On April 12, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) introduced his draft 2018 Farm Bill. Representative Conaway's bill is a blow to local foods and small farmers. It guts funding for critical grant programs that directly support small, local foods producers such as the Value Added Producer Grant, the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, and the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program. It also attacks conservation by gutting the Conservation Stewardship Program and fails to address major holes in access to crop insurance for specialty crop and organic producer.
As local food advocates, educators, producers, and consumers, we are entering a critical time in the fight for federal support of our communities and livelihoods. It is critical that Senators and Representatives who serve us hear our message and vision for our food future. The investment provided by the programs under threat is critical to continuing to develop markets, assist farmers in becoming more financially viable, and educating consumers on the importance of the source of their food. The loss of these programs would be a deep blow to our developing rural food economies.
Now is the time to act. Please join me and the staff of The Land Connection in advocating for these desperately needed programs. TLC has been involved in advocating for a local foods favorable Farm Bill for months. We have participated in letter writing campaigns, posted informative links on our social media channels, and lobbied Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL) at a roundtable discussion in Bloomington. Rep. Davis is the chair of the House sub-committee on Horticulture which is in charge of drafting most of the programs that deal with small farms and local food, including specialty crops.
I urge you to contact your congressperson by writing a hand written letter expressing your support for these programs that are under threat. You can find the contact details for your congresspersons here. Send your letters to their district office for more impact.
I also want to express deep thanks for our friends at Illinois Stewardship Alliance for spearheading the Illinois campaign for local foods supportive Farm Bill programs. They have put together great resources to help you get involved, including encouraging you to host a “Dishing on the Farm Bill” dinner party to help spread grassroots advocacy for local foods in the Farm Bill.
I would also like to direct you to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) website for Farm Bill updates. Their synopsis of the impacts of this proposed bill on sustainable agriculture are excellent. I encourage you to read each post for a deeper understanding of the implications of these funding cuts.
And, with spring (hopefully) upon us and to lighten the mood, I leave you with a public service announcement: