Every five years, Congress passes a Farm Bill, which encompasses a wide range of issues, including conservation, rural development, forestry, and nutrition. Since the 2018 Farm Bill will expire in 2023, Congress has begun to hold hearings and receive input about the next iteration of the bill.
Additional congressional field hearings could also potentially be scheduled later in the year.
While the actual “brass tacks” work on drafting the next Farm Bill may not occur until 2023, farm and conservation groups are beginning to advance their own policies to take to Congress.
Engaging in the development of the 2023 Farm Bill is a top priority for the Family Farm Alliance, both internally and through our association with the Western Agriculture and Conservation Coalition (WACC).
The Alliance is a member of the steering committee of the WACC, a coalition of constructive agriculture and conservation groups who have engaged in recent years on farm bill, environmental appropriations, climate-smart agriculture, forestry, wildfire and Endangered Species Act issues. Created twelve years ago, the WACC now includes nearly twenty national, regional and state water, ag and conservation organizations.
The 2018 Farm Bill conservation title contains many provisions the WACC advocated for. Now, we’re preparing to engage in the 2023 Farm Bill.
There is always competition between the proponents of the various titles in Farm Bill authorization. The WACC plans to put together the story of how the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is using its current Farm Bill conservation title dollars, and construct a rationale based on facts for why they should keep the baseline in the upcoming round of negotiations. NRCS has agreed to work with WACC on this project.
The conservation title of the last farm bill was a good thing, and parts are due to the direct work of the WACC Alliance and its agricultural and conservation allies. The 2018 conservation title reflects the growing trend in the West, where individual producers – working with irrigation districts, non-governmental organizations and state and federal partners - are performing large-scale projects that benefit the environment, improve on-farm water management, and provide a new cash stream that helps rural communities.
We’ll continue to advocate in this vein, and also seek to:
- Strengthen NRCS Technical Assistance capacity for both program implementation and non-Farm Bill conservation planning.
- Better define inter-agency cooperation to improve conservation program delivery and yield broader positive impacts.
- Encourage and provide tools to local, regional and state land to lead watershed enhancement efforts.
- Encourage the development of programs to compensate for ecological services provided by farmers – either water conservation and nutrient management or more habitat related irrigation practices – all informed by prioritization technologies and data analytics that can measure results and allow markets to be created for these services.
At the Alliance, we’ll also support provisions that would protect our valuable Western watersheds and incentivize young farmers to enter and stay in the industry.
We look forward to working with Congress to build a 2023 Farm Bill that embeds some of these sensible, workable policies.