NESAWG’s Guide to Farm Bill Action

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on their version of the Farm Bill shortly, while the Senate Agriculture Committee is still working on their draft.  That means that now is STILL a key time to educate your elected officials about the Farm Bill issues that matter to you. Marker bills- pieces of Farm Bill legislation that Members of Congress introduce to build support around key issues- are still being introduced in the Senate, and you can use them to point your Senators toward the issues you care about. It’s also a great time to let your congressperson know whether you support the House’s Farm Bill draft (you can ask them to vote yes or no), or what issues you would like them to change in the draft.

Here’s a list of some current marker bills that represent GOOD things that may make it into this year's Farm Bill. Consider signing onto a letter of support as an organization or individual, or take a moment to call, email, or meet with your representatives and senators and tell them which of these issues matter most to you. (Don’t know who they are? Click those links to find out!)

EDIT: This guide was updated on 4/2/2018 to reflect current status of the Farm Bill proccess and to include new marker bills introduced since the guide was first published. Newly added marker bills are marked with a *

Marker Bills:


Local FARMS Act - markets and access for local foods

The Local Food and Regional Market Supply (Local FARMS) Act of 2017, (S. 1947 / H.R. 3941) introduced on October 4, 2017 by:

  • Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
  • Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME)
  • Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
  • Representative Sean Maloney (D-NY)

The bill will support the continued expansion of new market opportunities for small-scale farmers by:

  • Helping farmers reach new markets through outreach, cost-share, and technical assistance programs
  • Increasing access to fresh, healthy, local food among low-income groups and communities in need
  • Developing new and strengthening existing infrastructure that connects producers to consumers

The Local Farms Act includes support for  the Farmers Market Nutrition Program, as well as a new pilot program called “Harvesting Health” where doctors can write prescriptions for fruits and vegetables.

Take action: Organizational sign-on form

Learn more: 


*Next Generation in Agriculture Act- resources for new farmers

The Next Generation in Agriculture Act, (S. 2762), introduced by:

  • Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)

The bill would support farm transition and creating conditions for new farmers’ success by:

  • Giving new farmers (including veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers) with the training and skills to succeed by permanently reauthorizing the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.
  • Expanding beginning farmers’ access to land by scaling up resources for farm transition and succession planning.
  • Ensuring equitable access to federal crop insurance by expanding crop insurance incentives to better support beginning farmers’ in managing risk on their farms.
  • Increasing coordination, outreach and technical assistance between U.S. Department of Agriculture programs that provide resources to young, beginning, and retiring farmers.

Learn more:


Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Opportunity Act- access to land and resources

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2017 (H.R.4316), introduced on November 8, 2017 by:

  • Representatives Tim Walz (D-MN)
  • Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)

Lays out a national strategy that will break down barriers to entry and give real support to the next generation of farmers by:

  • Expanding beginning farmers’ access to affordable land.
  • Empowering new and veteran farmers with the skills to succeed in today’s agricultural economy.
  • Ensuring equitable access to financial capital and federal crop insurance.
  • Encouraging commitment to conservation and stewardship across generations.

Take action— sign on as an organizational endorser:

Learn more:


The Farm to School Act- more funding for local foods in schools

The Farm to School Act of 2017 (S.1767, H.R. 3687), introduced on September 6, 2017, by:

  • Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS)
  • Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
  • Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
  • Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH)

The bill aims to make our children healthier and support our nation’s family farmers and food producing communities by:

  • Expanding access to preschools, summer food service sites, and after school programs.
  • Increasing annual mandatory funding from $5 million to $15 million to reflect the current demand for this funding
  • Expanding access among tribal schools to farm-fresh and traditional foods, particularly those from tribal producers.
  • Encouraging partnerships between tribal schools and tribal producers will increase consumption of nutritious, traditional foods, while also supporting Native farmers and ranchers.
  • Encouraging greater program participation from beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
  • Providing technical assistance and outreach to a broader range of potential applicants, bringing more economic opportunities to traditionally underserved producers nationwide.

Take Action:

Organizations: sign on to endorse the Farm to School Act!

Individuals: sign on to endorse the Farm to School Act!

Learn more:


Funds for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers (known in Farm Bill advocacy as “2501”)- program access for historically disenfranchised

Established in 1990, this program provides grants to organizations that work with farmers of color and veterans and assist them in owning and operating farms and participating in USDA programs. It comes in response to decades of systemic exclusion of farmers of color and indigenous farmers from USDA programs and loans; this vital program attempts to repair that history of exclusion with intentional outreach and help accessing program benefits.

In the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress provided $20 million each year in mandatory funding for the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program. The 2014 Farm Bill cut mandatory funding for the program, from $20 million to $10 million per year, despite the fact that the program expanded to also serving veterans in addition to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

Take Action: There is not currently a marker bill relating to this issue area. It’s important that your legislators hear that this issue matters to you. Ask them to restore funding to the 2008 levels.

