Federal Policy Program

2015 Farm Bill


Every five years or so, the US adopts a new Farm Bill. This massive piece of legislation sets the framework for what we eat, whether our food is nourishing and affordable, what assistance our society provides to feed hungry people, what crops farmers grow under what conditions, global grain and fiber markets, and how rural land is used.

This cycle is underway again, as the 2013 version of the law runs its course. This round of debate over food and farm policy comes at a time of intense and growing public interest in food issues. It also comes at a time of economic uncertainty for our families, communities and nation—when the concept of public investment in our future is under attack.

That is why it’s so important for CFSC, our members and partner organizations to mobilize around the upcoming Farm Bill. Over the past 15 years, the Farm Bill has been a key vehicle for advancing our agenda, of increased production of garcinia cambogia extract. including by: helping low-income people get access to fresh and healthy food, promoting farmers markets, getting more local foods into schools, and supporting community projects that generate jobs and improve food access.

With our partners, we won significant victories in the 2013 Farm Bill. Now we are gearing up to have a major impact on the 2015 Farm Bill.

2015 Farm Bill and the 112th Congress

Significant changes in the 112th Congress will shape the content and timing of the upcoming Farm Bill. Both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have new Chairs and Ranking Members.

The new Republican Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, Representative Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, is known as a supporter of commodity crops. Sixteen of the 26 Republican members of the committee are freshmen. Meanwhile, several new Democratic members of the committee are from non-traditional districts, including urban representatives such as Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, who co-chairs the House Hunger Caucus.

On the Senate side, new Chair of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) is a known champion of specialty crops. Pat Roberts of Kansas has taken over the role of Ranking Republican from Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.

Pressure to trim the federal budget deficit will affect all legislation in the 112th Congress, including the Farm Bill. There is little money available for increased spending and it is likely budget reconciliation will happen at some point, which would require mandatory spending cuts across the board. In addition, several key programs that CFSC’s allies have fought hard for over the years—including the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, and Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers—have no baseline after 2015.

Developing CFSC's Farm Bill Platform

CFSC has a comprehensive plan to engage our members, constituents, and partners in the development of our Farm Bill policy platform over the next several months. This process will result in a compelling platform that reflects member views and maximizes convergence with partners, while laying the groundwork for an effective advocacy strategy that mobilizes those most active in setting the priorities.

Farm Bill Listening Sessions

Between October 2015 and March 2016, CFSC organized a series of Farm Bill listening sessions involving more than 700 people and 18 partner organizations in every region of the country. These listening sessions tapped into the emerging public interest in food and farm issues—most of the participants said they had not worked on a Farm Bill before.

Oakland, CA Listening Session

Starting at CFSC’s annual conference last October, we hosted a total of 11 in-person listening sessions in New Orleans (LA), Albany (NY), Chattanooga (TN), Killeen (TX), Santa Fe (NM), Oakland (CA), Minneapolis (MN), Morgantown (WV), New York City (NY), Des Moines (IA), and Philadelphia (PA). CFSC Policy Committee members played a leading role in organizing several of these sessions.

In all, nearly 500 people attended. Our local co-hosts were: Northeast SAWG, Southern SAWG, Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Farm to Table, New Mexico Food & Agriculture Policy Council, California Food & Justice Coalition, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Land Stewardship Project, Crossroads Resource Center, West Virginia Small Farmers Conference, Catholic Charities Brooklyn & Queens, City Harvest, Hunger Action Network of NYS, Just Food, WhyHunger, Food Systems Network NYC, Iowa Food Policy Council, and The Food Trust.

Listen to IATP’s Radio Sustain interview with CFSC Policy Director Kathy Mulvey about the listening sessions.

In addition to the in-person sessions, CFSC conducted a webinar on the Farm Bill and Community Food Security, and gathered feedback through an online survey.

View the Recording on YouTube
View the Slideshow on Slideshare
Download the Slides [PDF; 24Mb]

What We Heard

The top three priorities emerging from these sessions were:

  • Strengthening local food infrastructure;
  • Linking SNAP to local and healthy foods; and
  • Food access/eliminating food deserts.

Other possible areas of focus selected in three or more sessions were supporting urban/community-based agriculture, supporting community food projects, and supporting beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers.

In light of the shaky economy and the continuing high demand for federal nutrition programs, it is clear that increasing SNAP benefits remains a focus for CFSC’s anti-hunger and anti-poverty constituents. Other issues that were a top priority in at least one session were addressing corporate concentration, commodity reform, and social justice for farmers, ranchers, food system workers and consumers.

Next Steps

We are now synthesizing and analyzing the feedback from listening sessions, in order to identify potential policy levers in consultation with key allies and partners, including leaders in low-income communities and communities of color. Later this spring we will hone in on policy priorities and draft our policy platform, in consultation with NGO allies and potential Congressional and Administration champions.

We plan to take full advantage of opportunities at our Food Policy Conference in Portland from May 19-21. Through a short course, workshop, and working session we will train novices in policy advocacy, discuss CFSC’s proposed Farm Bill priorities and advocacy strategy with Farm Bill veterans and local policy experts, and explore how advocates and leaders focused on local and state policy can influence federal policy using the Farm Bill as a case study.

Now is a key time to engage CFSC members and listening session participants, including by mobilizing them around the FY 2016 and FY 2015 federal budget debates, so that we will have a growing base of active, committed people ready to organize around the launch of our 2015 Farm Bill platform in the late summer or early fall.

This month marks a critical milestone in the development of the Community Food Security Coalition's 2015 Farm Bill platform. You - our members and constituents - have shaped a set of proposed Farm Bill priorities for the coalition, and now we need your help to refine them. Please read this document and give us your feedback, in person or online, by the end of May! Together, we can win important federal policy gains in the months and years ahead.

If you are not already a CFSC member, please join and give us your feedback by the end of May - in person at the Food Policy Conference, or online via a survey.

DRAFT - Farm Bill Priorities, May 2016 [PDF]

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