WASHINGTON — Farmers and leaders from more than 20 progressive agricultural groups gathered this week to march on the U.S. Capitol, and promote climate solutions and underserved producers as priority issues for lawmakers in the upcoming farm bill.
“As farmers, we are close to the land. We love the land. We understand the sanctity and the sacredness of water. We understand the essence of life,” said Duane “Chili” Yazzie, a regenerative farmer in Arizona and member of Shiprock Chapter of the Navajo Nation, to dozens of demonstrators at Freedom Plaza Tuesday.
“We demand that we — as small farmers, as the BIPOC farmers, as the farmers that need a helping hand — must have the provisions in the farm bill that make sense to us.”
During the three-day “Rally for Resilience,” headed by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, attendees met with lawmakers and hosted a demonstration at Freedom Plaza. Organizers called for sustainable practices, decreased industry consolidation, and improved land access for people of color and family farmers.
The farm bill is a multiyear omnibus spending law which authorizes an array of agricultural and food programs, including federal crop insurance, food stamp benefits, international food aid and farm resource conservation.
The roughly $500 billion bill is renewed close to every five years, and includes mandatory spending that must be in line with previous farm bills. The legislation is up for renewal in 2023.
Sustainable agriculture and climate change
Speakers at the Rally for Resilience lobbied for legislators to embrace regenerative agriculture in the upcoming farm bill, and help farmers become part of the climate solution amid worsening growing conditions.
Regenerative agriculture is a set of farming and grazing practices that work to restore soil ecosystem health, and can sequester carbon dioxide while increasing resilience to climate change.
“It makes me angry, and it makes me frustrated to see people in positions of power deny the reality and the severity of climate change,” said Marielena Vega, a farm worker organizer with the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils, at the Tuesday demonstration.
Vega said that extreme heat is making summers increasingly difficult for farmworkers in Idaho, who face rising threats of heat stroke and dehydration along with the ever-present concern of pesticide exposure.
Norysell Massanet, a farmer from Puerto Rico, spoke Tuesday about the devastation of the island’s agricultural community after two major hurricanes in 2017. She said that Puerto Rico’s basic infrastructure is still recovering, and these hurricane events will only become more frequent as the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean warm.
“We need climate solutions that consider the well being of all lands, and all people,” Massanet said.
She urged Congress to provide a farm bill that “follows the science” and places renewable agriculture and rural development at its forefront.
David Senter, a founder of the American Agriculture Movement, which mobilized a 1979 Tractorcade in Washington for industry reform, lobbied for regenerative and small-scale family farmers as part of the climate solution.
“Family producers care about the soil and water,” Senter said at the Tuesday rally. “Corporations care about the bottom line.”
Yadi Wang, a first-generation regenerative farmer in Tucson, Arizona, said he among a growing number of farmers who believe land stewardship is more important than land ownership.
Wang said regenerative practices have allowed his employer, Oatman Flats Ranch, to maintain a resilient and profitable grain-and-livestock operation in one of the driest climates in the country.
“Congress needs to invest more money on land management, on soil and water conservation so that we can truly have viable land and farmers can continue to grow food for the people,” Wang said at the Tuesday rally. “Regenerative agriculture is the way forward.”
Antitrust and consolidation
Democratic U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna of California joined rally organizers for a Wednesday media event, and said farmers’ ability to be a part of the climate solution has been muted by corporate consolidation of farmland and “monopolistic concentration of power.” He touted his just-introduced Farm System Reform Act as a potential tool to curtail some of these business models.
“A lot of the people who are running a lot of these farms don’t live in the communities where those farms are,” Khanna said. They don’t care about the pollution. They don’t care if they’re destroying the land, but maximizing profits.”
Johanna Chao Kreilick, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said at the Wednesday press event that farmers live and work on the front lines of the climate emergency.
She added that corporate farms, and the resource-intensive inputs they depend on, are a key driver of this increased volatility in farming.
“We need to be super clear about the role that corporate agriculture, Big Ag, has played in our agricultural system and how it’s contributing to the climate crisis,” Chao Kreilick said.
Angela Dawson, a fourth-generation reclamation Black farmer from Sandstone, Minnesota, said at the Tuesday rally that people are aware that over the last 50 years, the farm bill has set the stage for a highly consolidated food system. Dawson defines reclamation farming as reclaiming and working the farm her family lost two generations ago.
“We’re calling on Congress to create a farm bill that puts community over corporations, people over profits, and reduces and repairs the harm that has been done to the environment,” Dawson said.
Lindsay Klaunig, who runs a regenerative produce-and-livestock farm near Athens, Ohio, spoke at the Wednesday event and added that more work must be done to reduce consolidation in seed sales, especially as overseas supply chains experience disruption and regenerative regional agriculture grows.
“We need publicly supported, farmer-driven breeding and research to ensure that all growers at any scale, in any setting, have access to locally adapted seeds without the restrictions of privately owned companies,” Klaunig said.
Land access, support for underserved producers
Other speakers pointed to the opportunity for the farm bill to rectify historical injustices, including land access for farmers who are people of color, and increased health protections for farmworkers.
