MEP Member, guest author: Amanda Koehler, Land Stewardship Project
Right now, Congress is drafting the 2023 Farm Bill, which will determine how tens of billions of dollars are spent over five years on what’s grown on the landscape and who grows it, the environmental impacts of production systems, the safety of our food, and the economic health of our communities.
Crafting a 2023 Farm Bill that puts people and the land above corporate interests is a top priority for Land Stewardship Project (LSP) members, largely small- and mid-sized farmers and rural residents in the Upper Midwest. Minnesota has the potential to have an outsized impact on the shape of the 2023 Farm Bill, given that four members of the Congressional delegation serve on legislative agriculture committees: Senator Amy Klobuchar, Senator Tina Smith, Representative Angie Craig (CD-2), and Representative Brad Finstad (CD-1).
LSP members, with leadership from LSP’s Farm Bill Organizing Committee, collectively built a comprehensive Farm Bill Platform that we launched in August of 2022. Since then, LSP members have been helping craft legislation based on our top priorities, organizing farmers and ranchers in their communities, traveling to Washington D.C. to meet directly with members of Congress and testify, sharing their stories in the media, working with partner organizations, and more.
Here are two of our top 2023 Farm Bill Priorities and how you can take action on these important issues:
The Land Access, Security, and Opportunities (LASO) Act
Access to land is the top challenge emerging and beginning farmers face, especially for those without access to generational land or wealth. At the same time, ownership of millions of acres of agricultural land is changing hands as farmers and ranchers across the country retire — presenting an important opportunity to shape the future of our farm and food system.
This is the moment for Congress to take action to ensure that the 2023 Farm Bill delivers material benefits for beginning farmers and ranchers striving to establish and grow their operations.
The Increasing Land Access, Security, and Opportunities (LASO) Act, championed by Senator Tina Smith (D-MN), is a critical piece of legislation that would create equitable transition of farmland to the next generation.
If included in the 2023 Farm Bill, the LASO Act would fund powerful, community-led solutions to the land access crisis faced by the new generation of young and Black farmers, Indigenous farmers, and farmers of color. This would be a significant victory for young farmers, ranchers, and everyone who has been fighting to win federal funding to address issues of equitable land access, retention, and transition. This bill will increase access to capital for underserved farmers, boost training and economic opportunity for beginner farmers, and help make land more affordable for Black, Brown, and Indigenous farmers through the 2023 Farm Bill.
It’s critical that Congress takes action to protect the health and vitality of our communities into the future. Congress must act now to build upon this model and deliver significant annual funding through the 2023 Farm Bill.
You can take action by contacting your members of Congress through this easy-to-use form. If you contact Senator Tina Smith, please thank her for championing the bill!
The Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) Improvement Act
Diversified, small, and mid-sized farmers deserve to have a strong safety net – and many have no safety net at all. Particularly as climate change impacts continue to accelerate, too many farmers are at risk of serious financial loss from just one severe weather event or one season of drought.
On Thursday, August 31, an op-ed about this issue was published in the Star Tribune by Andy Petran. Andy is an LSP member leader, Farmington-based farmer, and owner of Twin Cities Berry Company. He wrote, “Farming has always been difficult, but climate-induced extreme weather events have increased the level of risk. To help overcome bad years and bad luck, the federal farm bill offers farmers subsidized crop insurance. Yet the program as it currently functions favors large operations producing a few select crops, making it impractical or impossible for many small farmers to participate.”
That’s why Land Stewardship Project (LSP) members and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), along with other partners, have been working hard to ensure the 2023 Farm Bill creates a strong safety net for diversified, small, and mid-sized farms.
As a result, just a few weeks ago, the Whole Farm Revenue Protection Improvement Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Sherrod Brown (D – OH) with Senator Tina Smith (D – MN) as a co-sponsor. The WFRP Improvement Act would realize the potential of the Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) Program to provide financial resiliency and stability for producers historically left out of federal crop insurance programs.
This legislation addresses common barriers to this holistic insurance program by streamlining paperwork, expanding the Micro Farm pilot program, raising the limit to annual revenue expansion, strengthening the diversification discount, and compensating crop insurance agents who sell WFRP appropriately.
To learn more about this proposal, join LSP for a special Farm Bill Friday Crop Insurance Webinar on Friday, September 15 at 12:00 p.m. via Zoom. Register here!
What’s the timeline on the 2023 Farm Bill?
The 2018 Farm Bill will expire on September 30, but the 2023 Farm Bill isn’t expected to pass for several months. We expect to see the House Agriculture and Senate Agriculture Committees’ separate draft bills in September. That’s why now is a critical time to take action.
The House and Senate will each amend and pass their version of the bill, likely in October or November. Then, the House and Senate will need to come together to negotiate a compromise Farm Bill before passing a final version of the bill in each body.
To learn more, check out Land Stewardship Project’s 2023 Farm Bill landing page or contact Amanda Koehler, LSP Policy Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.