Rep. Thompson’s Farm Bill Proposal Will Put Critical Conservation Funds out of Farmers’ and Ranchers’ Reach

—RAFI Concerned by the Partisan Farm, Food, and National Security Act—

[Pittsboro, NC, May 17, 2024] Today, RAFI (Rural Advancement Foundation International) expressed strong concerns with House Agriculture Committee Chairman G.T. Thompson’s (R-PA) partisan Farm, Food, and National Security Act, which is likely to be marked up in the House Agriculture Committee on Thursday, May 23. In removing the climate prioritization attached to the roughly $13 billion in conservation funding being re-invested from the Inflation Reduction Act into the Farm, Food, and National Security Act, Rep. Thompson is re-allocating money away from the conservation practices most commonly sought and utilized by small and mid-scale farmers and ranchers, like those who partner with RAFI. 

Additionally, this Farm Bill proposal cuts SNAP by $27 billion and instead increases commodity subsidies by 56% in a move that will funnel an additional $23 billion to 0.3% of the largest and wealthiest commodity farms, further exacerbating farm consolidation. For these reasons, RAFI views the Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act, previewed two weeks ago by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), as a much stronger foundation for bipartisan Farm Bill negotiations.

“It is critically important that this Farm Bill aggressively addresses agriculture’s impact on the climate; it is also important to highlight that a Farm Bill that does so will support more farmers more equitably. The Inflation Reduction Act made historic investments in climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices within USDA conservation programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) — the programs that small, mid-scale, and historically underserved farmers most often utilize to financially aid their implementation of conservation practices that can adapt their farms to the changing climate,” says Aaron Johnson, Policy Co-Director at RAFI. “These investments significantly expanded the amount of funding available within these oversubscribed programs and significantly increased the chances that those farmers could secure a contract. The way that Rep. Thompson’s proposal re-invests this funding into the Farm Bill — without its prioritization of practices that mitigate climate change — will tangibly hurt the chances of farmers we work alongside to get the conservation funding they deserve, and will dilute the Farm Bill’s overall ability to mitigate climate change.”

The Farm, Food, and National Security Act hurts the many to favor the few,” notes Edna Rodriguez, RAFI’s Executive Director. “The bill’s cuts to SNAP will have harmful ripple effects through multiple important nutrition sub-programs, including the Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) in Puerto Rico, and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) which, among other things, funds Farm to Food Bank projects that open up new market channels for farmers. This is all in service of increases to commodity subsidies that we know drive farm consolidation and thus contribute to small and mid-scale farm losses. When combined with the bill’s total lack of attention to corporate concentration within the food and agriculture space, the result is a Farm Bill designed to build corporate profits, not resilient and just food systems.”

It is important to note one positive inclusion within the Farm, Food, and National Security Act: Section 12205 of the Act shifts the burden of proof off of farmers and onto USDA in all National Appeals Division (NAD) hearings, leveling the playing field for farmers who have a dispute with USDA. RAFI often assists farmers who have experienced disparities in servicing with USDA and has strongly advocated for this change, specifically within the Fair Credit for Farmers Act.

Over the coming days, RAFI will continue to engage heavily with House Agriculture Committee members in support of a Farm Bill that supports all farmers equitably while meaningfully mitigating climate change. RAFI will continue to issue additional analysis and recommendations on our Farm Bill Hub page as our staff reviews the full slate of provisions contained within the Farm, Food, and National Security Act.

Press Contact: Beth Hauptle, Communications, [email protected]
Aaron Johnson, Policy, [email protected]

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