With the federal Farm Bill set to expire September 30th, this coming month is a critical time to take action. Farmer and Farm Bill Campaign Organizer Lindsey Shapiro shares few things you can do to help ensure the finalized bill supports an equitable and ecologically sound food system and includes the needs of farms like yours.
photo credit: Lise Metzger for Farm Aid
Even for a self-identified policy nerd like me, it can be challenging to understand the real-world implications of boring and confusing legal jargon. When reading bill summaries and policy one-pagers, I often find myself asking,
“OK, but how will this actually help my farm and my community?”
At our recent webinar, “Farm Bill 101: What Is a Marker Bill?” we welcomed policy experts from National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) to help us understand the role marker bills will play as the federal Farm Bill takes shape. They highlighted several key marker bills to watch out for. (If you missed it, you can watch the recording or read our recap).
But what if you have a policy change wishlist item for your farm, and you’re not sure if it has a home in a current marker bill? You might find yourself asking—is there a marker bill for that?
Together, we can begin to connect the dots. Let’s take one of the wishlist items that was mentioned during our marker bill webinar. Webinar attendee Renee, like many in Pasa’s community, wants to see more support for Black farmers and urban farmers.
Here are a few marker bills could help advance Renee’s Farm Bill policy change wishlist:
The Justice for Black Farmers Act will enact policies to end discrimination within the USDA, protect remaining Black farmers from losing their land, provide land grants to encourage a new generation of Black farmers and restore the land base that has been lost, and implement systemic reforms to help family farmers across the United States.
The ARA increases the beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer and rancher set-aside in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) from 5% of funding for each to 30% of funding combined. That means 30% of all the funds distributed through the two biggest working lands conservation programs are designated for farmers who meet the USDA definition of “beginning” and/or “socially disadvantaged”.
Unfortunately, here in Pennsylvania, those set-aside dollars often go unused, so any increases in set-asides must be paired with greater accessibility and relevance of USDA programs. Fortunately, there’s a marker bill for that, too!
This bill proposes increased funding for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) which provides low-income seniors with access to locally grown food and increases Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) individual benefit levels, overall increasing funding that is spent with local farmers. Since many urban farmers sell directly to their local communities, increases in food assistance programs have the potential to impact the financial viability of urban producers.
Like the working lands conservation programs, though, funding increases in food assistance programs need to be coupled with better outreach to make sure these funding streams work for farmers of color and the communities they serve.
Ready to put your policy nerd hat?
Now that you’ve identified some meaningful marker bill opportunities, here are three ways to take action.
Call or write your legislators and ask them to cosponsor a marker bill you think would help your farm. Click here to find your Congress Members →
Here’s a simple call script to help you get started: “Hi, [Representative/Senator Last Name] My name is______. I live and farm in [District #]. I’m calling to let you know about a marker bill that could help my farm.”
Raise awareness with your customers.
Let your customers know how the Farm Bill will impact your operation and what marker bills could help. Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) created a great toolkit for communicating the importance of the Farm Bill and key marker bills to an audience of conscientious eaters.
I used this toolkit as a template for my farm’s weekly newsletter.
Reach out for support.
Still have policy questions? Pasa and our partners strive to stay up-to-date on policy proposals, on both the state and federal levels. Reach out to us with your needs, and we will do our best to identify some current policy recommendations that address your concerns.