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5 things you need to know about the Farm Bill

The Farm Bill is the most important legislation most Americans have never heard of. Passed roughly once every five years, it has a huge impact on farmer livelihoods, how food is grown in our country, and what kinds of foods are grown.

But what is it really, and why should you care? Keep reading for our top 5 things you need to know about the Farm Bill.

1. It’s a big deal

With a price tag of around 400 billion (yes, that’s a “b”) the Farm Bill funds programs like SNAP (formerly known as “food stamps”) for 42 million Americans, crop and disaster insurance for farmers, and scientific research on topics from climate change to nutrition.

2. It’s about to expire

If Congress fails to act before September 30th, critical programs like the Farmers Market Promotion Program will cease to exist (think a mini-government shutdown for some farm programs). Both the Senate and the House have passed their own bills, but they have a long way to go to reconcile the two bills into one law.

The Senate passed a bipartisan bill that funds programs like the Farmers Market Promotion Program and avoids draconian cuts to SNAP.

The House, on the other hand, passed a party-line vote (no Democrats supported the bill) that completely eliminates the Farmers Market Promotion Program, the Local Food Promotion Program, and would impose work requirements on SNAP recipients that we fear would exacerbate food insecurity, especially for the elderly and disabled.

3. Farmers need a farm bill

Net farm income has dropped by more than 50% since 2013, prompting some observers to worry that we may be heading for another farm crisis. This past year, farmers have also been caught in the middle of mounting trade wars with China, Canada, and the European Union. Programs that help protect farmers and ranchers from risks beyond their control are essential for the security of American agriculture.

4. We’ve already had some big wins

It’s not all doom and gloom. Both the Senate and House versions of the Farm Bill contains some big wins that SFC and our partner organizations have been advocating for. Both bills increase funding for the Food Security Nutrition Incentive (FINI) from $100 million to $275 million. FINI funds programs that double the value of SNAP benefits when they are spent on local produce at participating farmers markets, putting more money in the pockets of both farmers and food insecure Americans.

We have also shown our support for the LAMP Program, which consolidates three successful programs that benefit small farms and ranches (the Farmers Market Promotion Program, Local Food Promotion Program, and Value Added Producers Grants) into a single program with permanent “baseline” funding. The Senate included LAMP in their version of the bill, but LAMP was omitted from the House’s draft.

5. You can make a difference

All politics are local and just a few phone calls from constituents can make the difference in how a Congressperson votes. Congress passes only one farm bill every five years, so we need to get this one right! Stay tuned for action alerts and policy updates from us as Congress moves towards final passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.