Upcoming Farm Bill may contain conservation funding elements
By Adam Livingston, SRT Director of Policy and Planning
With dramatic events abroad and political polarization at home, Congressional deliberation on the 2023 Farm Bill does not stand much chance to make headlines. But committees in both the House and Senate are preparing drafts of this trillion-dollar piece of legislation.
Originally enacted during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl, and generally updated at five-year intervals, the Farm Bill has wide-ranging impacts on our food system, from farmer training, agricultural practices and soil maintenance to crop insurance, food prices and nutritional aid for low-income families. And its programs play an important role in conserving farms and ranches and stewarding protected lands for future generations.
For example, SRT has used funding from the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) to purchase conservation easements from willing landowners. And we have received Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) grants to support sustainable approaches to land management on our preserves. Both grant programs are features of the Farm Bill.
Given the importance of these programs and the scale of our region’s need, SRT is working with a wide range of partners and coalitions to help inform this year’s Farm Bill. We have joined with the Land Trust Alliance, the California Roundtable on Agriculture and the Environment, and other groups to advocate for increased investment in conservation programs, as well as cost-sharing options, funding for project costs incurred by landowners, and other measures to make it easier for farmers to participate. A particular priority is reducing barriers for historically underserved landowners—an emphasis on equity that could help bring much-needed Farm Bill resources to the Southern San Joaquin Valley.
The timetable of this year’s Farm Bill update remains to be seen. A potential government shutdown looms, and even the initial drafts of the bill may not be released until later in the fall. (The previous update, in 2018, did not pass until the holiday season.) But however long it takes, SRT will be working with partners to support robust funding for conservation programs, and to bring that funding to California’s heartland.