Dear Rebecca,

Welcome to the March 2021 edition of The Buzz. The path of the next four years of food and agriculture policy is starting to take shape as the new presidential administration settles in, and important agency positions are filled and cabinet nominees, including the new, and former, United States Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack have been confirmed (more on that below).  

Congress agreed to another COVID-19 relief bill, which included direct relief to farmers who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color support that would allow expansion of online Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding for the farm-to-food box-program, increasing food system infrastructure, and more. National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has a nice summary.

With that legislation in the rearview, the attention of Congress will turn towards climate, racial equity, and the distribution of COVID-19 relief, as we move closer to the 2023 Farm Bill, which is just around the corner. Stay tuned!

In solidarity,

Nick Wood, CFSA Policy Director

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Here are the top reads from CFSA's policy team
Matt Kneece, South Carolina Policy Coordinator

Grassroots Victory on S.C. Hog Legislation
Between a changing climate, market uncertainties, and more, farmers face a wide variety of challenges to maintain their way of life. In South Carolina, and throughout the U.S., feral hogs pose yet another problem—often destroying farmers’ crops in a single night. Legislation currently making its way through the S.C. State House attempts to crack down on the feral hog problem, but until recently, was doing so at the expense of the small hog producers.
Initially, the bill would require all hogs transported on South Carolina roads would need to be tagged and registered, creating an incredible burden for small-scale farmers and livestock producers. After substantial grassroots pushback, H. 3539 has been amended to simply require “an official form of identification,” potentially something as simple as a bill of sale or travel itinerary, and discussions are still ongoing. Local farmers still have a voice, and change can happen when they raise it!

Jared Cates, Community Mobilizer

How Dirt Could Save the Planet

The impact of soil degradation was seen firsthand by Americans during the disastrous Dust Bowl of the 1930s, caused by a combination of drought and bad farming methods. High winds sent choking dust across the Midwest, even reaching New York City, Washington DC, and Boston. These dramatic impacts were impossible to ignore and led to new federal agricultural policies and the creation of the Soil and Water Conservation Service, now known as the NRCS. 

While we currently do not have the drastic visuals of whipping dust storms riling up public opinion for drastic policy change, agricultural practices are still the leading cause of soil erosion—and a significant contributor to climate change worldwide. Farming practices that increase carbon sequestration in soils improve farming outputs while mitigating these negative impacts. Questions about how we change state and federal policy to encourage and subsidize those practices are at the core of many recent conversations on CFSA’s Policy Team.

This article from Scientific American goes into the details on how dirt, or actually soil, could help to save the planet, and acknowledges that the “stakes are too high to ignore the soil.”

Nick Wood, Policy Director

What Can We Expect from Tom Vilsack, Part 2?

Former United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack was recently confirmed for his second stint heading the department. It has only been four years since the secretary last served, but much has changed and there is a great deal of speculation about what promises to be a very different USDA in the next four years. 

Two points of emphasis are expected to be racial equity and the role of farmers in mitigating climate change. Secretary Vilsack was criticized for his approach on both issues during the Obama Administration. If nothing else, it will be worth watching how the USDA grapples with the agency’s history of racial discrimination, the advancing threat of climate change, and the role of farmers in finding solutions. Check out this great article from Politico for more information. 

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