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What to Know about Engaging in the 2023 Farm Bill

Every five years, Congress considers sweeping legislation that authorizes work within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This covers everything from nutrition to rural development to trade, and is an excellent opportunity to share policy ideas and build support for priority issues.

The Farm Bill must pass by the end of September (unless Congress passes an extension), and committees are rolling out hearings and beginning to deliberate text of the bill. If you haven’t already, now is the time to engage in the process.

Here’s a cheat sheet to engaging on the Farm Bill:

Know the right committees to engage. Farm Bill negotiations are led by the House and Senate Agriculture Committees with jurisdiction over USDA. You will want to share your ideas with committee staff and Committee Members. It will be key to find champions on the committee who support your issues and will fight for inclusion in the final bill. This is an excellent opportunity to engage and educate new members on the committee, as well as committee members who have not served on the committees during the last Farm Bill process.

Limit priorities. As you might imagine, there are a lot of groups engaging on the Farm Bill. To maximize your chances of success, determine your top two to three key priorities and begin sharing these policies with committee staff and personal offices.

Reduce costs of proposals where possible. Both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are committed to a flat (or close to flat) budget from the last Farm Bill. This means that the committees will prioritize changes to existing programs, but are likely not going to be keen to create new programs or increase authorizing levels for existing programs. Look to policies that strengthen existing programs through eligibility, technical assistance, and other methods that tweak rather than increase funding.

Link policy priorities to economic growth. Wherever possible, show how your policy priorities will create jobs, enhance local communities (especially in Agriculture Committee members’ districts), and reduce bureaucracy. Sharing case studies, as well as economic data that supports your cause, and pointing to specific provisions within the last Farm Bill that you would like to change will go a long way in cultivating congressional champions.

Do not stray far outside of core functions of the Farm Bill. Over and over again, we are hearing this is an evolutionary not revolutionary Farm Bill. Tweaking existing programs and prioritizing issues that are core to USDA’s purpose will go a lot further than moonshot ideas this time around.

Find like-minded groups. The more you can duplicate messaging on the Hill, the better off you will be. Finding likeminded groups – especially with geographical diversity – will help socialize your ideas on Capitol Hill and show unified support for specific policies. Joining and forming coalitions will be key to successful inclusion of different policy priorities.

Prioritize bipartisanship. Especially in the Senate, priorities that have bipartisan support will be prioritized against more partisan recommendations. Even better if a bipartisan duo can introduce a standalone bill early in the new Congress to garner additional support for the bill being included in the Farm Bill.

Start laying the groundwork for next Farm Bill. As of now, we expect the Farm Bill to have flat funding and limited revolutionary measures. That being said, real change takes time. If you have a moonshot idea, begin socializing the policy this Farm Bill. Aim for report language or small tweaks in the Farm Bill that lays the groundwork for big change the next go around. Change takes time, and often involves multiple shots on goal before policy is implemented.


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