NOFA’s 2023 Farm Bill Campaign

The 7 Northeast Organic Farming Association chapters have come together to identify our region’s greatest farming and food system needs and policies to address them. As the farm bill process unfolds, we will continue to collaborate and offer opportunities for you to inform and join in on our advocacy campaign.


Principles

These principles and priorities came together with input gathered during spring and summer 2022 farm bill listening sessions hosted by NOFA chapters and through careful evaluation of campaigns being developed by organizations that share our values and priorities.

We want a farm bill that…

Organic practices improve soil health, promote biodiversity above and below ground, and require biological, mechanical, and cultural means of pest and disease control like cover crops and crop rotation. By actively working with natural systems and avoiding the use of synthetic fertilizers and toxic pesticides, organic and agroecological systems eliminate some of the most potent GHG emissions while sequestering carbon and protecting wildlife and their habitats. The Farm Bill must protect the integrity of the National Organic Program and invest a substantial proportion of its funding to support expansion of organic and agroecological systems to 30% of farmland by 2030.

Farming is essential work that, at its best, provides food for our communities while nourishing and protecting ecosystems and contributing to the creation of community wealth. At present, however, much of federal policy works to extract wealth, labor, and knowledge from those working the land, to the detriment of farmers, workers, eaters, and the environment. We need a Farm Bill that reestablishes parity prices that are in balance with the rest of the economy through equitable and  just supply management. It is time to end  “cheap food” funded by exploiting farmworkers and the land. The Farm Bill must ensure living wages, and dignified livelihoods for every worker throughout the food supply chain and end the exclusion of farmworkers from labor protections.

To enable rural prosperity and increase local food system resilience, the farm bill should expand organic and regional food processing, distribution, and marketing infrastructure; invest in community leadership and cooperative ownership models; expand risk management opportunities and market access for small and medium-scale and diversified farms and ranches; and prioritize support for Black, Indigenous and People of Color, and new and beginning farmers and ranchers in all programming. For communities to thrive and build more just and vital regional food systems, more investment and support is also needed for affordable and accessible broadband, healthcare, housing, and renewable energy.   

The farm bill must also reverse the devastation to local economies caused by the hyper-consolidation of food and agribusiness industries by enforcing existing antitrust laws, limiting mergers, guaranteeing fair contracts, and increasing corporate accountability to frontline communities. 

USDA has a demonstrated history of discriminating against farmers of color in lending and credit practices and program implementation. Taken in the context of a broader history of land theft, forced labor and other forms of disenfranchisement, USDA must actively work to support access to land, credit, and other resources for self-determination for farmers of color and other marginalized communities. In doing so, they must meaningfully engage with and be held accountable to  BIPOC farmers and other stakeholders to develop programs and policies that support their needs on the ground. Congress should ensure equitable access to agricultural land stewardship through conservation programs.

It is time to shift the US food system to localized food sovereignty with access to farmland and farming resources for BIPOC, women, LGBTQ+, the young, under-resourced and farmers from other marginalized populations. The concept of food sovereignty recognizes access to healthy, nutrient-dense food as a human right and maintains that people should have the ability to be active participants and stakeholders in the food they grow, consume and sell. Just as biodiversity is essential to soil health, social diversity is essential to a healthy and thriving food system. As a matter of justice and public health, people from marginalized populations must be afforded equitable access to nutrient-dense food free of toxic pesticides, such as food grown by organic farms.  Further, in order to confront the worsening effects of the climate crisis, we must empower locally-controlled and adaptive efforts for food solutions.  Shifting the US food system to localized food sovereignty with access to farmland and farming resources for Indigenous, Black, and farmers of color will reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from agriculture. To this end, Congress has the opportunity to use the Farm Bill to elevate the interests of all food eaters and the small-scale local producers that resilient communities depend upon, by making deeper investments in urban agriculture and cooperative land ownership. Also as a matter of climate resiliency, congress must reinvest in public plant and animal breeding programs to provide farmers with regionally adapted seeds and breeds.

