Farmers and Advocates Fly-in to DC to Call for Climate and Sustainability Action within the 2023 Farm Bill

Farmers and Advocates Fly-in to DC to Call for Climate and Sustainability Action within the 2023 Farm Bill

October 19, 2022

Farmers and Advocates from the September 2022 NSAC Farmer Fly-in

With the 2023 Farm Bill reauthorization on the horizon, advocates and farmers from throughout the nation gathered in Washington, DC final month to champion the federal applications essential to them and their communities. NSAC hosted a cohort of farmers, ranchers, and meals methods advocates for greater than thirty conferences with Congressional leaders and senior USDA officers to encourage them to prioritize sustainable meals and farm wants within the upcoming farm invoice and in ongoing program implementation efforts. 

Many of the “fly-in” members made lengthy journeys away from their household and farms throughout a busy harvest season. Farmers and advocates shared their tales about how federal meals and farm insurance policies affect them, their communities, and other people throughout the nation. Participants represented 10 totally different states: Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

Farmers and advocates got here to Washington, DC to advocate for a variety of subject areas together with elevated assist for sustainable agriculture analysis, native and regional meals methods, working lands conservation, and enhancing crop insurance coverage. Participants additionally voiced their assist for particular items of laws such because the Agriculture Resilience Act and the Strengthening Local Processing Act. 

Addressing the Climate Crisis on Farms

The Agricultural Resilience Act (ARA) (S. 1337 / H.R. 2803) is a farmer-driven, science-based roadmap for reaching net-zero greenhouse gasoline emissions in U.S. agriculture by 2040. Provisions within the ARA embody voluntary and incentive-driven measures to make sure all farmers have entry to the sources they should implement vital on-farm options to fulfill local weather objectives and dramatically enhance our meals system. It is essential that members of Congress co-sponsor the ARA and embody its provisions within the 2023 Farm Bill to assist farmers mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Jessica Krupicka, proprietor of Heritage Hill Farms in central Iowa, flew in to talk with the places of work of Senator Charles Ernst Grassley (R-IA), Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Representative Randy Feenstra (R-IA). She requested her Members of Congress  to assist farmers as they navigate altering climates by co-sponsoring the ARA. 

“The Agriculture Resilience Act is an important piece of laws,” stated Krupicka. “We’ve been rising greens on our farm for roughly 10 years, however I’ve been rising for for much longer than that. The local weather has modified rather a lot, particularly throughout the final 5 years. This yr, we had three inches of snow on our farm in mid-April which delayed our planting. There have been different years the place there’s been excessive warmth. Because of the volatility of our local weather, some crops are destined to do poorly.”

The ARA will strengthen farms by investing in analysis, extension, conservation, and power. It will give farmers vital instruments to handle the local weather disaster  by supporting farmer-centered analysis, incentivizing on-farm conservation, rising farm viability, increasing pasture-based livestock, and constructing on-farm renewable power. 

“We talked about our experiences after which requested for his or her assist in co-sponsoring the ARA. They appeared very receptive, I believe it went effectively,” stated Krupicka.

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program has been supporting sustainable agriculture analysis for over 30 years. It is the one regionally primarily based, farmer-driven, and outcome-oriented aggressive analysis program that includes farmers and ranchers instantly as the first investigators or cooperators in analysis and training tasks. SARE can also be the one U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) aggressive grants analysis program that focuses solely on sustainable agriculture. 

As climate change disrupts the best way that farmers develop their crops, it can be crucial that the 2023 Farm Bill makes climate change mitigation and adaptation a brand new focus inside SARE’s statutory mission. It ought to present full funding to fulfill farmer want and understand SARE’s full potential, and broaden illustration from the 1890 and 1994 Land Grant Institutions and Hispanic Serving Institutions to make sure equitable engagement and participation of farmer supporting voices.

