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At the intersection of food, soil, climate, farming and water.

Good News, Bad News: 2018 Farm Bill Passage

After what can only be called a contentious process and protracted hiatus, the 2018 Farm Bill passed both houses last week and was sent to the President for signing, which he was expected to do, as of this writing.

Overall, given the extreme political conditions under which it was negotiated, given the extremely bad House bill (including work requirements for SNAP recipients, major cuts to conservation programs, even bigger loopholes for large farmers wanting more than their share of federal subsidies for crop insurance and farm payments, and more), we are grateful that this bill is no worse than it is, and we’re grateful to congressional champions, especially in the Senate, who fought for wins for the sustainable agriculture movement. But it’s a bill that reinforces, rather than taking on, the major structural inequities in agriculture, and every win was hard fought.

A few examples of wins: The final bill includes permanent, mandatory funding for a new consolidated program that supports local foods, direct marketing, food processing, and value added initiatives as well as for a program helping beginning farmers get training and other support they need. Organic research similarly received permanent mandatory funding. The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) was not eliminated, as proposed by the House.

A few examples of losses: Even though CSP was not eliminated, it was badly cut. The Senate-passed limits on federal subsidy payments for large farms, was forced out of the final bill, and even worse provisions were forced in, allowing such payments for a farm family’s cousins, nieces and nephews – essentially gutting any meaningful payment limits, which will surely result in more farm consolidations and even more difficulty for small and beginning farmers trying to compete in a tight farm markets.

The best place to read details: http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/ The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition staff, which oversaw an impressive is digging into many areas of the bill of highest priority to NSAC membership, of which MFAI is one. These deep dives are well worth reading.

Thanks to the many MFAI activists who helped us advance the best possible Farm Bill proposals and secure so many of them in support of a sustainable agricultural future.