Over the past two years, Land Stewardship Project (LSP) members and staff have worked hard together to advocate for a better Farm Bill. Through listening to LSP member-farmers and rural community members, it was clear that this Farm Bill must put people, communities and the land first.
• Respond to the current challenges that farmers, our rural/urban communities and the land face.
• Invest in farmers and food programs so that no one is left behind.
• Originate from the people. The prevailing feeling among many LSP members and supporters, especially in rural areas, is that the Farm Bill does not represent them and that our lawmakers in Washington D.C. do not listen to them.
The first draft of the Farm Bill released April 12 by the Chair of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee fails on all of these fronts and shows how far Washington, D.C., is detached from people and their communities. This bill does not respond to the pressing challenges in agriculture that impact our communities, our land and water, and farmers themselves, both established and beginning, who we all rely on to grow the food and fiber we require to lead healthy lives. Instead of pushing forward bold solutions for a more just food and farming system, the bill was crafted in secret and is being rushed through our democratic process.
The bill clearly does not respond to the needs of farmers and the land. The bill:
• Eliminates our nation’s largest working lands conservation program, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and dramatically cuts conservation funding over the next decade.
• Leaves untouched unfair and damaging aspects of the largest farm safety net, federal crop insurance, which left intact and unreformed benefits corporate ag and continued land consolidation.
• Invests little in the next generation of farmers, rural development, local foods and programs that advance racial justice on the land.
• Adds unneeded requirements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the largest support system for rural and urban communities that are food insecure. These unneeded requirements make it more challenging for millions to obtain the food they need that farmers grow. These unneeded requirements ignore the value that everyone deserves having enough nutrition and food to live a healthy life.
What is also wrong is that this bill was created in secret and is now being rushed through the U.S. House of Representatives in the next week. It is clear that our democratic process is weakened when backroom deals and political agendas are prioritized over the voices and participation of people. This is a characteristic of corporate-controlled politics, rather than government led by the people.
While this draft is disappointing, this is not the end. The Farm Bill process will continue. The Senate is crafting its Farm Bill language at this time, and the two bills will go through a number of steps before they are compared, combined, and eventually voted into the law that will govern agriculture and the food program for the next five years.
Throughout this process, Land Stewardship Project staff and members will continue to work with our allies and call on our members of Congress to move this initial draft of a bill in a more positive direction. We call on the U.S. Senate to create a more open and transparent process that includes people and responds to the real needs of farmers, communities and the land. We need a Farm Bill that we can truly call “Our Farm Bill.”