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What is the 2023 Farm Bill
and What you Need to Know

The 2023 Farm Bill is the largest piece of packaged legislation in the U.S. government that funds the nation’s food and agricultural system, which impacts nearly every aspect of farmers’ lives and work, influencing what they produce, in what quantities, and the practices that they are able to implement on their lands. Thus, it impacts every American’s life as well.

The Farm Bill at present prioritizes conventional agriculture models first set in motion in the 1930s, allocating only 1% of the budget for educational, renewable, and regenerative solutions. 

In this article, we’ll review the history and present-day of the Farm Bill, details on the proposed Farm Bill for 2023, and how Regenerate America™ aims to bring regenerative, equitable solutions – with healthy soil and farmers at the center – into new legislation.

“Through the widespread adoption of regenerative agriculture, we can bring prosperity to rural communities for this generation and generations to come, while improving food and water security and strengthening our climate resilience. This is the bipartisan issue of our time.”

-Finian Makepeace
Co-founder, Policy Director & Lead Educator

What is the Farm Bill?

The Farm Bill is an omnibus bill that governs much of the US food and agriculture system. With provisions for nutrition, crop insurance, conservation, rural investment, land access, and more, the Farm Bill is one of the most important pieces of US legislation and has considerable ramifications for farmer livelihoods, national food security and access, and the environment. Renewed every 5-7 years, this upcoming 2023 Farm Bill will last through at least 2028.

The Farm Bill is developed and written by the Senate and House Agriculture Committees and is voted upon by both chambers of Congress. However, all members of Congress vote to pass the Farm Bill, and each member has the opportunity to influence the development of the Farm Bill by signaling their support for key issues through marker bills.

Farm Bill Spending

Each section of the Farm Bill is called a “Title.” The 2018 Farm Bill, named the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, had 12 titles, and funds were allocated within each Title (See Figure 1 below). This upcoming Farm Bill will dictate projected funding for the next 5-7 years. Below we will review the Titles of the 2018 legislation based on funding – these will be recirculated in 2023’s bill. 

The Farm Bill sets the priorities of the U.S. agriculture system, often encouraging certain crops and production systems over others – for example, after Nutrition, the Crop Insurance and Commodities titles receive the next largest amounts of funding.

Farm Bill spending
Figure 1: Projected Farm Bill Funding from 2019-2023
Source: USDA Economic Research Service Based on Congressional Budget Office, Direct Spending Effects for the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill), December 11, 2018

Nutrition (75%)

Title IV, Nutrition: Provides nutrition assistance for low income households through programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The Farm Bill also helps 42 million Americans put food on the table through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), providing essential nutrition to families in need. In fact, over 75% of all Farm Bill funding goes toward SNAP and other critical nutrition programs like WIC.

Crop Insurance (10%)

Title XI, Crop Insurance: Enhances risk management through the permanently authorized federal crop insurance program.

At present, federal policy on agricultural risk management focuses primarily on taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance, a tool farmers in all 50 states can use to cover up to 120 crops after disaster or damage. Insurance for farmers across the nation responds to current-season market prices to determine coverage, losses, indemnities, and premiums.

The 2014 Farm Bill added more provisions for small and starting farmers, but many assert that more equity and accessibility need to be laid into the 2023 Farm Bill plans. Amendments include expanded access to conservation risk mitigation techniques, improved structure, and faster fund delivery.

Commodities (7%)

Title I, Commodity Programs: Provides support for major commodity crops, including wheat, corn, soybeans, peanuts, rice, dairy, and sugar, as well as disaster assistance.

The Farm Bill affects our entire food system – from how food is grown, what types of food is available, and who has access to it. For example, the Farm Bill reauthorization from 2018 subsidized commodity crops like corn and wheat which are often used in heavily processed food, while fruits and vegetable production did not receive subsidies – making produce comparatively more expensive than processed foods.

Conservation (7%)

Title II, Conservation: Encourages environmental stewardship of farmlands and improved management through land retirement and/or working lands programs.

Congress allocated $6 billion annually to conservation efforts, but many assert it is far from adequate. The Conservation Reserve Program, introduced in the 1985 Farm Bill, is a large initiative within the Title. It incentivizes landowners to put a portion of their acreage into conservation, particularly if they owned land that would lend to a productive wildlife habitat vs. crops. The CRP has faced acute challenges as funding has remained flat despite inflation, and acreage caps were scaled down. 

Other Titles (1%)

The following titles receive less than 1% of funding from the U.S. government:

Title V, Credit: Offers direct government loans to farmers/ranchers and guarantees on private lenders’ loans.

Title VI, Rural Development: Supports rural business and community development programs.

Title VII, Research, Extension, and Related Matters: Supports agricultural research and extension programs.

Title VIII, Forestry: Supports forestry management programs run by USDA’s Forest Service.

Title IX, Energy: Encourages the development of farm and community renewable energy systems through various programs, including grants and loan guarantees.

Title X, Horticulture: Supports the production of specialty crops, USDA-certified organic foods, and locally produced foods and authorizes establishing a regulatory framework for the cultivation of industrial hemp.

Title XII, Miscellaneous: Covers other programs and assistance, including livestock and poultry production and support for beginning farmers and ranchers.

How much of the Farm Bill goes towards Regenerative Agriculture?

The majority of U.S. soils are extremely degraded, with topsoil loss occurring at a rate of 5.6 tons per acre/year on agricultural land. The agriculture system in the U.S. does lacks support for the soil crisis, which has led us to:

  • A food crisis. The UN estimates we have less than 55 harvests left.
  • Farmer debt, increasing by 4% yearly 
  • Extreme floods, droughts, and fires due to low soil resilience and desertification
  • Water scarcity, from low water infiltration 
  • Extreme extinction due to low biodiversity, with over 27,000 species going extinct every year

With a $428 billion 6-year budget, the 2023 requested budget summary requested only $21 million to support key climate priorities within the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) (this includes the only mention of establishing soil health). 

When healthy soil is the foundation of American resilience, this is simply not enough. 

“Soil health-focused programs that help rebuild soils currently receive less than 1% of overall funding in the Farm Bill, which means that regenerative agriculture systems are currently not supported to the same extent that conventional agriculture is. In turn, the farmers and ranchers that are making the effort to build healthy soils are not supported in their work, and in fact can be discouraged from it.”

Finian Makepeace
Co-founder, Policy Director & Lead Educator

Regenerate America™ 2023 Farm Bill Policy Priorities

Regenerate America™ is an unprecedented coalition of farmers, businesses, nonprofits, and individuals from every corner of our country and all political stripes,  convened by the national soil health 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, Kiss the Ground. The Regenerate America™ Coalition will influence key policymakers in Washington, D.C. to robustly integrate regenerative agriculture into the 2023 Farm Bill, thereby empowering farmers & ranchers to rebuild our soil.

Here are our key priorities to influence various Titles in the 2023 Farm Bill:

Why is the Farm Bill So Important?

Healthy soil is the foundation of American resilience and prosperity, but today the majority of the soils we all rely on are severely degraded. If the Farm Bill empowers all farmers to adopt regenerative agriculture, we can rebuild our soils, our land, and our communities, bringing opportunity and security to this generation, and generations to come.

Regenerate America™ aims to ensure support for regenerative agriculture in the 2023 Farm Bill. By applying pressure to key leverage points within the agriculture system – education, infrastructure, and crop insurance, to name a few – we can create a system that works for farmers of all scales, but that rewards those that are doing better for the planet, the land, and the people.

Please email [email protected] for questions and to learn how to get involved.