Opportunities to bolster the 2023 Farm Bill – NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council)

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The Natural Resources Defense Council works to safeguard the earth – its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.
Every 5 years, when it passes a new Farm Bill, Congress has a chance to protect our climate, enhance biodiversity, and build healthier and more resilient communities by investing in solutions and shifting toward policies that can work better. With targeted investments and reforms, our current agricultural system has great potential to empower communities left behind and to protect our environment and health. That is why as part of our work to safeguard the Earth and people, we advocate for a Farm Bill that reflects our values. On April 29, 2022, the Senate Agriculture Committee (the policymaking body that usually writes the Farm Bill), held a field hearing in Michigan to explore “Growing Jobs and Economic Opportunity: 2023 Farm Bill Perspectives” and we submitted this written testimony for the record.

Sang Lee Farms, in Peconic, New York
USDA Public Domain Photo: FPAC photo by Preston Keres

NRDC asked Congress to consider a Farm Bill that scales up funding in climate-smart agriculture and forestry and supports the rural clean energy economy. Both investments. through existing programs and new initiatives, will make our farming communities more resilient and will help farmers mitigating the climate and biodiversity challenges that threaten their way of life and our country’s crops. These investments will also help farmers navigate financial, technical, and social challenges that may arise as they innovate, as well as ensure that public investments prioritize the needs of the most underserved populations and maximize benefits to public health, ecosystems, and local economies.
There are many opportunities for policies that invest in a safer, more equitable, and climate-smart future in the Farm Bill:
Rural Jobs and Economic Development: USDA should provide funding to advance rural clean energy deployment, business development and job training particularly for traditionally underserved rural populations. USDA should also support and pilot a program that mimics the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and expand it into private lands making it a Civilian Climate Corps.
Water Infrastructure: The Farm bill, along with other legislative vehicles, present a unique opportunity to further improve drinking water for millions of Americans, including the opportunity to:
Conservation: The 2023 Farm Bill has an opportunity to break significant ground on the pathways for regenerative agriculture. Some of the ways that congress can do that are through:

Food Waste: In the 2023 Farm Bill development process, we urge Senator Stabenow to utilize our newly released report, “Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2023 Farm Bill.” Key recommendations from the report include:
Organic / Nutrition: Organic farmers produce healthy food without toxic pesticides and use climate-friendly practices that lower greenhouse gas emissions and boost crop resiliency. Local and regional food producers—including areas where organic farming is highly concentrated—can also provide critical economic stability in rural communities.
Our current food system leaves farms, rural America, farmers and ranchers vulnerable to massive losses related to climate change and ecosystem collapse. With targeted investments, and policy changes we can address the health of our air, water and food, the health of food workers and the public. Congress should make these investments to lift up communities and make our food system part of the solution.

Regenerative agriculture is achievable—and needs support throughout the food system to reach its full potential.
Recent Farm Bills have funded programs that make organic foods more affordable, while protecting the environment and our health.
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