The use of toxic xenobiotic materials interrupts the natural systems of ecosystems with living soils that nourish plants that nourish animals, including humans.  It is time to end public policies that subsidize pollution and to require the manufacturers of pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified organisms to pay to clean up the contamination from which they profit. The US must adopt the precautionary principle in introducing new materials and products and carefully weigh the climate impact of fossil fuels and all derivatives, especially synthetic fertilizers. These policies are necessary to protect biodiversity, the health of farmworkers and farmers, wildlife, and all who eat farm products. A just transition must be provided for farmers who have been pressured onto the chemical-GMO-CAFO treadmill with incentives to transition their farms to ecological systems with localized markets.


Policy Priorities

Under the titles of the 2018 Farm Bill, the following sections list the policy priorities and legislative proposals that NOFA has identified so far. We will continue to amend this list as new bills and proposals emerge (last update 12/13/22).

The descriptions of each title are from “What is the Farm Bill?” by National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC).

The Commodities title covers price and income support for the farmers who raise widely-produced and traded non-perishable crops, like corn, soybeans, wheat, and rice – as well as dairy and sugar. The title also includes agricultural disaster assistance.

NOFA Policy Priorities:

  • Ensure training in organic systems for Farm Service Agency staff
  • Collect data on organic farm participation in Title 1 programs
  • Ensure equitable price supports (i.e., parity pricing) for farm products
  • Cap government payments to any farm entity

Legislation NOFA Supports:

The Conservation title covers programs that help farmers implement natural resource conservation efforts on working lands like pasture and cropland as well as land retirement and easement programs.  

NOFA Policy Priorities:

  • Remove funding that supports harmful industrial practices like anaerobic digesters for Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) like from Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and restore EQIP to its original intent
  • Increase funding for federal conservation programs, including EQIP and Conservation Stewardship Program
  • Organic literacy training for all FSA, NRCS staff and organic experts on staff at both agencies as well as at all state offices
  • Ensure that USDA Conservation Programs and Risk Management Programs adequately reflect the conservation and resilience benefits of Organic Systems Plans
  • Payment limits under the Environmental Quality Incentive Program’s Organic Initiative (EQIP OI) should be equalized with the larger EQIP program, to improve access for organic farmers. 
  • Require NRCS to establish a permanent Conservation Practice Standard for organic management within 2 years of enactment
  • Simplify and fast-track the application process for land access and conservation programs for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers
  • Increase share of grant and technical assistance funding for historically underserved applicants
  • Increase targeted, culturally appropriate outreach, education, and technical assistance for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers
  • Ensure that USDA responsibly collects data on who is being served by federal programs
  • Expand the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI) and include organic grazing systems.
  • Harmonize NRCS and FSA conservation practice standards, unless there are extenuating circumstances where such harmonization is not practicable. 
  • Increase funding for farmland protection.
  • Appropriate $50 million or more per year for the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production to include investments in pilot food growing programs in urban communities of color and dedicate funding to support urban farmland ownership, urban agriculture ordinances, and urban water access

Legislation NOFA Supports:

The Nutrition title covers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, as well as a variety of smaller nutrition programs to help low-income Americans afford food for their families.

NOFA Policy Priorities:

Title 4: Nutrition.  The Nutrition title covers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP] (formerly known as food stamps) as well as a variety of smaller nutrition programs to help low-income Americans afford food for their families.

NOFA Policy Priorities

  • Prioritize the purchase of local and organic products in all nutrition programs 

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)

  • Break down barriers to accessing SNAP benefits; increase benefit levels and income restrictions
  • Provide funding and technical assistance to small food and farm businesses, particularly in rural areas with limited access to cell service and broadband internet, to be able to accept and process SNAP benefits. 
  • Enable the participation of SNAP recipients in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms.
  • Expand online SNAP sales to all authorized SNAP merchants (including farmers markets and farm stands). 

TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) – food provided by USDA to state distributing agencies for low income people

  • TEFAP should prioritize the purchase of local and organic food. Look to successful models in Northeast states of food assistance programs purchasing directly from local producers (Vermonters Feeding Vermonters, Nourish New York, Mainers Feeding Mainers). 

