Federal: Voices Needed to Impact the Farm Bill

Members of Congress are meeting in Washington to pass a new five-year Farm Bill. The Farm Bill is among the most important laws Congress makes. It authorizes important functions of the Federal government, including supplemental nutrition assistance, crop insurance, urban forestry, and conservation and local food programs. It is also used to advance more sinister initiatives like rollbacks to endangered species and clean water protections — rollbacks that are unpopular on their own.

This year, Congress is considering two different versions of the Farm Bill. The Senate version authorizes most water quality, urban forestry, and land conservation programs, improves local food programs, and excludes environmental protection rollbacks. It creates innovative support for local farmers through a new Local Agriculture Market Program. It also maintains critical supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) distributions, which benefit more than 42 million Americans including 1.8 million Illinoisans. Openlands supports the Senate’s proposed version of the Farm Bill.

The current House version, on the other hand, cuts $5 billion from working lands conservation programs and allows mining on already-protected farmlands and forests. It exempts pesticides from environmental reviews, prevents local governments from regulating agrichemicals, and guts the public process for protecting wilderness areas. If that was not enough, the House version ignores options to support new and local farmers. The House version also eliminates benefits for millions of SNAP recipients, as well as decreases distributions and increases work requirements for millions more. In short, the House Farm Bill is an all-out attack on our country’s bedrock environmental laws and low-income Americans.

We need your help to make sure that this Farm Bill represents the interests of our neighbors as well as our wildlife. Please contact your elected officials and ask them to protect the environment and Americans in need by supporting only the Senate version of the 2018 Farm Bill!

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More in-depth summaries are available from the American Planning Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.