Farm Bill Outreach and Advocacy* – LIC Coalition – May 7 2018
The Farm Bill affects everyone in the United States, and is important to every sector of the national food system – farmers, consumers (especially the needy through SNAP), an evolving distribution system, resource conservation and the environment, and of course global agribusiness, and finance. Founded during the depression as a farm safety net, the system has evolved and continues with many inequities. Agribusiness and other anti-competitive, regressive and agglomerative interests work to assure that the law’s benefits are skewed toward the wealthiest agriculture interests. Two dynamics of the farm sector drive much of the underlying politics – Negative: the concentration of farm ownership as very large operations gobble up smaller financially weaker farms; and Positive: the continuing trend toward sustainability, organics, direct farm-to-market distribution, and environmental responsibility, especially among smaller and mid-scale farms, and beginning farmers. Farm Bill Advocacy can reinforce this positive trend and protect the interests of smaller and mid-scale farmers, consumers and the environment.
Learn About the Farm Bill – A little reading can orient you on the basics and the breadth of the Farm Bill. Any of the organizations below are worth a look, both for orientation and action advocacy. The Farm Bill Law Enterprise (FBLE) is a collaboration of eight law schools; it provides in-depth analysis of all twelve titles and make recommendations – see the FBLE’s three reports. The organizations below are from the horse’s mouth:
● FBLE – http://www.farmbilllaw.org/reports/ and also their blog;
● National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) – Ten Reasons to Reject the House Farm Bill: http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/house-farm-bill-top-ten-2018/
● National Farmers Union – https://nfu.org/ and https://2018farmbill.org/
● National Organic Farmers Association (NOFA) https://www.nofa.org/ and for NY
https://www.nofany.org/ (Farmington NY)
● National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) – They have an organizing manual:
http://www.youngfarmers.org/policyplatform/ (Hudson NY)
● Food Research and Action (FRAC) http://frac.org/ Food security, SNAP, etc.
● Sierra Club – https://www.sierraclub.org/ Search: ‘2018 Farm Bill’
The Farm Bill in a Hostile Congress – The House and The Senate
The House Agriculture Committee has released a draft with a reactionary approach to to the needs of farmers, consumers and the entire US farm and food system. The draft weakens or cuts back conservation programs, food security programs (SNAP), programs that enhance farmer participation in regional markets, programs to support struggling rural communities, public seed breeding and research, food safety modernization, and programs to help socially disadvantaged, veteran, and minority farmers. The draft fails to improve the farm safety net for many farmers who most need
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protection, and cuts back support for technical assistance that supports better risk management. It provides bonuses and loopholes for the wealthiest agribusiness operations, so the rich will get richer and small and independent farmers are cast aside.
Whether or not the House draft is voted on is uncertain. In addition to the Democratic opposition, the Freedom Caucus wants More Cuts to SNAP, and the religious right opposes the work requirement for women. If it does not go to vote, it will probably get a continuing resolution and get kicked to the next Congress.
The Senate is working on a version of the Farm Bill, but due to calendar issues, may not release a draft this Spring, thus kicking it to next session. Senator Gillibrand is on the Senate Agriculture Committee. NYC Indivisible groups meet regularly with her staff who have been very helpful in supporting our ongoing interest in the Farm Bill and exploring the opportunity for advocacy.
Fight for a Good Farm Bill Now
The Republican House Draft runs counter to the interests of most independent farmers (except the very largest), of food insecure people, and of consumers in general. In every Congressional District there is an opportunity to publicize the damage the House Draft would impose and the platforms that need to be supported. For example, in NY 19, Republican John Faso is on the House Agriculture Committee and has strongly supported the worst of the draft, including the SNAP cutbacks and work requirements. Here are some ways to fight back:
● Work with community and farmer groups to educate and gain consensus on Farm Bill features
● Tell you Congressperson that we need a good Farm Bill and ask specific questions based on our benchmarks – FBLE’s recommendations or the platforms of the NSAC, NFU,Young Farmers, or NOFA
● If your representative supports the Committee draft (probably a Republican), record and document her/his answers. Use this for accountability later – newspaper letters, etc.
The Farm Bill in Primaries and the Fall Election
The work put into learning about the Farm Bill, researching your congressperson’s position, and the information you gather from interacting with your representative or candidates, can all be used in educating the community and calling candidates to task in the primary or Fall Election.
*Prepared by John Bradley, LICCoalition.org, email@example.com