Since the expiration of the 2018 Farm Bill last fall, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association and our community partners have been hard at work advocating for a responsible, equitable farm bill. Through farmer-driven trips to Washington D.C., regular constituent meetings and more, CFSA continues to champion our ongoing farm bill priorities

Last week, the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee surprised everyone by releasing their 2024 farm bill proposal, titled The Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act. With provisions from more than 100 bipartisan bills, the proposal is not the actual text of the Senate farm bill but rather a pragmatic policy snapshot of what a Senate bill could look like. The proposal includes big wins for local food systems and organic farming:

  • Commits to reinvesting Inflation Reduction Act funding into four critical working lands conservation programs, permanently improving farmers’ ability to address the climate crisis. 
  • Sustains investments in local meat processing, expanding processing options for farmers by providing food safety resources, workforce development funding and expansion grants.
  • Permanently authorizes the Local Food Purchase Assistance program to purchase agricultural products from underserved producers, with a funding set-aside for Tribal communities. 
  • Includes needed improvements to the Whole Farm Revenue Protection program, removing barriers to existing farm safety net programs for beginning, small to mid-sized and diversified farmers.
  • Improves access to local foods using SNAP benefits, through investments in the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Programs and the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, as well as simplifying vendor applications for farmers and farmers markets. 
  • Protects funding for the farmer-driven Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. 
  • Reauthorizes and sustains funding for the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) program, which houses USDA’s flagship training and technical assistance programs.

While the full legislative text won’t be available for some time, this Senate proposal represents a promising glimpse into what a sustainable farm bill that protects resilient local food systems could look like. There’s still much work to do and while the bill contents will likely change, CFSA is encouraged by these visionary steps in the right direction. 
CFSA staff will continue to track farm bill developments in both the House and the Senate, but we need your help. Congress needs to know that the Carolinas are ready for a viable, sustainable farm bill. Contact your U.S. Representatives and Senators and encourage them to support the Senate’s farm bill proposal!