OEFFA Press Releases

Status-Quo House Farm Bill Draft Falls Short on OEFFA’s Member-Driven Priorities

In the early hours of May 24, the House Agriculture Committee advanced its farm bill, the Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024 (FFNSA), out of committee. This is long-awaited movement for a bill that should have passed last year but the proposed legislation misses the mark. The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) joins many in the sustainable food and agriculture space in demanding a farm bill that does more to level the playing field for farmers, protect vital nutrition support, and equip producers with tools to address the climate crisis. 

The FFNSA is a 942-page discussion draft that was released on May 17 in advance of the committee markup. After more than 13 hours of debate and support from four Democrats, the committee approved the bill (33-21).


“We are glad to see Congress taking action on the farm bill but cannot support the House bill in its current form,” said OEFFA Executive Director Khara Strum. “Farmers deserve a forward-thinking farm bill that shapes a more resilient food system and promotes fairness, equitability, and accessibility for all producers.”

Since 2022, OEFFA has been consulting farmers and consumers to hear their vision for our food system. These efforts revealed the five key values of the OEFFA Farm Bill Platform

  1. Promoting Soil Health and Climate Resilience
  2. Increasing Investments in Local and Regional Food Systems
  3. Addressing Consolidation in the Food and Agriculture System
  4. Investing in Organic and Sustainable Research
  5. Providing More Support for Beginning and BIPOC Farmers

The FFNSA shifts money away from critical conservation programs.

While OEFFA is glad to see Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funds secured in the conservation baseline, the FFNSA falls short in its potential to promote practices that address the climate crisis and support resilience. By removing climate sideboards—and later blocking an amendment that would restore them—the House draft would move funds away from time-honored and cost-effective ecological practices. It would also make it harder for farmers using these practices to access already oversubscribed programs. 

OEFFA wishes to see a final farm bill that keeps the climate sideboards and maintains all IRA funding in oversubscribed programs, like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). 

The House draft farm bill misses an important opportunity to level the playing field.

To help combat consolidation in our food system, farmers of color and small and mid-sized, specialty crop, beginning, and organic producers must have access to farm safety net programs. OEFFA is pleased to see that the FFNSA would expand premium discounts for beginning farmers and veterans. However, the lack of common-sense reforms to the Whole Farm Revenue Protection program will continue to limit its utilization by diverse producers who sustain and nourish our communities and deserve an accessible safety net.

The House’s proposed 10 to 20 percent increase in reference prices benefits the largest conventional producers but does little to nothing for organic farmers or direct marketing farmers who do not benefit from these programs. As it stands, the proposal would not only dramatically increase commodity title spending, but also magnify disparities in farm safety net access. 

Lessons learned from the pandemic should bolster local food system resilience.

Our local and regional food systems can benefit from the FFNSA’s increased funding for GusNIP and the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. However, we are concerned those dollars will be taken from other critical nutrition programs. This is especially troubling because the increase in reference prices for commodity growers could cost up to $50 billion—with some of those dollars coming from new restrictions on future updates to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). An amendment to restore future updates for SNAP was also rejected in the markup.

Unlike the Senate’s proposed bill, the FFNSA disappointingly leaves out support for the Local Food Purchase Assistance (LFPA). The Food Box Pilot program mentioned will not invest in local food systems the way LFPA has. This program funds the Ohio CAN Program, which has been transformative for small-scale and diverse farmers trying to access wholesale markets. Helping small, direct-marketing operations scale up for wholesale markets is essential to long-term farm viability in Ohio. 

“The pandemic was a wake-up call that showed the frailty of our food system, but the silver lining was the initiatives that strengthened our local and regional food systems,” said OEFFA Policy Director Milo Petruziello. “It’s important that investments in these vital local food programs and technical assistance continue to bolster our local economies and keep our local food systems resilient for years to come.”

This bill overlooks the needs of the growing organic sector.

The demand for organic products is growing, and producers need support to meet this demand. Unfortunately, the House draft provides no new money for the National Organic Program (NOP) and organic cost share. This, in addition to no meaningful regulatory reform, will leave smaller organic farms without an important source of support. The NOP needs additional resources to enforce organic regulations, address fraud in organic supply chains, and make needed rule updates in a timely manner.

“Organic farmers want—and deserve—funding and resources that allow them to continue to provide economic, environmental, and health benefits for our communities,” Petruziello said. “The industry is rapidly growing, yet many organic farmers in Ohio still struggle with low prices and fickle markets because organic hasn’t received the same levels of public investments as other segments of our agricultural system.” 

We are thankful for our relationships with House Agriculture Committee members and hope that the markup process will result in a farm bill that does more to support OEFFA farmers, consumers, and communities. The FFNSA is a status-quo, partisan piece of legislation that underdelivers at a time when America’s producers need something transformative. 

Agricultural producers across the nation deserve a $1.5 trillion investment that promotes equitable access to farm safety net programs, supports the growing organic industry, strengthens our local and regional food systems, and equips producers with meaningful resources as they adapt to the changing climate. The Senate outline includes many beneficial policies for organic producers, small and mid-sized operations, beginning farmers, and farmers of color. We hope that members of both parties can come together on a final bill that supports these farmers. 


OEFFA
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
41 Croswell Rd.
Columbus OH 43214

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