Creating a Level Playing Field for Sustainable Agriculture Through the Farm Bill
The 2018 Farm Bill is Taking Shape Now!
Discussions about the 2018 Farm Bill are underway; they will determine what the bill looks like, and as a result, the future of our food system. This affects each and everyone of us and what we eat, particularly the most food insecure among us. It also affects the quality of our environment and much of the resource base we depend on. For small and family farmers, this legislation impacts their ability to farm the way they want and to have a successful and sustainable business.
The Strengthening Our Investment in Land (SOIL) Stewardship Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this March. The legislation enhances the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the two largest lands conservation programs in the farm bill.
Providing funding to ensure working lands conservation programs can support the growing demand for financial and technical conservation assistance.
Ensuring payments reflect the farmer investment and conservation benefits resulting from the adoption of key practices and programs.
Increasing program accessibility through better coordination between programs, while also encouraging higher levels of stewardship.
Increasing commitment and conservation support for historically underserved participants.
This Seeds for the Future Act will increase support for and access to public seed breeding programs and keep American farmers resilient and competitive by:
Ensuring that federal investments are sufficient to support farmers and researchers in developing seeds that work for a diversity of farming systems and locations.
Prioritizing "farmer-ready" public cultivar development in federal grant programs.
Encouraging commitment to seed diversification and regional adaptation.
Increasing efficiency and improving coordination across federal agencies.
The bipartisan Give Our Resources the Opportunity to Work (GROW) Act (S. 2557) was introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown and three other senators in mid-March. This comprehensive bill invests in conservation on working agricultural lands by maintaining current acreage and funding levels for CSP, EQIP, and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), and increasing the acreage that can be enrolled in the CRP Grasslands Initiative by 50 percent. The bill makes major investments in soil health by offering additional support for cover crop adoption and supplemental payments for Resource Conserving Crop Rotations and Management Intensive Rotation Grazing within CSP, ensuring that farmers’ conservation investments are appropriately rewarded and incentivized by farm bill conservation programs. Specific measures include:
A new Clean Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers (CLEAR) program to better promote water quality. This prioritizes enrolling lands in the Conservation Reserve Program that will best prevent runoff and protect water quality.
Reserve funding within EQIP for conservation practices that protect drinking water.
Making prime farmland ineligible for CRP.
A number of improvements to make CSP more user-friendly for farmers.
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act (H.R.4316), introduced! This bill will support next generation farmers by:
Expanding beginning farmers’ access to affordable land;
Empowering new and veteran farmers with the skills to succeed in today’s agricultural economy;
Ensuring equitable access to financial capital and federal crop insurance; and
Encouraging commitment to conservation and stewardship across generations.
The Organic Agriculture Research Act (HR 2436) will provide $50 million in funding annually for the USDA’s flagship organic research program, the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI).
The Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act of 2017 will improve oversight of organic imports.
Find more details and how to act on these two bills here.
The Crop Insurance Modernization Act was introduced in January. This bill will improve access to the federal crop insurance program for beginning farmers, farmers with diverse crops and enterprises, specialty crop operations, organic farmers, farmers using non-wholesale markets, and other underserved farmers by:
Expanding premium discounts for beginning farmers.
Streamlining the Whole Farm Revenue Protection Program, which serves primarily diversified and smaller-scale producers.
Requiring the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) to study the barriers to accessing crop insurance, particularly by beginning and social disadvantaged producers, and to identiy options for expanding access.
The bill will also put USDA agencies on the same page regarding the connection between risk management and conservation by:
Ensuring that a farmers' crop insurance coverage will not be rescinded or put at risk due to their use of cover crops or other NRCS approved conservation practices.
Launching a pilot program that rewards farmers who undertake risk-reducing conservation activities.
Funding and standardizing conservation compliance monitoring across the country.
Donate to OEFFA and help us continue to be strong advocates for Ohio's sustainable farmers.
Watch the 4 minute video below from the National Sustainable Agriculture to learn more about the farm bill, including ways you can get involved with shaping our nation's food and farm policy.
About the Farm Bill
The 2014 Farm Bill renewed programs that support beginning farmers, local food systems, organic agriculture, and healthy food access, thanks to a groundswell of support from grassroots farm advocates.
Work on the 2018 Farm Bill has begun and your involvement is more important than ever. Unless there is strong advocacy in support of funding for the Farmers' Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP), the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program (NOCCSP), the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), and many more programs, they will cease to exist.
Below are important Farm Bill programs that support organic and sustainable farming practices and help farmers to develop their businesses and market their products:
The Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) provides funding to community supported agriculture programs, farmers’ markets, and farm markets to develop marketing information and business plans; support innovative market ideas, and educate consumers. Grants are available for farms, food hubs, and other businesses that process, distribute, aggregate, or store locally or regionally produced food products.
USDA Competitive Grant Research Program Funding Trends
The Organic Agriculture, Research, and Extension Initiative (OREI) is administered by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture and is a competitive program that funds research, education, and Extension projects to address the most critical challenges that organic farmers face in their fields every day. Awards of up to $2 million are allowed for standard grants, $100,000 for conference and analytical grants, and $50,000 for planning grants.
The National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program (NOCCSP) reimburses participating organic producers and handlers for 75 percent (up to $750) of their certification fees. This program helps make organic certification affordable, enabling farmers and processors to meet the growing demand for organic food.
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) invests in the next generation of farmers and food entrepreneurs by helping them access land, credit, and crop insurance; launch and expand new farms and businesses, and receive training, mentoring, and education.
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) recognizes and rewards farmers that are the best managers of our shared resources: soil, water, and air. The program provides comprehensive conservation assistance, offers farmers the opportunity to earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, rotational grazing, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips, and the transition to organic farming, even while they work their lands for production
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary conservation program that provides farmers and ranchers with financial cost-share assistance and technical assistance to implement conservation practices on working agricultural land.
These are but a few of the many important programs authorized in the Farm Bill. The future of these programs depends on advocacy by farmers and those who care about sustainable agriculture and healthy food choices. Join us in this effort today.
Read NSAC's blog for Farm Bill appropriations and implementation details.
Would you like help finding the right grant program to fit your needs? The Michael Fields Agricultural Institute offers individual grant advising services to farmers in the Midwest at no cost. Contact OEFFA to let us know if you were successful or if you need more information.
The success of our policy work relies on OEFFA's dedicated members, who are leading the way to strong and healthy local food systems. For more information about OEFFA's policy work or to get involved, contact email@example.com or (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208.