Erin Percival Carter, co-owner and farmer at Steamboat Shire Farm and a Professor on the University of Maine,  joined the fly-in to talk to congressional appropriators concerning the significance of the ARA, rising funding for the Local Agriculture Marketing Program (LAMP), and for continued assist for the SARE program. While in DC, Carter spoke to the places of work of Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). 

“We have to proceed growing the info folks want to speak system-wide. We should proceed to look into how we are able to use sustainable farming to feed folks and clear up the local weather emergency,” stated Carter. “Agriculture is likely one of the most important contributors to that emergency, however agriculture isn’t going away. It ought to solely be getting higher and extra environment friendly.”

Local and Regional Food Systems

Russel Brysond and Michael Wall after a go to with Representative Austin Scott’s workplace 

The 2018 Farm Bill made vital investments within the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP), an umbrella program for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP), the Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG), and the Regional Food Systems Partnership. These investments supplied vital return when the pandemic and different current provide chain disruptions upended our meals system. The 2023 Farm Bill should guarantee this flagship program continues to serve native communities, farmers, and economies by streamlining program administration and increasing program accessibility. 

Farmer Russel Brydson operates Narrow Way Farms along with his household in McDonough, Georgia. While in DC, he had the chance to fulfill with the places of work of Representative Austin Scott (R-GA) and Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GT) and share his experiences with USDA grant applications equivalent to these beneath LAMP. 

“Programs beneath LAMP, equivalent to VAPG, helped us transition again to on-farm gross sales,” stated Brydson. The program was helpful for getting again on our ft after being hit with the onset of the COVD-19 pandemic.”

While LAMP allowed Brysdon to reply effectively to the disaster, too many producers are nonetheless omitted of the system as a result of lack of appropriately sized processing, aggregation, and distribution infrastructure. 

“Realistically, to have the ability to cowl your bills and pay your payments, you want a specific amount of funds and infrastructure,” stated Brydson. “You have to have cash to generate profits.” 

Federal applications like LAMP can assist farmers, ranchers, and fishers who need to reap the benefits of these new financial alternatives by connecting them with aggregators, processors, distributors, retailers, and institutional patrons and shoppers in native and regional marketplaces. As Congress begins to draft the 2023 Farm Bill, LAMP needs to be strengthened to make sure equitable entry to this key native and regional meals system program. 

Working Lands Conservation

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is likely one of the nation’s largest working lands conservation applications, supporting farmers and ranchers as they introduce and broaden conservation practices on their lands. CSP supplies technical and monetary help to farmers and ranchers, rewarding each their energetic administration of ongoing conservation efforts and adoption of recent, further conservation enhancements and superior conservation methods on their complete farming operation.

Farmer curiosity in CSP is rising. Since the 2018 Farm Bill, CSP has seen a 20 p.c enhance in functions. In fiscal yr 2020, of 34,572 functions acquired, solely a few quarter of farmers and ranchers have been funded. Increasing funding for CSP within the 2023 Farm Bill by offering this system $4 billion per yr will assist the rising demand for monetary and technical help by decreasing the rising utility backlog. This will be sure that conservation applications can assist the rising demand for help and can enhance program accessibility whereas encouraging larger ranges of stewardship. 

Lindsey Shapiro, farmer at Root Mass Farm in Bally, Pennsylvania and an organizer with Pasa Sustainable Agriculture, joined the fly-in to talk with Congress about a few of the obstacles farmers are going through on the bottom. Shapiro met with Congressman GT Thompson (R-PA) to discuss the significance of allocating extra funding for conservation applications within the 2023 Farm Bill.

Conservation applications are integral to farm companies. It’s essential to grasp that extra funding for conservation applications helps out the entire farm,” stated Shapiro. 

In addition to rising funding, conservation applications should be made extra accessible to farmers by offering them with clear info earlier than, throughout, and after the applying course of, even when they’re denied.

 “There is a disconnect between what applications can be found and what advisable initiatives needs to be carried out,” stated Shapiro.

Improving Crop Insurance

Federal coverage has traditionally protected sure sorts of farming and farmers very effectively via commodity subsidy applications and sponsored crop insurance coverage for extensively grown crops, equivalent to corn, soy, and wheat. 

