Yay! The Latest Farm Bill Finally Passed Congress! Why the Heck Should I Care?
Despite its specific-seeming name, the Farm Bill addresses numerous issues that may not strike you as obviously agricultural, such as high-speed internet access in rural areas and SNAP benefits (a.k.a., food stamps). Given the sprawling nature of this omnibus legislation, it’s no wonder that the bill—renewed every five years, theoretically—often gets mired in political infighting.
Which is why we find it downright miraculous, given the current divisive climate, that both the Senate and House passed the 2018 Farm Bill earlier this last week. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law next week.
So, in an effort to avoid losing you in the weeds of the 807-page document awaiting Trump’s signature, we’ve identified three major wins for anyone concerned about the environment, sustainability, the future of our food system, and animal welfare:
1). Support for young farmers = support for sustainable American agriculture
The average age of a U.S. farmer is 58—and rising. The new farm bill calls for more funding to train beginners, grant them loans, and provide them with access to affordable farmland. Bonus: Statistically speaking, young farmers are more likely to seek organic certification, rely on renewable energy sources, and sell their produce locally.
2). Permanent funding for organic farming efforts will help pave the way to a healthier planet for future generations.
The prior farm bill allocated funding to support organic farming programs, on a short-term basis. The 2018 version makes baseline funding for these programs permanent—meaning they’ll no longer need to be renewed each farm bill cycle—allowing farmers who depend on those funds to breathe a collective sigh of relief. Additionally, the USDA’s Organic Certification Cost Share Program, which helps cover the expenses of the three-year organic-certification process, remains intact. (See “5 Reasons Getting Certified Organic Is Really Difficult” for more on the topic.)
3). Humane treatment of animals makes us better humans.
Let’s celebrate something that was kept out of the 2018 Farm Bill: The King amendment, introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), would have eliminated a whole host of animal-welfare protections, including the federal bans on horse slaughtering and the sale of dog meat (yes, you read that right), and it would have prevented states from making their own regulations requiring humane treatment of poultry and livestock. Luckily, the amendment didn’t make it out of senate ag committee. Thank goodness.
For more on the 2018 Farm Bill, check out this thorough recap from The National Young Farmers Coalition, these in-depth drill-downs from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, as well as coverage from The Washington Post.