Contact: Beth Hauptle, Communications, [email protected]
Pittsboro, NC – May 31, 2023 – Executive Director Edna Rodriguez today announced that the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA) has published its 2023 Farm Bill web pages, with a suite of tools to help farmers and community advocates engage in the Farm Bill process, including RAFI-USA’s Farm Bill platform, a “bill tracker” of Farm Bill proposals endorsed by RAFI-USA, educational videos on the Farm Bill, and a sign up for RAFI-USA’s Policy Action Network.
“RAFI-USA has historically been committed to helping shape Farm Bills that are good for farmers, the natural environment, and communities,” said Edna Rodriguez. “This Farm Bill will be a crucial one for taking action on climate, and those solutions need to be built by those who will be most affected. Congress needs to hear from farmers, ranchers, and all of us who are impacted by our food and agriculture system — not just corporate lobbyists. RAFI-USA works closely every day with farmers, and our policy priorities come directly from that work. Our website tools are designed to help invite everyone into the process” said Rodriguez.
The Farm Bill is a package of legislation passed roughly once every five years that affects 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. It has a major impact on farming livelihoods, how food is grown, and what kinds of foods are grown. The Farm Bill sets the stage for our food and farm systems. The 2023 Farm Bill is expected to be voted on later in 2023.
“While the Farm Bill is a once-every-five-years occurrence, our work on it is ongoing, particularly in gathering stories from farmers regarding what current policies are working or not working for them. We have always based our policy advocacy on the foundational importance of work we do directly with farmers and rural stakeholders, and the policy issues we pursue emerge from that ‘work,’” said Margaret Krome-Lukens, RAFI-USA’s Policy Director. “While that drives us to track a wide array of issues, with the 2023 Farm Bill we are focusing on four key areas which have come up as critical for impacted farmers and stakeholders,” Krome-Lukens continued.
- Corporate Consolidation. Farmers need a Farm Bill that returns control of the food system to local farmers and their communities, not corporations — one that reverses the trend of consolidation in the food system. Too often, farmers have no options and no leverage or power in terms of livestock and poultry markets and processing, or in the seeds available for their use and the terms of those use. RAFI-USA wants to see strong Packers and Stockyards rules to restore some fairness in livestock and poultry contracts; funding for better enforcement of market fairness and competition laws; and antitrust legislation to break up the biggest corporations.
- Climate Change. This Farm Bill should acknowledge the urgency of the climate crisis and help farmers be a part of the solution while ensuring that the solutions don’t drive further inequity or drive land speculation and consolidation. The solutions need to be holistic and comprehensive, and offer farms of all sizes an equal chance to participate — which means that Congress and USDA will need to make an extra effort to include those it has historically underserved.
- Local and regional food system infrastructure. Farmers don’t operate in a vacuum. They need processing, markets, and other infrastructure, which in many rural communities used to exist but have been hollowed out by the increasing corporate consolidation of our food system. Farmers want to feed their local communities, and Congress and USDA can and should invest in those local, people-first, grassroots economies.
- All farmers deserve a fair shot. All farmers have not been given a fair shot, and are not being given that fair shot. USDA’s history of racial discrimination is well-documented, the impacts of which are very much felt today, and have yet to be adequately addressed. Additionally, most USDA programs are built for large-scale agriculture. Small-scale farmers, beginning farmers, and farmers producing less common products or pursuing innovative market strategies, have a difficult time accessing those programs and resources.
RAFI-USA’s Work on the Farm Bill
In addition to listening sessions, lobbying training for farmers and their advocates, and several trips to Washington, DC, RAFI-USA has been deeply engaged in Farm Bill activities.
- Climate and Equity Policy Project. In 2022, RAFI-USA convened a cohort of BIOPIC-farmer-serving organizations for a new project called “Climate and Equity Policy Project.” This project puts farmers of color at the center of policy conversations by providing funding and support to groups to engage in climate-related policy advocacy for the 2023 Farm Bill. This project, funded by the Waverley Street Foundation and the Regenerative Agriculture Foundation (in collaboration with RAFI-USA and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)) awarded more than $300,000 to BIPOC-led and serving organizations to enable them to increase or begin advocacy work on the 2023 Farm Bill. Fourteen organizations received grants from a pool of 45 applicants.
- In March 2023, RAFI-USA along with other agriculture and food system groups organized a DC Fly-In for the “Farmers for Climate Action: Rally for Resilience” that included a rally, march, and congressional visits. RAFI-USA convened a delegation of organizations from the Climate and Equity Policy Project for lobbying training, community building, participation in the rally and march, and visits to congressional offices.
Members of the public can get involved in a number of ways, starting with staying informed. Join RAFI-USA’s Policy Action Network to receive notices of actions you can take via a platform that makes it quick and easy for people to contact their representatives. Learn about the Farm Bill process and the basics of lobbying on our Farm Bill resources page. Finally, follow RAFI-USA’s new bill tracker to follow bills that are important to you and your community.
Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA (RAFI-USA) challenges the root causes of unjust food systems, supporting and advocating for economically, racially, and ecologically just farm communities. We envision a thriving, sustainable, and equitable food system: where farmers and farmworkers have dignity and agency; where they are supported by just agricultural policies; where corporations and institutions are accountable to their community. RAFI-USA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Pittsboro, North Carolina, and incorporated in 1990.