Sustainable Agriculture Advocates Set to Participate in 2023 Farm Bill

Advocates for issues like more sustainable food systems, better policies against systemic racism and climate-smart practices in agriculture have an opportunity to be heard as lawmakers begin work on the bill of 2023, said speakers at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association’s virtual conference. 12.

Scott Marlow, assistant administrator for agricultural programs at the US Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, said these advocates have long been trying to get a seat at the table.

But now even the agriculture secretary is talking directly about topics like climate-smart agriculture, systemic racism, and rebuilding food systems in more sustainable ways, including at local and regional levels.

“This is a critical moment,” Marlow said. “You have a seat at the table.”

This makes this upcoming farm bill an important time for these farmers to get involved in politics and advocate on these issues.

Problem solving

That means focusing on systems when it comes to solving problems, not just symptoms, Marlow said. The pandemic has revealed many problems with the current food system. But because this system is based on policies and decisions that have been made, it is possible to change it.

“The food system is not broken,” he said. “The food system does exactly what it was designed to do.”

For example, it was designed to be very efficient, and it is. There’s not a lot of redundancy in parts of the food system. But this has a cost. When something like a pandemic hits, there can be major disruptions. That’s why it’s important to address the systems and situations that create problems, not just the problems themselves.


That does not necessarily mean that this farm bill will be the start of a huge change. Many people involved in politics have devoted a lot of time and energy to the challenges of the pandemic over the past two years, and some are burning out, said Eric Deeble, director of policy for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

And unfortunately, just because a problem is visible doesn’t mean people will be able to fix it.

“Time is running out and ambitions seem rather modest at this stage,” Deeble said.

Jonathan McCracken, the newly appointed Ohio state director of rural development for the USDA, a former senior policy adviser to Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, said the farm bill isn’t expected to rise much this time. -this. But there are also things happening outside of the farm bill that could ease the pressure.

For example, nutritional benefits, like SNAP, make up a big chunk of the farming bill. Those benefits recently increased for the first time in decades, meaning organizers aren’t relying solely on the farm bill to get there, McCracken said.

Deeble added that there hasn’t been any new money in the farm bill since 2002. But farm bills since then have always brought policy updates and changes, so the bills bills do not necessarily need to add funds to be successful.


There are several things that sustainable agriculture and organic farming organizations hope to see in the next Farm Bill. Making sure crop insurance and conservation programs work for organic farmers is one, said Abby Youngblood, executive director of the National Organic Coalition.

For example, Deeble said, the NSAC is an advocate for Whole Farm Income Protection as an insurance program for farmers. Focusing on this as the main program, and less on single crop policies, could help organic farmers.

Youngblood also identified increased reimbursements for the certification cost-sharing program and more work on issues such as access to land and access to other resources for farmers.

McCracken added that a lot will depend on who the chairs of the House and Senate agriculture committees will be after the 2022 election. In addition to party differences, there are geographic differences.

A senator or representative from the Midwest is more likely to be in tune with the needs of farmers in the Midwest, while a legislator from the South will be more aware of what concerns farmers in the South.

“You can get gains in a farm bill,” McCracken said. “Do farm bills ever go as far as any of us what? … No, but that said, we can still do a lot here.


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