Continue The Fight For Equity In The 2018 Farm Bill Special Report to Kansas Black Farmers Meeting
October 19, 2018
The current Farm Bill, passed in 2014, expired on Sept. 30. Our most critical task now is working together to move a Better Farm Bill to final passage. Here we remind you of what we have accomplished together in this Farm Bill Season, what we need to protect, and what we still need to fight for.
Our leaders, members and allies together identified a core subset of amendments, marker bills and provisions we’ve fought for in what we hope will soon become the 2018 Farm Bill.
We also collaborated locally, regionally, and nationally to advocate opposition to the deep cuts to SNAP contained in the May and June House versions of the Farm Bill which also slashed investments in conservation, and reduced support for equity and local and regional food systems. That bill narrowly passed, 213-211.
We worked closely with Senator Pat Roberts (R-KA) and Ranking Member Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), their staffs, and our other family farm supporters in the US Congress not only to ensure that the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill protected nutrition programs for the most vulnerable members of our society, but that it also advanced rather than reversed the hard-won, long-term gains we have long supported for equity in agriculture, conservation, and credit programs. The Senate’s bipartisan Farm Bill, which passed on June 28 on a vote of 86-11, included support for SNAP, conservation and local food programs, as well as the specific wins we are now working to keep in the final bill.
The two bills were assigned to a joint House-Senate conference committee to resolve differences, with action still needed when Congress returns after the election to complete a final combined bill that can secure enough votes to pass both the full House and Senate for final votes before being sent to the President for signature.
Senators Roberts and Stabenow have created “a farm bill package that, unlike its counterpart in the House of Representatives, takes a strong bipartisan stance on ensuring food access for all communities, by retaining funding and authority for the crucial Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.” The Bill also increased support for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives program and related initiative to strengthen local food systems.
As the Farm Bill Conference continues, the Senate’s bipartisan bill provides a stronger basis to advance key aspects of the legislative packages endorsed by Rural Coalition and more than 100 organizations in the recent Equity sign-on letter. Click here for more information.
It is important to acknowledge–even as Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (KA) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (MI) admit–that this bill is the best of what could be passed at this point given stiff budget constraints and a contentious political climate. That said, the Senate bill has enough valuable features to make moving forward quickly on a final bill, which is preferable to having no bill or even a continuing resolution.
Now is the time to call on your members of Congress to complete a fair farm and food bill. In particular, thank Senators Roberts and Stabenow for their work. Urge all Senators and House members to assure the final 2018 Farm Bill includes several important equity improvements in these vital areas:
Protects SNAP funding in the Nutrition Title in the Senate Bill and doesn’t include the very stiff and bureaucratic workfare requirements that will create hunger and deepen poverty for vulnerable Americans, including children and families, and burden States with implementation and the costs of constructing an underfunded bureaucratic infrastructure.
Provides Fair Access for Farmers and Ranchers “heirs property” language (in Senate Sections 12623, 12624 and 12625) that will ensure that more farmers — especially African-American farmers and farmers of color — can access USDA programs that enable them to protect the soil and water; continue to operate viable farms that feed their communities; and pass farming vocation and farmland on to future generations.
Senate Section 12301, Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO), which strengthens the historic Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program and also links it to and provides permanent funding (of $50 million annually) and permanent authority shared equally with the closely related Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program.
That removes industrial hemp from the controlled substances list and will allow both tribes and states to establish regulatory structures within their boundaries that allow farmers and ranchers to produce a high value cash crop.
That provides small steps forward in Credit and Dairy Policy, including equitable relief in credit to protect producers against errors made by the lender. (See joint Senate Press Release with the National Family Farm Coalition.)
Authorizes the new LAMP program, which merges authorities and provides baseline funding for local food, rural value added and food safety programs.
In a tight budget climate, overall conservation funding is also protected and access to conservation programs for historically underserved producers is prioritized. However, funding cuts in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Easement Program are of concern.
ALSO, LET’S NOT FORGET
There are some ugly aspects of current versions that we refuse to accept, please remind your Congress member.
• Deep SNAP cuts and weakening of the program as written in the House Bill are also unacceptable.
We further invite all Members to join our policy network and to stay informed on key actions needed to protect our wins and see the 2018 Farm Bill to final passage. (Go here)
The Rural Coalition, born of the civil rights, indigenous rights, and anti-poverty rural movements, has worked since 1978 to assure that diverse organizations from all regions, ethnic and racial groups, women and men, and youth and elders, have the opportunity to work in solidarity on the issues that affect them all. The foundation of this work is strong local, regional and national organizations that work to assure the representation and involvement of every sector of this diverse fabric of rural peoples.
We invite all to join as members or renew your membership in the Rural Coalition and to attend our 10th Annual Winter Forum and our 40th Anniversary Dinner on December 13-14 in Washington, DC. (G0 here for information).