While we’re hardly to the close of 2022, the 2023 farm bill is already top of mind for farmers and ranchers across the country. And for good reason—it’s one of the most significant pieces of legislation when it comes to support of farming. This bill plays a vital role in securing our nation’s food supply while ensuring food security for all Americans and promoting the sustainability of U.S. agriculture and vibrancy of our rural communities. We could more accurately call it a food and farm bill because whether you come from a rural community, a city or a suburb, it matters for you and your family.
At the American Farm Bureau, renewing the farm bill is our top priority, and we recently announced more than 60 recommendations for the 2023 bill. These priorities represent months of work and collaboration across Farm Bureau from grassroots members, leaders and staff from across the country. The AFBF board of directors unanimously approved the priorities, and we’ll be looking to Farm Bureau delegates at our annual convention in January to provide final direction in shaping our policy.
Among our top priorities going into 2023 is ensuring appropriate farm bill funding. This funding is an investment for all Americans, and there’s no question as we look at recent global events from the pandemic to the war on Ukraine, that protecting our nation’s food supply is vital to our national security. Agriculture does not take this national investment lightly either. Farm bill programs are market-oriented, thanks to reforms we have achieved with lawmakers over the last decade. The proof is in the spending: The fact that the 2018 farm bill farm programs have paid out less than projected is evidence of the responsible approach taken.
Another priority for us is to maintain a unified farm bill, and that means keeping nutrition programs and farm programs together. Why is that so important? Because it makes the most sense for a single bill to support the people who produce the food and the people who need assistance to access safe and nutritious food for their families. Few people have not been touched by tough times in one form or another over the last couple years. From rising inflation to natural disasters, many need support to hang on for the next season. The farm bill is that lifeline for many Americans through the nutrition assistance programs and for farmers and ranchers through risk management programs that are really part of our national security strategy by helping to secure our food supply.
The importance of maintaining risk management tools in the farm bill cannot be overstated. Federal crop insurance and commodity programs are critical for farmers and ranchers. No one buys insurance for the good times, and when you buy that insurance, you truly hope that policy will remain safely tucked away. But when the storms come, federal risk management programs are sometimes all that stand between farms and foreclosure.
The farm bill is also critical as we work together to build a bright future for agriculture. The farm bill is the largest source of funding for critical research that our country needs to fuel the innovation that will help us feed a growing population while taking care of our natural resources. Application must go hand in hand with innovation and that requires strong technical support from USDA helping farmers apply new technologies. But we’ve seen a disheartening trend when it comes to staffing at USDA to fulfill its mission. That’s why the 2023 farm bill must ensure adequate USDA staffing and resources to provide technical assistance.
This is just a sampling of the priorities that will be driving our advocacy at Farm Bureau around the farm bill in the coming months. I invite you to learn more on our website, where you can dive into all 60 of our recommendations and check out market impact analysis related to farm bill programs. I also invite you to be part of the conversation, whether that be at your county or state Farm Bureau in developing policy or engaging with your lawmakers on the importance of this legislation to your farm or ranch. We must get this 2023 farm bill right, and it will take all of us working together to ensure that our nation’s investment in our farms and food supply remains secure.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.