The Farm Bill: The Power to Transform Our Food System
Despite its name, this legislation covers more than just farming – it sets policy for agriculture, food, and natural resources. The bill is reauthorized every five years, which means it’s currently set to expire on September 30.
The Farm Bill covers a wide range of topics, from commodity programs and crop insurance, to essential nutrition programs that provide food assistance to families, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It’s a complex piece of legislation that’s important to PHA’s work because it has a significant impact on the food system, the environment, and rural communities in particular.
As legislators begin to finalize what the Farm Bill will look like over the next 5 years, it’s important for all Americans to understand how some key pieces of the recommended legislation could impact our lives for years to come. Here are three key components of the Farm Bill that are being discussed, and how they can help build the foundations of a just food system.
The SNAP Nutrition Security Act: Improving Food Access for Americans
Increasing benefits provided by SNAP for families is perhaps the most important part of the Farm Bill. The SNAP Nutrition Security Act is a bill that would make a number of changes to the program including: making it easier for people to qualify for SNAP, increasing the maximum benefit, and expanding the types of foods that can be purchased using SNAP.
These changes would increase equitable access to good food. And the bill would also collect information critical to PHA’s work by tracking and reporting on SNAP purchases. This would deepen the understanding of how to improve access to foods that build health, and would help millions of Americans put more nutritious food on the table.
The GusNIP Expansion Act: More Fruits and Vegetables for Families
The GusNIP Expansion Act has the potential to significantly improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables for low-income families by expanding the already popular Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP).
The bill would help to increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in low-income communities by making it easier for farmers markets and other small retailers to participate in GusNIP programs. It would also make it easier for families to use their SNAP benefits to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, reducing financial barriers to healthy eating.
The bill would also support the development of new GusNIP programs that target specific populations, such as children, pregnant women, and people with chronic diseases.
The Fair Credit for Farmers Act: Supporting BIPOC Farmers
As PHA has seen firsthand in our work with farmers in the Mississippi Delta, Black farmers have been historically marginalized by unfair lending practices. The Fair Credit for Farmers Act would address this historical discrimination that BIPOC farmers have faced in accessing credit through federal government programs.
The bill would require the USDA to establish a program to review and correct any discriminatory lending practices, prohibit the USDA from denying a loan application based on race, ethnicity, or gender, and would require the USDA to provide technical assistance to BIPOC farmers to help them access credit.
It would also make it easier for farmers to get credit to start or expand their farming operations by creating a new loan guarantee program for BIPOC farmers, expanding the availability of direct loans to those farmers, and waiving guaranteed loan fees. The Fair Credit for Farmers Act would be a major step forward in addressing racial equity in the food system.
These are just three of the many important bills that are being considered by Congress as part of the new farm bill. Our country’s food system is a leading cause of the poor health outcomes millions of Americans are facing today, and the new farm bill is an opportunity to transform it to support all Americans. Share this information and let your elected officials know what you want to see in the new Farm Bill.