On October 1, 2023, the 2018 Farm Bill officially expired. The federal Farm Bill is an omnibus bill (i.e. a package of legislation combined into one bill) passed roughly once every five years. This bill includes the bulk of the federal legislation that relates to agriculture, food, and the food system, and has a massive impact on the way food is grown, sold, distributed, and bought in this country. In addition to programs that directly affect farmers, the farm bill authorizes and funds critical nutrition programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known in Vermont as 3SquaresVT.
Having run out of time to pass a new farm bill before the end of the year, Congress included a one-year extension of the 2018 Farm Bill in a stopgap funding measure passed in November. This extension will ensure continued funding and authorization for many important programs that support organic, beginning, and socially disadvantaged farmers through September 2024.
In each farm bill cycle, powerful agricultural groups spend a great deal of time and money lobbying Congress for their interests. This time around, commodity trade groups (like the National Corn Growers Association and the American Soybean Association) are focused on calling for Congress to raise "reference prices". Reference prices are target prices that act as a trigger for support payments for commodity farmers. If the season-average price for a given commodity is below the reference price, growers receive support payments. However, raising reference prices would be extremely costly and would benefit very few farmers at the expense of many other critical programs that support farmers' abilities to invest in soil health, protect biodiversity, and improve their overall resilience in the face of increasingly extreme and erratic weather.
NOFA-VT is also part of a large, powerful coalition of agricultural and food chain workers' organizations calling for a farm bill that will benefit the many rather than the few. We, along with our partners at the National Organic Coalition, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the Organic Farmers Association, the National Family Farm Coalition, and many others, are working hard to advocate for a farm bill that will improve access to land for beginning farmers, invest in organic and other truly regenerative farming practices, and move resources away from risky, harmful agricultural practices toward ones that actually keep farmers on the land and people in our communities fed.
With the one-year extension of the 2018 Farm Bill comes a major opportunity to continue raising our voices to our Representatives and Senators.
We need to keep the pressure on Congress because we know commodity groups and agribusiness corporations will be, too.
When we come together, we can build our power to win meaningful change. In order to do that, we need you to join us. Consider being a member and supporter of NOFA-VT—we have strength in numbers. To engage more directly with the farm bill, start by checking out our platform, where you can learn more and take action. From there, you can remain involved in other ways, such as coming to a NOFA-VT workshop or member meeting or joining us at the NOFA-VT Winter Conference in February where we can continue collaborating on this work that moves us all toward the future we need.