"Farm Bill Journey" Commences with Senate Ag Committee Hearing in Kansas

The United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry held its first 2018 Farm Bill hearing in Manhattan, Kansas, on February 23, 2017, kicking off what committee chair Pat Roberts (R-KS) characterized as the “farm bill journey.”

The farm bill is a hefty piece of legislation passed by Congress every five years that sets the nation’s food and agriculture policies. Consisting of 12 major sections or titles, the farm bill sets the rules for commodity, conservation, trade, nutrition, credit, rural development, research, forestry, energy, horticulture, and crop insurance programs.

The current farm bill was approved in 2014, and Congress is now preparing to pass a new farm bill in 2018. Led by Senator Roberts and ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the Senate Agriculture Committee is holding hearings around the country to gather citizen input into the bill.

In Kansas, a panel of farmers, ranchers, bankers, and representatives from other rural groups gave testimony on their farm bill priorities.

The panel expressed unanimity on many issues, including:

  • Continued funding for conservation programs, particularly the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).
  • The importance of crop insurance as a “safety net” for farmers and ranchers.
  • The need to maintain free trade and access to export markets.

The panelists and senators did not state whether they had organic production, and they did not directly address organic agriculture or programs such as the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program.

CCOF-certified food maker Hilary’s Drink Eat Well, a company specializing in convenient and culinary foods made from real ingredients that are free from common allergens, attended the hearing.

“It was a great opportunity to engage in the national conversation about the future of our food and farm policy. We will submit a public comment on the importance of supporting organic in the 2018 Farm Bill and urge other organic businesses to do the same,” said Hilary Kass, who is responsible for Research and Development and Quality Assurance for Hilary’s Drink Eat Well.

The Senate Agriculture Committee will accept public comments until Thursday, March 2. Submit your comment by completing the required form at ag.senate.gov/farm-bill-input. For help submitting a comment or questions, contact jsooby@ccof.org.

CCOF will notify members when the committee sets the date and location for the next farm bill hearing, set to be held this spring in Michigan. 

CCOF attends California Farm Bill Listening Sessions

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is also preparing for the 2018 Farm Bill. CDFA Secretary Karen Ross hosted listening sessions throughout the state to gather farm bill priorities from stakeholders to present to California’s Congressional delegation.

CCOF presented testimony at the February 22 listening session held in Salinas, emphasizing issues of concern for organic agriculture including support for the National Organic Program, continued funding for the organic certification cost share program, ongoing investment in organic research and data reporting, support for specialty crops production, and improved organic crop insurance options.