Throughout February and early March, NFU was busy preparing for our annual convention. The convention was a success, with nearly 500 family farmers and ranchers and guests in attendance. Farmers Union delegates and members from across the country gathered to set NFU’s policy priorities for the year and heard from agricultural experts and political leaders on various issues facing American family farm agriculture.
Just before Convention, NFU enjoyed some time in the spotlight on Capitol Hill, with NFU President Larew testifying before the House Agriculture Committee.
From March 5-7, Farmers Union members, delegates, and friends from across the country met in San Francisco, CA for NFU’s 121st Anniversary Convention.
Convention programming highlighted the ability of Farmers Union members to create change at local, state, and federal levels. Featured speakers included U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, U.S. House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, and California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross, all of whom emphasized the importance of preserving American family farms, ensuring equitable and fair distribution of farm income, and empowering the next generation of agricultural leaders. President Joe Biden provided pre-recorded remarks on promoting competition in agriculture markets and the need for Fairness for Farmers.
Attendees heard from key players in NFU’s efforts to boost competition in agriculture markets. Tom Undlin, Partner at Robins Kaplan LLP, discussed how legal action can help spur greater competition and fairness in the food system. Kevin O’Reilly of the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) provided updates on our Right to Repair efforts to ensure farmers and ranchers have access to the tools and resources to fix their own equipment. Michael Kades, Deputy Assistant Attorney General with the Department of Justice discussed the Administration’s antitrust efforts. Dr. Glenda Humiston, Vice President of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of California, Davis, provided the keynote address, discussing how producers can collaborate with research institutions, state governments, and other partners to build a more competitive and resilient food system and rural economy.
Delegates debated and adopted the 2023 NFU policy book and approved three special orders of business. The special of order on Fairness for Farmers focuses on advancing NFU’s priorities to address corporate consolidation in agriculture. The special order on the 2023 Farm Bill calls on Congress to establish a dedicated competition title in the next farm bill, bolster the farm safety net, strengthen conservation programs, and maintain a strong nutrition title. Delegates also approved a special order on dairy policy reform, which calls on Congress to pass a farmer-led, incentive-based milk production growth plan to match milk supply with profitable market demand.
The special orders and the full 2023 policy book will be published at www.nfu.org/policy.
NFU PRESIDENT LAREW TESTIFIES BEFORE HOUSE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE
NFU President Larew testified before the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture for its first hearing of the 118th Congress. The hearing, titled “Uncertainty, Inflation, Regulations: Challenges Facing American Agriculture,” included a panel of agricultural leaders to provide insight into the biggest challenges facing farms across the country, as Congress gears up for the 2023 Farm Bill.
In his testimony, Larew detailed how key issues facing farmers and ranchers stem from consolidation and concentration in the food system. Reduction in competition in grocery retail, input markets, and processing have created major bottlenecks in America’s food supply chain. For example, just four companies control 85% of the market for beef, 67% for pork, and 53% for poultry. These large corporations have been raking in record profits while consumers are paying record prices at the grocery store and the farmer’s share of the food dollar remains historically low.
Larew emphasized the need for strong enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act (P&S Act) and voiced support for recent USDA P&S Act rulemakings to increase transparency in poultry and livestock markets and protect producers from unfair, deceptive, and retaliatory practices. Larew voiced support for the establishment of an independent office within USDA to investigate and prosecute abuses by corporate monopolies.
President Larew also stressed the need for regulations to be science-based, size- and risk-appropriate, and to provide for ample producer and community feedback. Recent regulations have created uncertainty for farmers and ranchers. Prominent examples include ongoing challenges concerning the definition of Waters of the United States (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act and issues related to the regulation of crop protection products. Larew also advocated for a strong Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) with future regulatory actions geared toward the growth and success of homegrown, clean fuels.
When it comes to uncertainty, one of the greatest challenges facing American agriculture is climate change. Shifting precipitation patterns, devastating droughts, and extreme weather events pose a serious threat to the operations and livelihoods of farmers. President Larew’s testimony emphasized the need for the expansion of climate-smart agriculture projects and the importance of voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs, which are critical for farmers to be part of the solution in the fight against climate change.
Larew fielded many questions from members of the committee, several of which were focused on Right to Repair. Larew stressed the need for legislation that ensures farmers and ranchers have the right to repair their own equipment.
FACA RELEASES 2023 FARM BILL PRIORITIES
In late February, the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance (FACA) released policy recommendations for the 2023 Farm Bill. FACA is a coalition representing food, agriculture, forestry, environmental, and other organizations with an interest in advancing bipartisan climate solutions.
What started as an informal dialogue between eight organizations, FACA has now grown to over 80 member organizations since it formally launched in 2020. NFU is a co-chair and founding member of FACA.
For the 2023 Farm Bill, FACA’s priorities cover six major categories:
- Conservation, Risk Management, and Credit.
- Food Waste.
- Livestock and Dairy.
- Research, Extension, and Innovation.
FACA’s farm bill recommendations call for the development of a comprehensive strategy to reduce emissions throughout food, agricultural, and forestry supply chains. These recommendations are grounded in the shared support by all FACA members for federal climate policies that are voluntary, incentive- and science-based, promote resilience and help rural communities adapt to climate change, and ensure equitable opportunities for all farmers, ranchers, and forest owners