Washington, D.C. – A group of more than 20 agricultural groups met earlier this month to march on the U.S. Capitol and promote climate solutions and underserved farmers as priority issues for lawmakers in the upcoming farm bill. During the three-day “Rally for Resilience” from March 6–8, 2023, attendees met with lawmakers and hosted a demonstration at Freedom Plaza. The Farm Bill is a multi-year omnibus spending law that authorizes an array of agricultural and food programs, including federal crop insurance, food stamp benefits, international food aid, and farm resource conservation. The roughly $500 billion bill is renewed every five years and includes mandatory spending that must be in line with previous farm bills. The legislation is due to be renewed this year. Speakers at the Rally for Resilience urged legislators to include regenerative agriculture in the future farm bill in order to help farmers become part of the climate solution in the face of deteriorating growing conditions.
Regenerative agriculture seeks to create a healthier soil ecosystem that captures carbon dioxide, making it more resilient to climate change. Democratic U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna of California joined march organizers, saying corporate consolidation of farmland and “monopolistic concentration of power” had hampered farmers’ capacity to contribute to climate solutions. He hailed his recently presented Farm System Reform Act as a potential instrument for limiting some of these business models by lowering carbon emissions, enhancing soil health, and creating economic opportunity for small-scale farmers.
Improved land access and support for underserved farmers
One of the issues highlighted at the rally was the need for improved land access and support for underserved farmers, such as those who are people of color, women, and veterans.
As the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition explains, farmers from historically underserved communities often lack access to credit and technical assistance, which makes it harder for them to start and maintain successful farm businesses.
The coalition is calling on lawmakers to provide targeted support to these farmers in the upcoming farm bill, including funding for land trusts, farm-to-school programs, and local food systems.
“We need to make sure that the farm bill is equitable for everyone, no matter what race or background you come from,” said Angela Dawson, the fourth-generation Black farmer from Minnesota. “Farmers of color, women farmers, veteran farmers—we need to be included in the conversation and we need to have a seat at the table.”
This is not the first time farmers have mobilized to protect their livelihoods. In the 1970s, farmers protested against policies that led to price declines and foreclosures. While their protests garnered attention, they did not receive the level of support they desired. Today, farmers are facing issues of climate change and racial justice, leading to a modern farm movement that advocates for regenerative agriculture practices to reverse environmental and social damages caused by industrial-scale agriculture.