Dorathy Barker, a Black dairy farmer from Oxford, North Carolina, spoke at the Wednesday press event to advocate for land access and increased technical assistance for farmers of color.
Barker said she does not believe there has been a farm bill “written with Black people in mind,” amid a “bleak climate” for these producers. She said Black farmers are often manipulated by predatory buyers and legal advisers into lowering prices for their goods and problematic land sales.
“We as Black women, we speak up for our rights,” Parker said. “But over years and years — in some states for over 400 years — we have been traumatized and marginalized. Always the lack of markets.”
Julieta Saucedo, a small-scale farmer from El Paso, Texas, spoke at the Tuesday rally about a lack of land access for marginalized farmers. She said that oftentimes, these underserved producers only have land that has been ruined by decades of mismanagement and extractive farming.
“When I see soil erosion by wind and water, when I see depleted soil, depleted lands from monocropping, soil so compacted that it will break your shovel, I also see it as the consequences of old and modern slavery,” Saucedo said.
She advocated for increased access to farmland for small producers and people of color, along with holding corporations accountable for the damage done to the land.
Klaunig said a theme she heard repeatedly during the event resonated: farmer-led solutions should come first.
“Too often farmers are handed directives from — maybe well intentioned — institutions, but they’re out of touch,” she said. “Farmers know how to find cheap, effective and adaptable solutions to our climate crisis, let them and help them.”
WASHINGTON, March 6, 2023 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today released a proposed rule with new regulatory requirements to better align the voluntary “Product of USA” label claim with consumer understanding of what the claim means. The proposed rule allows the voluntary “Product of USA” or “Made in the USA” label claim to be used on meat, poultry and egg products only when they are derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the United States. Today’s announcement delivers on one of the key actions in President Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, and a commitment made in the Biden-Harris Administration’s Action Plan for a Fairer, More Competitive, and More Resilient Meat and Poultry Supply Chain. The increased clarity and transparency provided by this proposed change would prevent consumer confusion and help ensure that consumers understand where their food comes from.
“American consumers expect that when they buy a meat product at the grocery store, the claims they see on the label mean what they say,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These proposed changes are intended to provide consumers with accurate information to make informed purchasing decisions. Our action today affirms USDA’s commitment to ensuring accurate and truthful product labeling.”
USDA’s proposed rulemaking is supported by petitions, thousands of comments from stakeholders, and data. In July 2021, USDA initiated a comprehensive review to understand what the “Product of USA” claim means to consumers and inform planned rulemaking to define the requirements for making such a claim. As part of its review, USDA commissioned a nationwide consumer survey. The survey revealed that the current “Product of USA” labeling claim is misleading to a majority of consumers surveyed, with a significant portion believing the claim means that the product was made from animals born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the United States.
USDA’s comprehensive review shows there is a clear need to revise the current “Product of USA” label claim so that it more accurately conveys U.S. origin information.
Under the proposed rule, the “Product of USA” label claim would continue to be voluntary. It would also remain eligible for generic label approval, meaning it would not need to be pre-approved by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) before it could be used on regulated product, but would require supporting documentation to be on file for agency inspection personnel to verify. The rulemaking also proposes to allow other voluntary U.S. origin claims we see on meat, poultry and egg products sold in the marketplace. These claims would need to include a description on the package of all preparation and processing steps that occurred in the United States upon which the claim is made.
USDA encourages stakeholders, both domestic and international, to comment on the proposed rule. The proposed rule will be open for public comment for 60 days after publishing in the Federal Register. Public comments can be submitted at www.regulations.gov.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.
WASHINGTON (Feb. 23, 2023) – Today, the Biden-Harris Administration announced the availability of $550 million from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act to expedite investments through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Grantmaking (EJ TCGM) program. This new, innovative program will fund up to 11 entities to serve as grantmakers to community-based projects that reduce pollution. Selected grantmakers will develop an efficient, simplified process so that organizations that historically have faced barriers to receiving funding can more seamlessly apply for grants that address environmental harms and risks.
The new program advances the Biden-Harris Administration’s whole-of-government commitment to achieving environmental justice by building early, meaningful, and sustained partnerships with communities.
“Over the last two years I’ve traveled to overburdened and underserved communities and their message to me has been clear – residents have suffered far too long without access to crucial federal funding and resources,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Thanks to President Biden’s historic investments in America, including the largest ever investment in environmental justice, we’re removing barriers and moving faster to deliver this unprecedented relief to the communities who need it most.”
The entities eligible to apply under this Request for Applications (RFA) and serve as an Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Grantmaker fall into four categories. They include:
EPA intends to award up to 11 cooperative agreements under this RFA for up to approximately $50 million each to be funded incrementally over a 3-year period. The deadline to apply is May 31, 2023. EPA expects these grantmakers to begin awarding subgrants to community-based organizations no later than early 2024.
The EJ TCGM program will further the goals of President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which aims to deliver 40% of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments to disadvantaged communities that have been overburdened by pollution and historic underinvestment. EPA will continue to uphold the goals of the Justice40 Initiative by ensuring funds get to communities that have often been unable to access resources due to high barriers to entry.
