Marker Bill Roundup, March 2021:  Contact your members of Congress to support Black farmers, small meat processors, online SNAP, Farm to School, and more

Marker bills are bills introduced by Congress that are not intended to pass as stand-alone pieces of legislation, but are used to build support for a policy or issue with the hope that it will be adopted as part of an omnibus bill. Commonly used for issues legislators want to include in the Farm Bill, they are currently being introduced to gain support for issues in other packages like pandemic aid, budget bills, and child nutrition legislation. 

If any of the bills below resonate with your or your organization’s priorities or needs, please call your Members of Congress and let them know! Ask them to support the bill if they aren’t listed as a cosponsor, and thank them for their support if they have already sponsored the bill.

Reach your Members of Congress at the capitol switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Sample call/email script:

“Hi ___,

My name is ______ and I am a ___________(introduce your org, farm, or why you care about the issue). I’m reaching out to let you know about [name of bill], [description of bill]. This issue is really important to [organization / farmers in our state] because [explain why it matters to you]. We hope [Senator/Representative _________] will show their support and become a cosponsor of the bill! Here’s a link to a press release about the bill. I look forward to hearing from you!

Best wishes,

____”

Thanks to National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Rural Coalition for marker bill information 

Currently introduced Marker Bills as of March 26th 2021:

Strengthening Local Processing Act (S. 370 and H.R. 1258)  

Introduced by: Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and John Thune (R-SD). 

About: This bill would support small meat and poultry processing plants’ ability to comply with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans. It also offers increased cost share for state meat and poultry inspection programs and expands the Cooperative Interstate Shipment Program. This bill also authorizes a grant program to expand small plants, including small and very small federally inspected plants, for activities related to COVID-19 response and recovery, and an education and training grant program for colleges and universities to establish or expand meat processing training programs. 

Justice for Black Farmers Act (S.300)

Introduced by: Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). 

About: This bill would begin to address the historic discrimination of Black farmers by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) by protecting existing Black-owned farmland, instituting USDA reforms, providing debt relief, and creating a land grant program to train a new generation of Black farmers. 

Farm to School Act of 2021 (H.R. 1768)

Introduced by: Delegate Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), Representatives Alma Adams (D-NC) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE-1). 

About: The Farm to School Grant Program offers federal support for US schools to plan and implement farm to school programs. This bill would raise the program’s authorized funding level from $5 million to $15 million, and increase the maximum grant award to $250,000. It would also expand the scope of the program to include preschools, summer food service programs, and after-school programs and would enhance access to tribal foods. 

Expanding SNAP Options Act (S.313)

A bill to amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to expand online benefit redemption options under the supplemental nutrition assistance program, and for other purposes 

Introduced by: Senator Durbin (D-IL)

About: This bill would provide funding for the creation of a universal online and app-based portal to make online SNAP more accessible, available to more retailers, and easier to navigate for consumers. 

Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act (S.278)

Introduced by: Senators Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

About: This bill would provide dedicated funding to relieve debt for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, as well as over $1 billion to improve land access, address heirs property issues, establish an equity commission, and create a legal center to provide legal advice and resources to BIPOC farmers.

New Markets for State Inspection Meat and Poultry Act (S. 107

Introduced by: Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Angus King (I-ME). 

About: This bill would allow meat and poultry products inspected by Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS)-approved state Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) programs to be sold across state lines. Currently, there are 27 states with inspection programs "at least equal to" federal meat and/or poultry inspection programs.

Photo by Nicholas A. Tonelli