Refresh Working Group member perspectives on the 2018 Farm Bill

The 2018 Farm Bill is the most consequential legislation on food and agriculture in the United States. It was recently signed into law, and many Refresh Working Group members have been weighing in on how it will impact the nation’s food system for the next 5 years.

Succession Planning and Support for Beginning Farmers

In a blog post, the National Young Farmers Coalition highlights everything from farmer training programs to funding for local food initiatives. It even details the bill’s focus on climate change, with measures promoting soil health and drought mitigation that will help farmers confront its effects.

As Craig Ganssle of FARMWAVE previously noted in the Refresh report, “succession is a problem in farming.” The intergenerational transfer of land has long been a contentious and complex issue. The Young Farmers offer some context for this in their discussion of the 2018 Farm Bill by noting that a “crisis of land loss and displacement in the United States continues to disproportionately impact people of color and indigenous peoples,” and describes how the Farm Bill addresses that crisis: “The 2018 Farm Bill will solve this long-standing problem by allowing these farmers to obtain a farm number using alternative documentation. It also creates authority for a new revolving loan fund to help farmers trying to resolve heirs’ property issues and disputes.” Sharing The Atlantic’s “A Boost for Young, Diverse Farmers” article about the Farm Bill on Twitter, FARMWAVE echoes that point: “Here at Farmwave we continue to develop on ideas and methodologies within our technology attractive and useful to the younger farming generation.”

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps)

The 2018 Farm Bill also contains important new provisions about SNAP benefits, which play a key role in working group members’ efforts to incentivize healthy food purchases for people who need it most. Fair Food Network celebrates the Farm Bill as a bipartisan effort that enshrines SNAP benefits “as a permanent part of future farm bills.” For them, that makes the bill “a win for families, farmers, and communities nationwide.” Wholesome Wave notes that the Farm Bill renamed the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) as the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, in honor of one of its co-founders, a beloved “food and farming hero,” who passed away in September 2017. Schumacher was instrumental securing SNAP incentives for fresh fruits and vegetables purchases. Wholesome Wave Georgia adds that the Farm Bill doesn’t include stricter work requirements to receive SNAP, saving 1.1 million families from seeing their benefits cut, many of whom suffer from underemployment.

Support for New Technologies and Market Opportunities

The bill even brought victories for crops with new potential applications. The New Hope Network sees the bill’s removal of “hemp from the Controlled Substances Act” as “a bellwether event,” opening the possibility of expanding new market opportunities.

The Farm Bill also includes funding in support of technological innovation through the Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) program, an initiative that provides $500,000 to $2 million grants for rural job-accelerator partnerships between rural entrepreneurs and the private sector or universities. The Washington State Farm Bureau thinks that, as a result of these measures, “sparsely populated areas of the U.S. may be on the brink of becoming the country’s next hub for innovation.”

By addressing so many of the concerns raised by Refresh Working Group members, the 2018 Farm Bill supports independent farmers, promotes diversity in agriculture, and works toward making nutritious food accessible to all. It also acknowledges the role technology can play in that effort. This bill reflects the conversation at the heart of Refresh, and reinforces the importance of our members’ work to transform how we produce, distribute, and consume food in the US.

Diana Huang
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