Roughly every five years, Congress passes legislation known as the Farm Bill, a nearly trillion-dollar package of investments that touches all of our lives, every day. It determines who US farmers and farm workers are, what they grow, how they grow it, who can afford it, and who profits from it, and with each cycle, there’s an opportunity to reimagine the system for the better. But in reality, over my whole lifetime, Congress has passed one farm bill after another creating and fundamentally reinforcing an inequitable, unsustainable, and unhealthy food and farm system.
Now, more than 150 organizations representing tens of millions of people across this country are saying: Enough.
In a letter sent to President Biden today, these organizations—spanning expertise in nutrition, farming, rural development, racial equity, labor, and climate change, and including the Union of Concerned Scientists—are asking the president to join our call for Congress to pass a Farm Bill that will transform our food and farming system. We’re asking for a bill that reflects the president’s values by centering equity and racial justice; meeting the climate crisis head on; increasing access to healthy food; ending hunger; ensuring safety and dignity for food and farm workers; protecting farms and consumers; and ensuring the safety of our food supply.
When President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act last month, it was a historic step towards making the nation’s farmers and farmland part of the climate solution and providing underserved farmers with debt relief. That legislation followed unprecedented administrative action by the Biden administration to reduce economic inequality, address a history of discrimination in farming and landownership, promote competition in agriculture, end hunger, confront the climate crisis, improve nutrition and food safety, and protect and support farmers, workers, and communities.
With the next Farm Bill up for reauthorization in 2023 and hearings in the House and in the Senate well underway, the president can and must take leadership to build on his momentum and success. Our nation’s food and farm systems have been shocked and tested by climate change, a global pandemic, supply chain disruptions, significant inflation, and the ripple effects of Russia’s war in Ukraine. With more disruption sure to come, farmers, food workers, and eaters cannot wait another half decade for transformative change. With the next Farm Bill, the Biden administration and Congress can build a food and farm system that:
- Centers racial justice by confronting past discrimination and allocating resources to communities that have been historically underinvested;
- Ends hunger by protecting and strengthening food assistance programs;
- Meets the climate crisis head on by investing in research, technical assistance, and support to make farmers and ranchers more resilient and part of the climate solution;
- Increases access to nutritious food and nutrition security;
- Ensures safety and dignity for the 20 million food and farm workers that feed our nation through a living wage, access to health care, clean housing, the right to organize and join a union, protections from toxic pesticides and extreme heat, and access to citizenship;
- Protects farmers and consumers by continuing to promote competition in the food and agriculture sectors; and
- Ensures the safety of our food supply by addressing pathogens that originate on factory farms and to make the U.S. food supply safe for everyone.
A Farm Bill that does these things would be one President Biden could be proud to sign. He should make that clear to Congress, starting today.