FINI/GusNIP – Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive programs for people to use SNAP to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets and grocery stores

  • Increase access to nutrient-dense, organic food by promoting nutrition security through increased support for SNAP/GusNIP
  • Retain the statutory language (GusNIP) regarding coordination with cooperative grocers and community-based and nongovernmental organizations.
  • Expand and strengthen the statutory language (GusNIP) which prioritizes projects that provide “locally or regionally produced fruits and vegetables” 
  • Expand the foods eligible for SNAP incentives beyond fruits and vegetables, to include other locally or regionally produced items that are essential for a healthy, complete diet such as eggs, dairy, bread, and meat. 
  • Eliminate or dramatically reduce match requirements.

FFVP  (Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program) provides funds to schools with higher numbers of low income students to serve fresh fruits and vegetables for snacks during the school day

  • Expand FFVP to all schools, not just those with higher numbers of low income students
  • Incentivize the purchase of local and organic produce by offering a higher reimbursement rate for schools that do so.

Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program is administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and complements federal farm-to-school grants to increase the capacity for food, garden, and nutrition education programs. 

  • Increase funding for this program.
  • Prioritize agricultural education programs that expose students and educators to the National Organic Program standards, and why they matter.

Legislation NOFA Supports:

The credit title covers federal loan programs designed to help farmers access the financial credit (via direct loans as well as loan guarantees and other tools) they need to grow and sustain their farming operations.

NOFA Policy Priorities:

  • Prohibit FSA loans to Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)
  • Improve stability for Black farmers and landowners, BIPOC cooperatives and rural communities by rooting out USDA discriminatory loan practices and forgiving all debts that have resulted from this discrimination

Legislation NOFA Supports:

The Rural Development title covers programs that help foster rural economic growth through rural business and community development (including farm businesses) as well as rural housing, and infrastructure.

NOFA Policy Priorities:

  • Invest in expanding local infrastructure and regional aggregation and distribution. 
  • Increase investment in USDA’s Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program and Socially Disadvantaged Group Grant with an emphasis on worker-owned cooperatives, with funding targeted to BIPOC worker coops and farmworkers converting farms to worker cooperatives. 
  • Include organic processing infrastructure loans and grants. 
  • Increase local slaughter capacity for small and midsized processors and increase local market access.
  • Ensure access to fair prices, fair markets and fair contracts for all farmers and farmer cooperatives.
  • Prioritize local and values-based food procurement by government entities and public institutions
  • Invest in affordable rural housing. Preserve USDA rural housing programs through Rural Development including the Farm Labor Housing Program and ensure access to beginning farmers and ranchers.

Legislation NOFA Supports:

The Research title covers farm and food research, education, and extension programs designed to support innovation, from federal labs and state university-affiliated research to vital training for the next generation of farmers and ranchers.

NOFA Policy Priorities:

  • Require USDA to devote $50 million annually to public plant and animal breeding programs focused on developing regionally adapted cultivars and animal breeds 
  • Require USDA to appoint a Public Cultivar and Breed Research Coordinator reporting to the Under Secretary of Research, Education, and Economics to oversee collaboration between existing USDA competitive grant research programs regarding regionally adapted cultivar and breed development activities.
  • Increase funding for organic research to allow organic production to keep pace with demand. Increase funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI)
  • Ensure access to regionally adapted seed and promote seed sovereignty.
  • Honor the seed saving and research exemptions of the  Plant Variety Protection Act; s the strongest form of intellectual property rights 
  • Formally authorize the existing Organic Transition Program, with a name change and program mission updates to avoid confusion and improve program operation.
  • Reauthorize the Organic Data Initiative (ODI) to expand segregated organic data collection and analysis by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Agricultural Marketing Service, and the Economic Research Service.

The Energy title covers programs that encourage growing and processing crops for biofuel, help farmers, ranchers, and business owners install renewable energy systems, and support research related to energy.

NOFA Policy Priorities:

  • Invest in renewable energy and electrification
  • Expand REAP access and eligibility of farms/processors and Provide Loans and Grants for Electric Farm Equipment  

The Horticulture title covers farmers’ market and local food programs, funding for research and infrastructure for fruits, vegetables and other horticultural crops, and organic farming and certification programs.

