Congress Must Prioritize a Farm Bill for All Americans

The expansive impact of the Farm Bill is easy to illustrate in Bucks County with its rich agricultural heritage and broad swaths of permanently preserved open space.
Bucks County farmland. Photo courtesy of Snipes Farm.

The willingness of some members of Congress to play chicken with raising the federal debt ceiling is yet another reminder that far too many legislators are more interested in pandering to their base than doing the hard work of finding consensus to address matters of critical importance to all Americans. 

Just as the negative effects of failing to raise the debt ceiling would trickle down to affect every American, failure to reach a consensus on the next iteration of the federal Farm Bill would impact every farming community, every environmentally sensitive wetlands and grasslands, and every single American kitchen table.  

An expansive piece of legislation covering many topics, the Farm Bill dates to a 1933 law establishing a farm commodity support program. Restructured and reintroduced approximately every five years, the Farm Bill now encompasses community food access, agriculture, nutrition assistance, conservation, research, the development of specialty crops and bioenergy programs. 

Congressional leaders, like Pennsylvania Congressman Glenn Thompson, chair of the House Agriculture Committee, and the Biden Administration are now working on hammering out the details of the next Farm Bill as the current one expires at the end of September. This yet-to-be introduced legislation represents a tremendous opportunity to fight to protect our natural resources while supporting the farmers who provide for our country. For those of us in the environmental advocacy community, it is also critical to efforts to protect our nation’s waterways even as we fight climate change. 

The next version of the bill will be one of our nation’s largest investments, with an anticipated appropriation of almost $1.3 trillion.  

It is important to note that demand for many of the agricultural programs funded by the current Farm Bill outpaces available funding. In addition to the clear popularity of these programs, they are scientifically proven, voluntary for farmers, and do much more than increase crop yields. The Farm Bill offers incentives to plant cover crops and provides for conservation easements for wetlands and grasslands, improving water quality and preserving sensitive ecosystems.  

The expansive impact of the Farm Bill is easy to illustrate in Bucks County with its rich agricultural heritage and broad swaths of permanently preserved open space. For Bucks’ suburban communities, it is important to note the Farm Bill still has a direct, positive impact by improving water quality, preserving land under pressure of development, and fighting climate change. 

The next Farm Bill can also stand on the successes of the Biden Administration’s Clean Energy Plan of 2022. The bill augmented funding for conservation programs authorized by the current Farm Bill and made additional investments. The increased funding for these conservation programs will help energize rural economies, and improve the resilience of our environment, making our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and foresters part of the climate solution. 

 The Farm Bill’s programs also help American farmers compete in the global marketplace and lower the cost of food for working families at a time when many people are struggling to make ends meet. 

It is not hyperbole or overemphasis to say that the Farm Bill impacts the lives of every American, from the variety and quality of products at our grocery stores to the preservation of our waterways and grasslands.  

Considering the impact of the Farm Bill, we call on our federal legislators to set aside partisan interests and make sure this vital piece of legislation makes real and meaningful investments in our farms and natural resources for the benefit of all Americans. 

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Molly Parzen

Molly Parzen is Executive Director of Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, a statewide environmental advocacy group.

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