Learn more:


*The Tribal Food and Housing Security Act

The Tribal Food and Housing Security Act, introduced on March 1st by

  • Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)

This bill would help Native Americans better access Farm Bill and affordable housing programs by:

  • Establishing a permanent Rural Development Tribal Technical Assistance Office at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Eliminating a requirement that tribes match administrative costs to run the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) programs, which many tribes use to provide healthy, affordable food options to low-income individuals and families.
  • Reforming home loan programs to level the playing field for Native Americans who cannot gain access to credit to afford a home.

Take action: Tell Congress to support The Tribal Food and Housing Act

Learn more:


Urban Agriculture Act of 2016/17- resources for urban farmers

The Urban Agriculture Act of 2016 and The Urban Agriculture Act of 2017, (S. 3420, H.R. 3699). Introduced by:

  • Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
  • Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)

The Senate’s bill would:  

  • Establish an Office of Urban Agriculture within the Department of Agriculture and make urban agriculture activities eligible for funding from USDA programs,
  • Make $10 million available for urban agriculture research
  • Set aside $5 million for tools and equipment to develop community gardens.

The House bill would:

  • Establish an outreach program to award grants to support urban farm outreach activities, infrastructure and land acquisition to education, training, and technical assistance.
  • Expand the purpose and duties of the USDA’s Office of Advocacy and Outreach to include activities just for urban farmers or ranchers. infrastructure and land acquisition to education, training, and technical assistance.

Learn more:


SOIL Stewardship Act- investment in conservation programs

The Strengthening Our Investment in Land Stewardship (SOIL Stewardship) Act (H.R. 5188), introduced by

  • Representative Tim Walz (D-MN)

This bill will streamline and strengthen the farm bill’s two major working lands conservation programs:

  • Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

The bill adds a new emphasis on soil health, and also elevates provisions for water quality, water conservation, and wildlife habitat.

***EQIP resources can and have been used by urban as well as rural farmers.

Learn more:


The GROW Act- assisting farmers in protecting soil and water

The Give our Resources the Opportunity to Work (GROW) Act (S. 2557), introduced on March 15, 2018 by:

  • Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA)
  • Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
  • Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
  • Senator Bob Casey (D-PA)

This bill reforms the:

  • Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
  • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)

to target federal investments in ways that protect the most sensitive acres while empowering producers to adopt and actively manage high-level conservation activities on working lands.

**EQIP resources can and have been used by urban as well as rural farmers.

Learn more:


The EQIP Improvement Act

The EQIP Improvement Act, (S. 2624) introduced on March 22nd by

  • Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)
  • Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)

This bill:

  • Reduces from 75 percent to 40 percent the maximum federal cost-share for 25 practices that produce little environmental benefit.
  • Reduces the overall five-year EQIP payment cap from $450,000 to $150,000 to allow more small farmers to receive EQIP funding.
  • Ends an arbitrary requirement that 60 percent of EQIP funds flow to animal agriculture, giving more discretion to states to select the best projects for funding.
  • Requires USDA to prioritize practices that provide significant environmental benefits for water quality and soil health.

Learn more:


The Organic Agriculture Research Act- support for organic research

The Organic Agriculture Research Act (S. 2404, H.R. 2436), introduced by

  • Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME)
  • Representative Dan Newhouse (R-WA)
  • Representative Jimmy Panetta (D-CA)
  • Senator Bob Casey (D-PA)
  • Senators Susan Collins (R-ME)

This bill will increase federal support for the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), providing organic farmers and researchers with the information and resources they need to scale up and meet rapidly increasing consumer demand.

Learn more:


The Seeds for the Future Act- seed breeding to benefit farmers

The Seeds for the Future Act of 2018 (H.R. 5208), introduced on March 7, 2018 by

  • Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI)
  • Representative Darren Soto (D-FL)

This bill will help to secure our diverse seed stocks for years to come by:

  • Increasing investment in publicly available, farmer-ready cultivars.
  • Working to ensure that grants for seed breeding projects provide researchers the appropriate amount of time to finish their work, so that they can accomplish cultivar goals such as providing farmers with seeds that work for a diversity of farming systems and locations.
  • Re-authorizing crucial seed-breeding programs and enhance public research by coordinating projects across agencies.

Learn more:


Young and Beginning Farmers Act- reducing barriers for new farmers

The Young and Beginning Farmers Act (H.R. 4201), introduced by

  • Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY)
  • Representative Ryan Costello (R-PA)

The bill would reduce barriers to entry for new farmers by:

  • Creating more flexibility within the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) to allow land trusts to protect farmland more quickly and facilitate its transfer to a new farmer.
  • Allowing beginning farmers to pre-qualify for Farm Service Agency (FSA) loans so they can compete in a fast-paced farm real estate market.
  • Establishing USDA Beginning Farmer Coordinators in each state to direct outreach and help farmers connect the dots.
  • Reauthorizing and establishing mandatory baseline funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP).
  • Providing mandatory baseline funding for the farmers market and local food promotion program (FMLFPP) to increase local market opportunities for young farmers.
  • Establishing a farm viability program to help farmers improve their business planning, marketing, and profitability.
  • Transferring federally-owned surplus farm equipment owned to beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers who need it.

Take action: To add your organization to the list of the bill’s supporters, email NYFC’s national policy director, Andrew Bahrenburg ([email protected])

Learn more: