With the reauthorization of the federal farm bill every 5 years, the time to reimagine a new farm bill is finally upon us. The farm bill is the biggest piece of food and agriculture legislation in the U.S. which affects things like commodity crop subsidies, farm conservation, forestry, rural development programs, broadband access, as well as nutrition programs which account for nearly 80% of farm bill funding.
Minnesota Senator and United States Senate Agriculture Committee member, Tina Smith, has already begun the work of seeking out farmers’ voices to help identify equitable priorities when it comes to the farm bill. If this rings a bell for you, that’s because when Senator Smith last visited The Good Acre, it was for a town hall discussion regarding the 2018 farm bill. When she decided she wanted to learn more about the challenges that farmers of color are facing in her home state, it’s no surprise that her team reached out to us, and so with support from the McKnight Foundation, we were able to coordinate a BIPOC farmer roundtable discussion on Wednesday, April 5th.
Executive Director, Theresa McCormick, Senator Tina Smith, and Farmer, Robert Lor before the round table discussion. Photo by TJ Turner.
Roundtable participants included farmers Robert Lor, Rodrigo Cala, Jane Windsperger, Metric Giles, Vitalis Tita, Farhio Khalif, Moses Moyamni, David Wise, and Angela Dawson. In the open discussion, many of the farmers present expressed their concerns about the barriers they face when entering the field of farming and accessing resources, especially if one is a first-generation or an immigrant farmer. The conversation later shifted to what the farmers would like to see included in the upcoming farm bill. Check out more in-depth coverage of the conversation from MPR News, Sahan Journal, and The Star Tribune which had reporters covering the event.
The process of building a new farm bill has been slow going, debt ceiling and budget deal negotiations have taken top priority and with the next election looming in November 2024, it’s likely that farm bill proceedings could be delayed even further. It’s important to note that since nutrition programs like SNAP don’t expire, it’s better to see no farm bill than a bad farm bill – like one that would impose harsh work requirements that could throw some of our most vulnerable populations off critical food assistance programs.
That said, the Democratic-controlled Senate seems to be leading the charge when it comes to taking action on the farm bill, and with Senator Smith back in DC, we are hopeful for her support when it comes to including policies that support the farmers who grow our food. The House Agriculture Committee is still accepting direct input from producers, stakeholders, and consumers through this form through June.
For up-to-date food system-focused farm bill news, be sure to check out the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s blog here.