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The 2018 Farm Bill Conference Goes into Overtime!

Oct. 9, 2018

The 2018 Farm Bill Conference Goes into Overtime!

by Christine Dzujna with Ed Yowell

The House and Senate Ag Committees, respectively, each produced versions of the 2018 Farm Bill. However, their versions were vastly different, most notably on nutrition and conservation programs, requiring the formation of a congressional conference committee to come up a version of the bill that can be passed by both chambers.  

Until now, negotiations have been unsuccessful and the 2014 Farm Bill expired on September 30th, 2018. While this is not the first time that Congress has not passed a farm bill on time, it is an unfortunate setback, especially given that the current bill was allowed to expire without an extension. While many programs, including SNAP, can weather the demise of the farm bill, the lack of an extension means that a whole host of programs will lose their funding and/or authorization, and some will even cease operations.

Programs that are consistent with Slow Food's principles of food system equity, inclusion, and justice are harmed. For example, Value-added Agriculture, Beginning Farmers and Farmers of Color, and Local and Regional Food Systems programs will not be able to fund new applications and proposals. The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP), even with its permanent funding, will cease operations.

Similarly, programs consistent with our Food for Change Campaign are in jeopardy. The Specialty Crop Block Grant program has permanent mandatory funding, but no authority to proceed with fiscal year 2019 funding. Small but vital Value-added Agriculture, Organic Agriculture, and Local and Regional Food Systems programs will not be able to fund new applications and proposals. Conservation programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), funded from fiscal years 2014 through 2018, now lack the legal authority to operate.

Commodity programs, such as Price Loss Coverage and Agriculture Risk Coverage, important to farmers during periods of uncertainty, such as right now, cannot continue in their present form, reverting to the provisions of "permanent law," meaning the antiquated commodity provisions of the 1949 and 1938 farm bills that would sharply raise commodity prices and food costs.  Also as we face an escalating trade war, the Farm Bill's Foreign Market Development and Market Access Programs have expired, along with the Food for Peace international food aid program.

Therefore, Slow Food USA, with the help of our partners, and you, our supporters, will continue to put pressure on Congress to finalize the bill as soon as possible. We will continue to send the message that we want a good bill that promotes programs that best support sustainable family farms, rural communities, beginning farmers and farmers of color, conservation, and healthy food access to food-insecure Americans.

We need your help!

Your Representatives are returning home in advance of the midterm elections and we ask that you, as a constituent and a supporter of Slow Food, strongly urge the passage of a 2018 Farm Bill that enables a good, clean, and fair food chain for all. 

The best way to do this is to get out there and directly connect with your Representatives! Call them, attend Town Hall gatherings, go where they are and raise your concerns. 

You can also use the sample message below to write them. You can find your Senators at https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact and your Representative at https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative.

Then, just click on your Senators' and Representative's contact pages and cut, paste, customize, and send the message below! 
 
Honorable <Senator's or Representative's Name>

Re: 2018 Farm Bill
Dear <Senator or Representative <Last Name>,

I write regarding the 2018 Farm Bill. I am a constituent and a supporter of Slow Food USA, the national, nonprofit organization dedicated to a food chain that is Good, Clean, and Fair for All. Slow Food USA has more than 150 local chapters nationwide and more than 750,000 followers across digital social media platforms. We believe that everyone has the right to enjoy ample, sustainably and humanely produced food that is good for human health and well-being, for our planet, protecting and replenishing our resources, and for those who work to put food on our tables, providing dignity and a decent living.

The Farm Bill is the primary legislative vehicle for critical investments in programs that support family farms, rural communities, conservation, and healthy food access to food-insecure Americans. I am disappointed that the 2014 Farm Bill was allowed to expire without an extension in place. Given its immense importance, especially in this time of great challenges to American agriculture, it is imperative that Congress completes a new bill by the end of this year.
I urge you to support the timely passage of a good, clean, and fair 2018 Farm Bill, in the best traditions of nearly a century of farm bill history.

[Your Name]

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