Farm Bill 101 – Grow Montana

Jul 25, 2023 | Grow & Tell - Stories

What it is, Why it’s important, and How Grow Montana is Contributing

Grow Montana is the statewide coalition that works on food policy and related issues at the state legislature, as well as advocates for food access programs, farmers markets, and small & mid-scale producers. Formed in 2005, the coalition has mostly focused on Montana-based priorities. For the first time, the coalition is stepping into the national forum by providing advocacy and input on the US Farm Bill. 

What is the Farm Bill?

The Farm Bill is a large packet of legislation passed about every five years. It is the primary federal legislation impacting agriculture and food policy in the United States. It is organized into 12 sections called “Titles”:

  • Title I – Commodity Programs
  • Title II – Conservation
  • Title III – Trade
  • Title IV – Nutrition Programs 
  • Title V – Credit
  • Title VI – Rural Development
  • Title VII – Research and Related Matters
  • Title VIII – Forestry
  • Title IX – Energy
  • Title X – Horticulture
  • Title XI – Crop Insurance
  • Title XII – Miscellaneous

The 2018 Farm Bill expires Sept. 30, 2023, but the new bill may not be passed by that deadline. Much of the draft language for the 2023 Farm Bill has already been proposed via “marker bills”, which may later be folded into the larger Farm Bill.

There are 5 stages in developing the new Farm Bill: Input, Writing, Passing, Funding, and Implementing. We are approaching the passing stage of the 2023 Farm Bill, and many groups have developed recommendations to include in the new legislation. 

Why is the Farm Bill Important?

Many of the programs included in the Farm bill impact the public, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), grant funding for farmers markets, and programs for soil health. The Farm Bill also provides subsidies to agricultural corporations and commodity farmers. With the passing of each new Farm Bill is an opportunity to expand important programs and change policies so they better serve local food systems. 

Congress passed the first Farm Bill in 1933 in response to the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl to help reverse widespread hunger, low crop prices, lack of infrastructure in rural communities, and dangerous destruction of the soil. It included programs for environmental restoration, hunger relief, research, economic programs, and government purchased commodity crops. Some of these programs still exist today.

Over the next several months, Grow Montana will be providing advocacy and learning opportunities about the Farm Bill, so keep an eye out for more information about virtual sessions, toolkits, and opportunities for action.  Until then, check out this excellent video from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to learn more about the US Farm Bill, “From Seed to Plate”.

Learn more about Grow Montana and the work they’re doing with the Farm Bill by visiting their website.

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