our food. Joining a food organization allows you to look at the Farm Bill from different kinds of perspectives and offers an opportunity to work towards a better food system as a collective.
We Can Encourage Local Representatives to Support Policy Priorities.
One of the best ways to make a change is to let your local representatives know what matters to you. Specifically in Indiana, Senator Joe Donnelly is apart of the Ag committee and will have a substantial role in the writing and passive of the Farm Bill. People are welcome to contact his office and let the senator know what the citizens of Indiana would like to see in the upcoming Farm Bill.
We Can align Ourselves with Policy Initiatives.
Stay informed! There are many ways to keep up on news involving the Farm Bill such as tracking Google alerts on Farm Bill, staying up to date on the paper legislation journey or even just subscribing to different Food and Farm newsletters. There’s plenty of information out there to help you stay aware and to get engaged.
“If somebody wants to be involved with the Farm Bill, I think one of the best things to do would be to talk to a local farmer and ask them about how the Farm Bill will affect their operations or maybe volunteer with a food pantry and ask people if they’re using SNAP. What might it look like if SNAP benefits got cut? Are those programs working for them? Where is room for improvement? I believe the best way for folks to get engaged is to engage with other humans”. –Hannah Lencheck; Advocacy Coordinator, Food and Farms Coalition