Dear Senators Daines and Tester & Representatives Rosendale and Zinke,
With the development and drafting of the 2023 Farm Bill underway, we urge you to support a strong Farm Bill for Montana families and local producers and to build a resilient and reliable food system for consumers and producers alike. The Farm Bill impacts every Montanan; including families, college students, and seniors who utilize nutrition assistance programs, farmers markets that are seeking grants to expand their operations, and ranchers and farmers working to build healthy soil so all of us can access fresh, nutrient dense, healthy food in our local communities.
We, the undersigned, want to stress the immense impact the 2023 Farm Bill will have on the farmers, ranchers, growers, and producers we work alongside with, support, and serve in our efforts to expand Montana’s food self-reliance– from elevating Montana food production to processing and distribution, plus everything in between.
We ask you to support the following programs and priorities through your work advocating for funding and programs in the 2023 Farm Bill:
- Strengthen Food Security: The Farm Bill dictates the funding for important programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, Double SNAP Dollars, and more. People from all occupations rely on these programs, including working parents, college students, and seniors. We urge you to support and fund a strong Nutrition title that addresses barriers to accessing programs and maintains adequate levels of food assistance.
- Invest in Soil Health Research: Simply put, soil is where our food comes from, and ensuring that agricultural lands are sustained through good soil health practices is critical for future generations and climate mitigation. Specifically, increase research on soil health & regenerative agriculture practices, develop and support farmer/rancher peer learning networks, direct the United States Department of Agriculture to develop soil health measurement systems to advance research on agriculture climate impacts, and support the Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP).
- Increase Support for Farmers Markets: In Montana and around the country, farmers markets are essential operations that provide new market opportunities, and a way for new businesses to get their start while also providing food to their community. Many farmers markets are run on shoe-string budgets by volunteers, and for some markets, accessing federal grants is impossible because of the complex application process and the burdensome match requirements. Some changes we ask you to support: Improve Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) grants to make them simpler and more accessible for applicant organizations of all sizes, define farmers markets as essential infrastructure in the Critical Infrastructure Workers Guidance, and increase mandatory funding for the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program to $50 million per year.
- Improve Opportunities for Mid-Scale Farmers and Processors: The Farm Bill needs to shift its focus to the “missing middle” – mid-scale farmers and processors that support regional and local food security to reduce dependence on the global supply chain for critical food inputs. The shorter the supply chain, the more resilient and reliable the food supply is to system shocks from climate-related weather events and public health emergencies. We ask that you support the Local Food and Farms Act of 2023 and the Strengthening Local Processing Act of 2023 and make permanent the Meat & Poultry Intermediary Lending Program, Meat & Poultry Expansion Program, and Food Supply Chain Loan and Guaranteed Loan programs authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
- Foster Competition within the Farm Bill: The 2023 Farm bill needs to prioritize competitive and fair markets for producers. Fairness for farmers, ranchers, and growers is essential for reliable food security, food supply chain resiliency, and to level the playing field so farmers and ranchers have competitive markets to sell their products. Family farmers and ranchers need competitive and fair markets so they can keep family farms and rural communities thriving for generations to come. Corporate consolidation and control in agriculture is causing harm to producers and consumers alike by undercutting profitability for family farms and poses a significant risk for having resilient and secure food supply chains for American families. We ask that Congress create a Competition title in the 2023 Farm Bill to address this. We also urge you to reinstate mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for beef and pork.
Resilient local and regional food systems are both an investment in our shared future and an insurance policy against future risks, particularly those due to climate change. We thank you for your consideration of these critical issues and urge you to support family farmers, ranchers, growers, who are the foundation of resilient local and regional food systems.
(Signatures will be added here)