The Farm Bill, renewed every five years, is a massive piece of legislation. It was originally created in 1933 in response to the Great Depression and the enormous problems farmers faced during the Dust Bowl. As with most things handled by our government, it has expanded over the years.
Today the largest part of the Farm Bill, some three-fourths of the funding, is devoted to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps) to supplement the food budgets of low-income families and increase their access to healthy food. Coming in with less than 10 percent of the budget each are crop insurance, commodities, and conservation. “Other” receives less than 1 percent.
Any part of the bill can be contentious but many sections of it are pre-approved or in place by law. The bill is currently estimated to cost $709 billion over the next five years when it is passed. Not only does the bill determine funding for the next five years, it also sets policy.
Along with farmers and nutrition groups, there are a vast number of special interest groups weighing in on the bill including climate change activists and animal rights organizations. Groups such as the Animal Wellness Action (AWA), Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS), American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) have released messages with similar goals for the 2023 Farm Bill. These groups have been urging people to contact members of Congress and ask them to push for legislation to be amended to the 2023 Farm Bill.
The bills ASPCA is promoting include the so-called “Farm System Reform Act,” S. 271/H.R. 797; the Industrial Agriculture Accountability Act, S. 272/H.R. 805; the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act, S. 557/H.R. 1249; the EQIP Improvement Act, S. 658; and the Food and Farm Act, H.R. 1824.
Along with taking aim at farmers, these bills are an attack on the American food system. They would ban new or expanded large-scale farms; increase federal regulations for meat marketing; and provide more subsidies for farmers who transition from raising meat to raising plants. The result would be sky-high meat prices which would disproportionately hurt people with lower incomes.
Climate change activists are also hammering away at the Farm Bill which could have disastrous results for farmers and consumers, alike. Many Progressives have declared that the Farm Bill should be a “climate change bill.” Some farm advocacy groups have already declared their support for “climate-smart” measures to be included in the bill, or at least retained from the Inflation Reduction Act. The Inflation Reduction Act already provided some $19.5 billion in climate-friendly programs for the USDA.
There is, however, a difference in “climate-friendly” programs that farmers are interested in pursuing voluntarily, such as growing cover crops to make the soil healthier, and some of the more radical ideas put forward that revolve around greenhouse gas emissions, reducing the use of fertilizers from manure that emit nitrous oxide, and mandatory monitoring of how much carbon is sequestered. One bill that has been introduced in Congress, with hopes of attaching it to the Farm Bill, aims to make agricultural emissions net-zero by 2040. Called the Agriculture Resilience Act, the bill has no Republican sponsor or co-sponsor at this time.
If you think that climate change legislation can’t lead to serious problems for farms, you should take a look at the demands the Dutch government has been trying to impose on farmers in the Netherlands. Some 3000 Dutch farms were scheduled to be shut down because the government is determined to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The government has been trying to crack down on emissions of nitrous oxide from manure and the use of ammonia in fertilizers. These are some of the same things that are being proposed by ASPCA and climate change advocates for the 2023 Farm Bill. After the farmers joined together and fought back to win seats in government, the latest proposal from the European Union is now offering to give the Dutch government some 1.47 billion euros to try to buy out Dutch livestock farmers to reduce their “nitrogen pollution.”
The EU is also encouraging Irish farmers to slaughter 65,000 cows per year, for three years, in order to meet “climate goals.” It would reduce Ireland’s total herd by 10 percent. It’s part of a larger plan by the United Nations to cut one-quarter of all farming emissions by 2030. Irish farmers are pushing back.
In the U.S., John Kerry recently stated that cutting greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production is essential to the global fight against climate change. President Joe Biden has pledged the U.S. will reach net zero emissions by 2050.
These are some of the pressures weighing on this year’s Farm Bill negotiations. No one seems to question the science. No one mentions the pollution from China. China is by far the world’s biggest emitter of CO2 and they have shown no interest in slowing down. Instead, the U.S. and the European Union are harassing farmers who already do more than at any time in history to be good stewards of the land. Groups like ASPCA, AWI, and climate change organizations are fear-mongering, making emotional appeals, and capitalizing on the public’s lack of knowledge about farming to push their agenda. Their goal is to shut down animal agriculture and drive farmers to only produce plant-based food.
If these groups succeed in their attack on the American food system, it will be a disaster for families that depend on quality meat protein at an affordable price. Prices for many foods, especially meats, will rise. It will mean a loss of farms and job loss in the heartland of this country. It will mean a loss of choice and poorer nutrition for all of us.
You can contact your member of Congress and senators to express your views about the Farm Bill. Tell them that you do support American farmers. Tell them that you don’t support animal rights or climate change legislation being added to the 2023 Farm Bill.
The Farm Bill is currently in the “mark-up” phase, so now is the time to take action!