To view the Request for Applications, please visit: www.grants.gov.
In August 2022, Congress passed, and President Biden signed, the Inflation Reduction Act into law, creating the largest investment in environmental and climate justice in U.S. history. EPA received $3 billion in appropriations to provide grants and technical assistance for activities advancing environmental and climate justice. Earlier this year, EPA announced the availability of $100 million under the Environmental Justice Government to Government Program and the Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Cooperative Agreement Program, with applications due on April 10, 2023. EPA also announced a Request for Information on how to build the new Environmental and Climate Justice grant program. Input is requested by March 17, 2023.
For further information: EPA Press Office (email@example.com)
Changes in the new farm bill will mostly be about money.
That was the message Joe Outlaw, Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University co-director in the Department of Agricultural Economics of the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Bryan-College Station, delivered recently during the annual Amarillo Farm and Ranch Show.
Outlaw, speaking about the farm bill, said a lot of action is happening in Washington with different proposals and discussions on the table. However, in the end, it will boil down to what money is available.
The Inflation Reduction Act signed into law by President Biden earlier this year extended the Affordable Care Act, as well as added funding to existing agricultural conservation programs familiar to producers.
WASHINGTON, D.C. [12/19/22] — U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, announced $750,000 in federal funding to support training, mentorship and other opportunities for veterans looking to transition into agricultural careers. The investments will create jobs and strengthen Minnesota’s agricultural workforce by providing hands-on training and mentorship for veterans pursuing opportunities in agriculture and agribusiness.
The Inflation Reduction Act recently signed into law by President Biden not only extended the Affordable Care Act, but also infused funding to several agricultural conservation programs familiar to producers. Economists with the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University in College Station have compiled a briefing paper evaluating the effects of the bill on agriculture.
“The bottom line is that there is an enormous infusion of funding for conservation programs,” said Bart Fischer, Ph.D., food policy center co-director in the Department of Agricultural Economics of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Bryan-College Station. “Much discretion about the distribution of that funding is left to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, so we will have to see how they implement the program before we know how everything will work.”
The Agriculture Department is moving nearly all its researchers into the economic effects of climate change, trade policy and food stamps – subjects of controversial Trump administration initiatives – outside of Washington, part of what employees claim is a political crackdown on economists whose assessments have raised questions about the president’s policies. Since last year, employees in the department’s Economic Research Service have awaited news of which members of their agency would be forced to relocate, after Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue stunned them by declaring he was moving most of the agency to a location outside the capital. The announcement sparked claims that Perdue was trying to pressure economists into leaving the agency rather than move their families. On March 5, the department began notifying people who were allowed to stay in Washington, but didn’t provide a comprehensive list, only telling employees in person if they made the cut. But current and former employees compiled one anyway, covering all 279 people on staff, 76 of whom are being allowed to stay in Washington. The current and former employees, all of whom requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation, say the specialties of those who are being asked to move corresponds closely to the areas where economic assessments often clash with the president’s policies, including tax policies, climate change, and the farm economy.
A plan to move Agriculture Department researchers out of Washington has thrown two small but influential science agencies into upheaval. Federal employees at the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) have quit in unusually large numbers since August, when Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced he would relocate the offices. ERS leadership has been conducting final site visits this week of candidate locations, and an “announcement Friday is very likely,” said Peter Winch, an organizer for the American Federation of Government Employees, a union that represents ERS workers.USDA declined to say when it will announce the new location for the agencies. “We don’t undertake these relocations lightly, and we are doing it to improve performance and the services these agencies provide,” Perdue told The Washington Post in a statement.
American farmers are eagerly awaiting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest trade aid plan, but there are concerns that producers of corn and wheat could lose out with the package that could top $15 billion. “Details on the new trade mitigation program will be forthcoming shortly, but we want to be clear that the program is being designed to avoid skewing planting decisions one way or another,” USDA said. A source briefed on the new round of relief told CNBC the administration is offering “slightly more” than last year’s aid in terms of payment levels for several commodities but probably “won’t make everyone happy.” The source, who didn’t want to be identified, wouldn’t provide specific payment amounts under consideration but confirmed the package could be announced as early as Thursday and surpass $15 billion. The direct payments to farmers under USDA’s Market Facilitation Program announced in December included nine different commodities with soybeans getting about three-fourths of the nearly $10 billion in aid. On Tuesday, Bloomberg first reported the administration might offer about $2 per bushel for soybeans, or above the $1.65 per bushel given farmers in the earlier round of payments. Bloomberg also reported corn growers might get four cents per bushel, up from one cent last year, and wheat producers 63 cents compared with 14 cents previously.
USDA announced on Friday U.S. beef will now have full access to Japanese markets for the first time in more than 15 years. The U.S. and Japan have agreed on new terms and conditions that eliminate Japan’s restrictions on U.S. beef that have been in place since December 2003, USDA stated.Those restrictions followed the detection of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in a Washington state dairy cow.At that time, Japan immediately banned U.S. beef and beef products, and U.S. exports plummeted from nearly 375,500 metric tons and $1.4 billion in 2003 to 517 metric tons and $2.9 million in 2004.