After months of negotiations, the 2018 Farm Bill was just passed by the U.S. House and Senate. Next up? The bill is expected to be signed into law by the end of the week.
While still flawed, the final bill is in stark contrast to the widely criticized original House version. The choice was clear: a Farm Bill that harms farmers and communities and strips away local control of pesticide protections, investments in conservation, local food systems, food assistance and more — or one that maintains status quo levels of support for family farmers, sustainable agriculture and a more equitable future.
Though we’re breathing a collective sigh of relief that the bill closely mirrors the much better Senate version of the 2018 Farm Bill, we will continue to advocate for federal policy that greatly expands — rather than just maintains — support for a more just food and agriculture system.
While actions to protect programs are important, the problem is we’re not looking at the bill — or the process — as a whole. We’re in defense mode, rather than fighting for what we need.
—Patti Naylor, Iowa Farmer
Here at PAN, we’re striving toward a future characterized by worker justice and healthy communities, fair farm economies and a food system that works for us into the future — and we’re advocating for federal policy that helps get us there. So how does the 2018 Farm Bill measure up?
What We Won:
- Protects local control: The final 2018 Farm Bill did not include provisions from the House version of the bill that would have overturned decades of precedent set by the Supreme Court by preventing communities from adopting protective laws that meet the needs of their residents or unique local environments. The cutting of this provision maintains communities’ right to protect themselves from health-harming pesticides.
- Invests in sustainable agriculture: The 2018 Farm Bill permanently funds key “tiny but mighty” Farm Bill programs, ensuring that farmers who rely on these many programs can count on them for years to come. Newly permanently funded programs include the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, the Value-Added Producer Grant Program, and the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, as well as mandatory funding for regional food production and organic research.
- Preserves food access for families in need: The 2018 Farm Bill protects the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from cuts or restrictions that would limit consumer access to food and threaten food security for communities in need.
The Work Ahead
Though the final version of the 2018 Farm Bill protects provisions key to our work for a more just food and agriculture system, it also includes setbacks.
Unfortunately, the bill deepens loopholes for subsidy payments for mega-farms — resulting in million-dollar per year subsidies for these operations and payments for extended family members who may not have actively worked on the farm. Further, the bill will cut billions over the next decade in funding for conservation practices through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).
Though most of the worst aspects of previous iterations of the bill didn’t make the final cut, we’re not celebrating the bill itself. We are, however, celebrating the hundreds of thousands of advocates who stood up to tell Congress that the draconian version of the bill initially proposed by the House was completely unacceptable.
The 2018 Farm Bill was a missed opportunity for real reform, and we’ll keep fighting for food & farm policies that advance the future of food and farming that will serve all Americans, including the most vulnerable.
—Kristin Schafer, PAN Executive Director