NOFA Policy Priorities:

  • Create an $80 million program to streamline and increase organic certification cost share reimbursements and to provide technical support and mentorship to existing and transitioning organic farmers
  • Include a provision to compel USDA to implement NOSB recommendations in a timely manner and to facilitate ongoing regulatory updates to strengthen the USDA organic program
  • Reduce the barriers to serving on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), including authorizing stipends for NOSB Board members and funding staff assistants to help with the workload
  • Increase funding for organic research, to keep pace with the growing organic sector
  • Increase access to institutional markets for local, organic producers including measures to increase local food in schools
  • Protect state and local rights to regulate pesticides and include federal pesticide preemption to protect food sovereignty

The Crop Insurance title provides premium subsidies to farmers and subsidies to the private crop insurance companies who provide federal crop insurance to farmers to protect against losses in yield, crop revenue, or whole farm revenue. The title also provides USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) with the authority to research, develop, and modify insurance policies.

NOFA Policy Priorities:

  • Make price elections available for all organic crops and use crop insurance data to assess the relative yield and price risks of varying systems of production
  • Cap Federal Crop Insurance Subsidies, lower premiums for farms using soil health practices and ensure equitable access to small- and medium-scale farmers 
  • Ensure that practices that are defined and financially supported by NRCS and included in approved Organic Systems Plans automatically constitute “good farming practices” without needing to provide further evidence
  • Expand Whole Farm Revenue Protection

The Miscellaneous title is a bit of a catch-all.  The 2018 title brought together six advocacy and outreach areas, including beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers and ranchers, agricultural labor safety and workforce development, and livestock health.

NOFA Policy Priorities:

  • Ensure farmers and farmworkers get a fair share of the prices that corporations collect at the point of sale
  • Incentivize and fund resource and profit sharing, including worker-owner managed and   cooperative farms, and allocate more money for land held in commons and/or land trusts. 
  • Prioritize support for new and beginning farmers and ranchers:
    • Increase mandatory baseline funding to at least $50 million per year for Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) and eliminate the match requirement for BFRDP grant awardees
    • Create a focus area within federal funding for conservation and education initiatives that address the needs of first-time landowners and ensure these programs meet the needs of farmers and organizations utilizing cooperative ownership models.
    • Make financing farmland more accessible
  • Strengthen community economic and food system resilience to respond to climate shocks through deeper investments in Urban Agriculture and support for worker-owned agricultural co-ops and other collective farming efforts
    • Investments and funding for increased urban farmland ownership, urban agriculture ordinances and urban water access
    • Resources, tools and programs for non-landowners and renters to garden and grow food on communal, public, private, and community-governed land
    • Community education around growing and options for locally sourced food
    • Incentives and programs to decentralize supermarkets
  • Address land access challenges, especially for Black farmers and BIPOC communities

Legislation NOFA Supports:

Some of our top priorities for agriculture are typically not included in the Farm Bill and are implemented or regulated by agencies other than the US Department of Agriculture. We’ve included them here because they are integral to building the agriculture and food system envisioned in our shared principles.

NOFA Policy Priorities:

  • Require EPA to suspend the registration of neonicotinoid insecticides unless or until the EPA determines that the insecticides will not cause unreasonable adverse effects on pollinators.
  • Eliminate the exemption of farmworkers from the National Labor Relations Act to include farmworkers in:
    • the protected right to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
    • time-and-a-half for overtime over 40 hours and other wage, time off, holiday and other benefits.
  • Fully implement and enforce the Agricultural Worker Protection Standards, which aim to reduce pesticide poisonings and injuries among agricultural workers and pesticide handlers.
  • Adopt the precautionary principle in all environmental regulations. The precautionary principle enables decision-makers to adopt precautionary measures when scientific evidence about an environmental or human health hazard is uncertain and the stakes are high.
  • Reform patent law to exclude living organisms, including seeds, plant varieties, and genetic traits. 
  • Strengthen farmer-customer community control of the food system by revitalizing and enforcing antitrust laws and limiting mergers
  • Ban ownership of livestock by meatpacking companies
  • Limit corporate control and boost community control of food systems.
  • Break ‘Em Up! Enforce antitrust laws, strictly control mergers

Legislation NOFA Supports:


Partners and Allies

Our campaign has been influenced and informed by the work of many others including: 


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Share feedback on NOFA’s principles and priorities: email Katie at policy@nofany.org 


Photo by C VanHeest on Unsplash