The Policy Connection is a regular digital publication for SAFSF members, providing insights into key policy issues for sustainable agriculture and food systems. Blog post will now be embedded within the recurring publication to provide space for deeper sharing of news and resources.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman GT Thompson (R-PA) announced the Republican members that will sit on his committee, as recommended by the House Republican Steering Committee. Rep. David Scott (D-GA) will serve as ranking member on the committee but the Democrats have not yet announced their party’s committee members. However, House Minority Leader, Hakeem Jeffries, released the ratio numbers for all Committees, with the Agriculture Committee composed of 28 Republicans and 24 Democrats.
One notable Republican committee member is Rep. Frank Lukas (R-OK), who chaired the House Agriculture Committee from 2011-2015, overseeing what became the 2014 Farm Bill after a drawn-out battle over the inclusion of nutrition programs.
|Returning Republican Members||New Republican Members|
|Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, Pa. (Chairman)Rep. Austin Scott, Ga.Rep. Scott DesJarlais, Tenn.Rep. Doug LaMalfa, Calif.Rep. David Rouzer, N.C.Rep. Trent Kelly, Miss.Rep. Don Bacon, Neb.Rep. Dusty Johnson, S.D.Rep. Jim Baird, Ind.Rep. Tracey Mann, Kan.Rep. Mary Miller, Ill.Rep. Barry Moore, Ala.Rep. Kat Cammack, Fla.Rep. Brad Finstad, Minn.||Rep. Frank Lucas, Okla. Rep. John Rose, Tenn.Rep. Ronny Jackson, TexasRep. Mark Alford, Mo.Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, Ore.Rep. Monica De La Cruz, TexasRep. John Duarte, Calif.Rep. Nick Langworthy, N.Y.Rep. Max Miller, OhioRep. Marc Molinaro, N.Y.Rep. Zach Nunn, IowaRep. Derrick Van Orden, Wis.|
As 2023 Farm Bill deliberation ramps up, funders have a key role to play in educating and encouraging these committee members to protect the $20 billion in IRA funding allocated to conservation programs. For more on how funders can get involved, watch the recording of our recent Funder Farm Bill Chat with the Conservation Coalition. This webinar provides a fantastic overview of how to run a successful advocacy campaign.
In a press release, Rep. David Scott (D-GA) announced he will prioritize:
- Expand rural broadband: We must ensure that appropriate funding is given to USDA to help us bridge the digital divide between rural and urban America. USDA knows what works for our rural communities better than many other Federal agencies and will provide a more immediate solution to our rural communities who do not have adequate and affordable broadband access.
- Make the 1890 Land Grant African American College and Universities Student Scholarship Program permanent and add an additional $100 million in funding: This is critical to developing our future generations of scientists, producers, and leaders in our agriculture industry.
- Assist our small family cattle farmers and ranchers: Extending and strengthening the safety net for our livestock producers and increasing marketing and business financial incomes of our small farmers and ranchers by adding value to their operations.
- Defend and protect SNAP and our nutrition programs: We need to maintain the nutrition safety net and examine any gaps in coverage while ensuring that job opportunities, education, and training are available.
- Help producers combat dramatic changes in weather patterns and climate: Our farm bill conservation title programs are oversubscribed, and we need to increase the available technical assistance to work with our agriculture producers.
These priorities align closely with SAFSF’s 2023 Farm Bill Principles and we are glad to see ranking member Scott continue to be a champion for an equitable and sustainable farm bill.
Administrative + Agency News
This year, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will select up to three states to receive funding and support to run an Electronic Healthy Incentives Pilot, or eHIP, for SNAP participants in their state. Through the eHIP projects, states will test SNAP incentive program models, which could reduce administrative costs and increase efficiency, allowing more incentive dollars to reach SNAP participants, enabling them to buy more nutritious fruits and vegetables. Increased demand for fruits and vegetables also helps strengthen the food supply chain.
Interested states must apply by March 31, 2023. To learn more, view the entire Request for Applications.
While programs like the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, or GusNIP, are federally funded, any SNAP-authorized retailer can operate an incentive program. Funding such incentive programs are fantastic opportunities for funders to increase food and nutrition security across the U.S.
