The Farm Bill determines federal policy in agriculture for the next five to 10 years following its passage. RAFI-USA worked hard to make sure the voices of farmers were heard during the negotiations for the 2018 Farm Bill and we are working now on the 2023 Farm Bill.
The Farm Bill is the primary agriculture and food policy legislation of the federal government. This omnibus bill determines policy and funding levels for agriculture, food assistance programs, natural resources, and other aspects of food and agriculture under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Farm Bill legislation is the cornerstone of our nation’s agricultural policy, but it’s also a place where rural and urban meet, make compromises and form unique and sometimes unlikely partnerships.
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A Window Into The Process
The primary way that ideas get introduced and included in the Farm Bill is via marker bills. A marker bill is a piece of legislation that is introduced on the floor but not expected to pass as a standalone bill. Advocates for the marker bill then work to gather support for it, and the more support that is demonstrated for a bill, the more likely it is to eventually be included in a giant piece of legislation like the Farm Bill. Typically, sponsor offices and supportive organizations will try to generate buzz and support to coincide with marker bill introduction.
In the coming months, many marker bills will be introduced as the Farm Bill is written and debated. This phase of the process is a very important window of opportunity for food system advocates to make our voices heard with our Members of Congress, and let them know which marker bills we think are crucial to include in the Farm Bill. If you sign up for action alerts, you’ll hear from RAFI-USA when marker bills we think are important are introduced, so that you can weigh in with legislators as well.
From National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
The farm bill connects the food on our plates, the farmers and ranchers who produce that food, and the natural resources – our soil, air, and water – that make growing food possible.
The farm bill is a package of legislation passed roughly once every five years that has a tremendous impact on farming livelihoods, how food is grown, and what kinds of foods are grown. Covering programs ranging from crop insurance for farmers to healthy food access for low-income families, from beginning farmer training to support for sustainable farming practices, the farm bill sets the stage for our food and farm systems. As a leading advocate for family farmers and sustainable agriculture, it’s our job to make sure that this important bill is good for farmers, consumers, and the natural environment.
Every five years, the farm bill expires and is updated: it goes through an extensive process where it is proposed, debated, and passed by Congress and is then signed into law by the President. Each farm bill has a unique title, and the current farm bill is called the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. It was enacted into law in December 2018 and expires in 2023.
The original farm bill(s) were enacted in three stages during the 1930s as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation. Its three original goals — to keep food prices fair for farmers and consumers, ensure an adequate food supply, and protect and sustain the country’s vital natural resources – responded to the economic and environmental crises of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. While the farm bill has changed in the last 70 years, its primary goals are the same.
Our food and farming system confronts new challenges today, but through citizen and stakeholder action for a fair farm bill, we can ensure the vibrancy and productivity of our agriculture, economy, and communities for generations to come.