The Farm Bill is a package of federal legislation enacted every five to seven years to set the general direction for America’s farm and food policy. The Farm Bill is much more than an agricultural aid package – in fact, it influences Idahoans every day. Policies in the Farm Bill help determine what type of food is available to you, how much it costs, and the tools available to your community to protect farm and ranch land and promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. Farm Bill policy helps ensure fair markets and prices for family farmers and ranchers, and provides nutrition assistance to hungry families and schoolchildren.
Over the last three decades, farm policy has worked well for Corporate Big Ag at the expense of independent family farmers, farmworkers, rural communities, and consumers. At the same time that deregulation put midsized, independent farm families at the mercy of wild market fluctuations, unchecked consolidation compounded the problem. Unrestrained mergers have led to a system in which a few powerful corporations sit between two million American farmers and 300 million American eaters. There are just a handful of companies that buy crops and livestock from farmers, and their disproportionate market power allows them to lower the prices farmers receive. In the retail sector, more than half of the grocery store market is controlled by just five firms – who own all the regional grocery store chains – ensuring that these lowered farm prices are not passed on to consumers.
Over the past five years, there has been record growth in market demand for local and regional food. Family farmers and ranchers of all sizes are eager to produce for these emerging markets but face significant challenges at every step in the value chain to produce, process, and bring their products to market. At this critical juncture, targeted policy shifts can go a long way to create a more favorable environment and help family farms, ranches, and related businesses thrive and contribute positively to the rural economy.
It is critical that we support the next generation of farmers through beginning farmer and rancher programs and ensure that the federal Farm Bill policies and programs are accessible to all who qualify. The role of farmers as stewards of the land should be supported and encouraged. Federal farm and food policy should serve the needs of an array of farm sizes, production models, regions, supply chains and crops.
To achieve this, federal food and farm policy should support and reflect the diversity of our communities. Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture should ensure full and fair access for socially disadvantaged and other underrepresented groups including beginning, Latinx, and indigenous farmers and ranchers.
A strong Farm Bill will support and expand food nutrition and food security programs. Rural areas are particularly reliant on food nutrition programs due to decades of global trade and Big Ag policies that have devastated local and regional food systems. Any Farm Bill that damages current food nutrition and assistance programs will disproportionately impact these communities.
We urge Congress to pass a Farm Bill before the current one expires on September 30, 2018 that prioritizes and incorporates the our stated concepts and policies. And we particularly call on Idaho’s Representatives and Senators to support our priorities. Please sign on to our statement to show your support. We will be hand delivering the statement with signatures to our members of Congress in August when they are home on recess.