USDA and HHS announced the appointment of 20 nationally recognized scientists to serve on the 2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The Dietary Guidelines serve as the foundation for national nutrition programs, standards, and education. In addition, they provide health professionals with guidance and resources to assist the public in choosing an overall healthy diet that works for them.
The Committee will be tasked with reviewing the current body of science on key nutrition topics and developing a scientific report that includes its independent assessment of the evidence and recommendations for HHS and USDA as they develop the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Committee’s review, public comments, and input from other federal nutrition experts will help inform HHS and USDA as the Departments develop the 10th edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The inaugural meeting of the Committee is scheduled for February 9-10, 2023. Attending these meetings can provide funders with key insights on nutrition policy developments. Additional information, including meeting details and how to submit public comments, are available at www.DietaryGuidelines.gov.
This final rule from USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) updates USDA organic regulations, and strengthens oversight and enforcement of the production, handling, and sale of organic products. Key updates include:
- Requiring certification of more of the businesses, like brokers and traders, at critical links in organic supply chains.
- Requiring NOP Import Certificates for all organic imports.
- Requiring organic identification on non retail containers.
- Increasing authority for more rigorous on-site inspections of certified operations.
- Requiring uniform qualification and training standards for organic inspectors and certifying agent personnel.
- Requires standardized certificates of organic operation.
- Requires additional and more frequent reporting of data on certified operations.
- Creates authority for more robust recordkeeping, traceability practices, and fraud prevention procedures.
- Specify certification requirements for producer groups.
This final rule implements 2018 Farm Bill mandates, including reducing “the types of uncertified entities in the organic supply chain that operate without USDA oversight, such as importers, certain brokers and traders of organic products.” It also responds to industry requests for updates to the USDA organic regulations, and addresses National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommendations. Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt noted “The Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule is the biggest update to the organic regulations since the original Act in 1990.”
USDA is investing $9.6 million split between 25 projects across the country to help farmers, ranchers, processors and rural businesses diversify the nation’s meat supply. This investment comes as USDA continues its efforts to chip away at concentrated and consolidated meat processing markets that have for so long hampered economic growth in rural communities.
The Department is awarding 23 Value Added Producer Grant program grants totaling $3.9 million to help producer-owned companies process and market new products. USDA is also providing guarantees for a total of $5.7 million in loans to two companies through the Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan Program using American Rescue Plan funding. This program supports new investments in infrastructure for food aggregation, processing, manufacturing, storage, transportation, wholesaling and distribution.
Through these two programs, USDA is investing in 25 projects in California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
Philanthropy has a key role to play in educating policymakers on the harms of livestock, agribusiness and food system concentration funding community-level interventions that can strengthen the viability of small and mid-size farms and food businesses.
Further Reading: Land Access
Progressive Farmer reports that “Roughly two dozen professional athletes — including Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and Milwaukee Bucks guard Khris Middleton — joined together through an investment firm to invest $5 million in buying farmland. Their first acquisition was a 104-acre corn and soybean farm in northern Iowa.”
Farmers are now competing with billionaires, investment firms, and professional athletes who see farmland purchases as “a really smart recession hedge for people who are learning to invest for the long term.” Priced out, diverse farmers – BIPOC, new and beginning, young, women – are increasingly forced to rent farmland from landlords who are not actively involved in farming rather than being able to purchase land and accumulate equity themselves. In fact, 2022 Iowa State University Land Value Survey pegged the average price for Iowa farmland at $11,411 an acre, up 17% from 2021.
Without reforming federal agricultural policies to level the playing field for beginning, small and historically underserved farmers, we risk further farm consolidation and exacerbating the inequities that have allowed farmland to concentrate into fewer and larger farms, the majority of which are owned and/or operated by white farmers. Moreover, investor speculation in farmland is a growing problem that needs further exploration, including the tax policies that support such investments.
“I just couldn’t compete with how much people are paying, with people paying 10 grand…And for someone like me who doesn’t have an inheritance somewhere sitting around, a lump sum of money sitting around, everything has to be financed,” Joel Gindo told the New York Times late last year. Again, small farmers are pushed out as investors and private equity firms snap up farmland across the country.
The National Young Farmers Coalition found in a September 2022 survey, access to land remains the number one challenge facing the next generation of farmers in the U.S. The 2023 Farm Bill presents a critical opportunity to overcome this challenge.