In order to serve the range of American agriculture, the 2023 Farm Bill should enhance crop insurance coverage by enhancing entry to the protection web for small and mid-sized, starting, natural, and specialty crop producers, selling pure useful resource stewardship as returns on taxpayer funding, and degree the taking part in subject for household farms by making certain environment friendly use of public funds. 

Farmer Noreen Thomas, who operates Doubting Thomas Farm in Minnesota, flew into DC to speak to her Members of Congress about points that have an effect on farmers together with the significance of funding for conservation applications, the upcoming farm invoice, and enhancing crop insurance coverage.

“There’s some main gaps in it,” Thomas stated of the farm security web system. “We’re placing a variety of farmers and meals provide in danger. Beginning farmers find yourself spending some huge cash as a result of there’s no insurance coverage for specialty crops. My son misplaced $40,000 as a result of the alfalfa didn’t germinate correctly and it was uninsurable for the primary yr.”

Thomas additionally shared that, along with making issues simpler for starting farmers, extending crop insurance coverage to specialty crops could have a constructive affect on soil well being.

“If you encourage extra range inside crop insurance coverage, it’s higher for soil well being,” she stated. “If we don’t take excellent care of the land now, what are we doing for future generations?”

Local Meat Processing

The bipartisan, bicameral Strengthening Local Processing Act (SLPA) (S.370 / H.R. 1258) lays out a nationwide technique for sustained funding in small and really small meat processing vegetation. The SLPA will increase states’ capacity to opt-in to cooperative interstate shipments, supplies steering on how to make sure meals security throughout small and really small vegetation, and authorizes funding to offer the kind of extremely expert labor essential for native processing vegetation to thrive. Supporting the SLPA will assist make sure the 2023 Farm Bill addresses the workforce scarcity by creating new coaching applications for jobs in meat processing, will increase regional and interstate commerce, expands technical help to assist scaling of current vegetation and the viability of recent vegetation, and sustains investments in increasing native and regional processing capability. 

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the necessity for continued investments in native and regional meat processing applications to assist good jobs in rural communities and cut back burdens for farmers. In addition to coming to DC to talk on the ARA, Jessica Krupicka of Heritage Hill Farm additionally spoke to the workplace of Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) about difficulties her neighborhood faces in with the ability to course of meat regionally.

“There have been conditions when giant packing vegetation would shut down early on within the pandemic. It was not exceptional to have semi-loads of hogs attempt to make an appointment at a neighborhood locker that would perhaps do 10 hogs a day,” stated Krupicka. “Local lockers have been superb, however throughout COVID, the entire spots could be full. They have been working as laborious as they might, however they have been struggling as a result of they didn’t have the employees or area. I wish to see elevated funding for smaller meat processors and lockers in order that they will broaden or open up new alternatives, particularly for smaller cities,” stated Krupicka. 

What’s subsequent? 

Farmers and Advocates go to the workplace of Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) 

The present Farm Bill expires on September 30, 2023, so Congress will quickly start drafting the subsequent Farm Bill. Right now, Members of Congress are starting to introduce “marker payments,” items of laws that don’t normally go on their very own however present concepts and language which will find yourself within the closing invoice. The House and Senate Agriculture Committees are anticipated to start work on drafting the Farm Bill itself in early 2023. 

There is rather a lot to do to make sure that the 2023 Farm Bill serves farmers and communities throughout the nation. NSAC will proceed to amplify the tales of farmers and others utilizing farm invoice applications and encourage our champions in Congress to spend money on sustainable agriculture, racial fairness, and structural reform within the subsequent Farm Bill. We plan to launch our 2023 Farm Bill platform in November. Working alongside our members, we sit up for advocating for coverage that ensures a greater meals and farm system for the planet and all those that inhabit it. 

Beginning and Minority Farmers, Carousel, Commodity, Crop Insurance & Credit Programs, Farm Bill, Organic, Research, Education & Extension