Keep Up the Fight for Equity in the Farm Bill!

Greetings Rural Coalition Members and Allies,

The U.S. House of Representatives voted yesterday to send the 2018 Farm Bill to conference committee with the Senate, which is expected to appoint conferees shortly. The task of the committee will be to combine portions of the respective farm bills into a shared bill that can pass both the House and Senate and secure the signature of President. There are deep differences between the two bills. The strict work requirements and other cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the House Bill will be among the most contentious items.

The Republican Conferees appointed by Speaker Paul Ryan include the following from the Agriculture Committee:

Chairman Mike Conaway (TX-11)

Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA-05)

Bob Goodlatte (VA-06)

Frank Lucas (OK-03)

Mike Rogers (AL-03)

Austin Scott (GA-08)

Rick Crawford (AR-01)

Vicky Hartzler (MO-04)

Rodney Davis (IL-13)

Ted Yoho (FL-03)

David Rouzer (NC-07)

Roger Marshall (KS-01)

Jodey Arrington (TX-19)

The Democratic Conferees appointed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi include the following from the Agriculture Committee:

Collin Peterson (D-Minn.)

David Scott (D-Ga.)

Jim Costa (D-Calif.)

Tim Walz (D-Minn.)

Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio)

Jim McGovern (D-Mass.)

Filemon Vela (D-Texas)

Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.)

Ann Kuster (D-N.H.)

Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.)

*Please see link for additional conferees — both Republican and Democratic — appointed for specific sections of the bill.

As the 2018 Farm Bill Season heats up, the Senate and House conferees must work to create a single version for the nation’s Food and Farm Policy for the next five years, the Rural Coalition staff and our policy team has been hard at work with our allies. Our goal has been to develop our strategies and positions on critical issues for our communities, and to improve communications to stay connected to you, our membership, in order to swiftly engage in the unique grassroots advocacy that only we can do, by working together!

Our most critical task now is working together for a Better Farm Bill. We are writing to remind you of what we have accomplished this Farm Bill Season, what we need to protect, and what we still need to fight for.

Building on the RC Food and Farm Equity Agenda drafted with membership during rural gatherings, and DC-based forum fly-ins over the past year, RC members and staff identified a core subset of amendments, marker bills and provisions that we would fight for. We organized locally, regionally, and nationally to advocate against the deep cuts to SNAP, local and regional food programs, and conservation that riddled the May and June versions of the House Bill which passed narrowly, 213-211. On the Senate side, we pushed our equity package, working to ensure that the Senate’s bipartisan Farm Bill, passed on June 28 on a vote of 86-11, included key components of RC’s Equity Package. While the Senate’s version of the bill preserves SNAP funding and contains important components of the RC Equity Package, we must continue to fight for the best possible Farm Bill in a very tough year.

In 2018, it is the Senate’s turn to convene the Farm Bill Conference, and their bipartisan bill provides a stronger basis to move forward. At the outset it is important to acknowledge that even the Senate farm bill leaders, Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (KA) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (MI) acknowledge the bill is only the best bill that could be passed now given stiff budget constraints and a contentious political climate. But the Senate bill has enough valuable features to make moving forward on a final bill preferable to having no bill or even a continuing resolution.

Moving forward, Rural Coalition is committed to continuing our fight for a full, fair Farm Bill!

Our policy team, featuring some of the next generation leaders who are also veterans of the 2014 Farm Bill debate, is now working with our allies on a full conference letter covering many features of the farm bill. We will have more to share early next week, including a sign on letter. Meanwhile, check to see if you have member of Congress on the House conference committee – it is time to be in touch with them now, starting with these Republican and Democratic Conferee lists.

Here are some important Equity Package Provisions we aim to protect going into the Conference:

• The Senate Bill protects SNAP funding, and doesn’t include 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 construction of an underfunded bureaucratic infrastructure.

• Our “heirs property” amendment 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. (Read more in our Action Alert.)

• Improving the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Programwill strengthen support for historically underserved producers. The Senate Bill also provides permanent funding and authority for this important program which is shared equally with the closely related Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program. (Read more in our Action Alert.)

• The removal of industrial hemp from the controlled substances list 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.

• Small steps forward in Credit and Dairy Policy. (See joint Senate Press Release with the National Family Farm Coalition.)

There are some ugly aspects of current versions that we refuse to accept:

• RC joins our members Alianza Nacional de Campesinas’ and Farmworker Association of Florida’s in opposing weakened pesticide protections.

“Rural Coalition, We’ve Got Work to Do!”

Your engagement is crucial to securing the Farm Bill our farmers deserve. What can you do to support our final push?

 Sign up for our action alerts, updates and newsletters. If you have more organizational staff and members that want to participate, please add their names and emails.

• Join or renew your membership. It is time to renew your Rural Coalition Organizational Membership — by joining or renewing on time, your support will provide critically needed resources to allow us to focus on this important Policy Push!

• Make an additional donation to support the final fight for a Farm Bill that addresses the injustice of hunger in the wealthiest nation on the planet; advances equity for small and new entry family farmers; uplifts and grows just food systems, and protects our mother earth.

• Save the Date: Let’s fight, win, and then celebrate! This is RC’s 40th year of fighting for justice and equity in food and farm policy. Save the date and please join us December 13-14 in DC and stay for dinner the evening of December 14.

• Follow the latest Rural Coalition blog posts!

• Find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

We’ve done so much already: Let’s continue our momentum!

Thank you for your support,

All of us at the Rural Coalition

Rural Coalition