Promoting common-sense policies for diversified food systems
After a lot of political wrangling, it looks like this really is the week for a vote on the Farm Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives!
As we alerted you last week, there are a lot of problems with the Farm Bill. But with over 100 amendments filed, we have the chance to make a few improvements!
Representatives from both parties have stepped forward to offer amendments that would:
  1. Restore the Conservation Stewardship Program, providing support for farmers who preserve and improve our soil, water, and air.
  2. Add the PRIME Act, providing greater access to local processing for small farmers, and thus better access to local meats for many consumers.
  3. Reform the Checkoff programs so that the farmers' tax dollars don't fund Big Agribusiness lobbying groups.
  4. Remove the prohibition on growing industrial hemp.
Even if you have taken action before, it's important that you call again this week!

TAKE ACTION: Call Your U.S. Representative

You can find out who represents you by going to or by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Please be sure to personalize your message ---  just a sentence or two about who you are and why you care increases the impact of your message!
Hi, I'm ______ from ___ [city].   I am a __________ [farmer, local food consumer, chef.]
As a constituent, I urge Representative ________ to vote yes on several amendments to the Farm Bill:
  1. The Massie Amendment No. 29, which would give states the freedom to permit the intra-state distribution of custom-slaughtered meat. This amendment addresses the severe shortage of processing facilities for small-scale producers in many areas of this country, providing more options for livestock farmers and the consumers who want locally raised meat.
  2. The Kind Amendment #36, which reinstates the Conservation Stewardship Program.
  3. The Brat-Blumenauer Amendment No. 71, which would reform the Checkoff Programs so that the money doesn't serve as backdoor funding for lobbying groups, and which provides some protections against the misuse of the money.
  4. Comer-et al Amendment 63, which would remove industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act, and places it under the USDA's jurisdiction as an agricultural commodity.
Please let me know where the Representative stands on these issues. My phone number is ______. Thank you.

Don't try to cover all of this in your calls with your legislators! Choose one or two points for each issue that you want to focus on.
Lack of inspected slaughterhouses is one of the biggest barriers for small-scale livestock producers. The lack of reasonable access to a slaughterhouse keeps some farmers from selling their meat at all. For many more, the distance they must travel to the slaughterhouse means significantly increased costs, as well as stress on the animal and lost time on the farm  ---   all of which means less supply and higher prices for consumers.
Current federal law prohibits the sale of meat from "custom" slaughterhouses, which are regulated by the states independently of USDA regulations.
Massie Amendment No. 29, the PRIME Act, would empower states to not only set their own standards for custom slaughterhouses, as they already do, but to allow the sale within their state of custom-slaughtered beef, pork, lamb, and goat to consumers, restaurants, and grocery stores.
Adding Amendment No. 29 to the Farm Bill would open opportunities for small farmers and improve consumer access to locally raised meats.

For decades, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) has provided funds to help farmers who choose to implement practices on their farm that promote long-term sustainability. This funding has enabled farmers to help promote healthy soil, water, air, and wildlife habitats that benefit everyone  ---   and, at the same time, improve the profitability of their operations. CSP covers over 70 million acres across the country and especially benefits family farmers who are invested in sustaining their land's productivity for generations to come.
Another program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) has also benefited many farmers in implementing stewardship practices. Unfortunately, it has also been used to provide government subsidies to the largest and most environmentally damaging operations, particularly Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Contrary to the original intent of EQIP, these factory farms have been able to use our tax dollars to build "manure management systems," subsidizing their harmful production practices.
The House Farm Bill eliminates CSP and replaces it with vague "stewardship contracts" inside EQIP. But these "stewardship contracts" retain very little of the important core elements of CSP, such as comprehensive whole farm conservation approaches and the eligibility requirement to reach certain environmental stewardship levels before enrolling. The bill opens "stewardship contracts" to be used by CAFOs.
At the same time, the bill cuts total conservation funding by nearly $1 billion. This means less funding in total, no funding at all for many important conservation measures, and the funding that is provided will more often go to factory farms!
The Kind Amendment No. 36 reinstates the Conservation Stewardship Program.
Under federal law, farmers of certain commodities (including pork, eggs, beef, and milk) are required to pay a portion of their sales into Checkoff funds. These mandatory fees are intended to be used to research and promote demand for those products. Campaigns such as "Got Milk?" and "Pork, the other white meat" are paid for by these taxes on farmers. Checkoff programs collect tens of millions of dollars from America's farmers and ranchers every year.
Nothing in the Checkoffs promotes local, organic, or sustainable production. To the contrary, the basic message is that all the foods are interchangeable commodities; conventional CAFO beef, imported beef, and the grass-fed beef from the farmer in your town are all rolled into "Beef, it's what for dinner."
Even worse, the dairy checkoff has used its funds for public ad campaigns and "educational programs" for dieticians that actively oppose raw milk access. It's not just the CDC and FDA working to convince Americans that raw milk is dangerous ---   it's also Big Dairy, using our own farmers' money to try to kill their businesses!
Moreover, these funds often wind up in the pockets of industrialized agriculture trade organizations. While they can't use the money directly for lobbying, the funding helps them grow by underwriting their overhead, travel costs, etc. ---   and then they are free to use their other funds to lobby against the interests of family farmers, such as by opposing country of origin labeling.
While the best solution would be to make the Checkoffs voluntary, the Brat-Blumenauer Amendment No. 71 is a very important step in reforming these programs. The amendment incorporates the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act, S. 741/ H.R. 1753, to prohibit lobbying, rein in conflicts of interest, and stop anti-competitive activities that harm other commodities and consumers.
It is legal to buy hemp products in the U.S., including hemp protein supplements, hemp clothing, and hemp seeds. It is not possible to get "high" from hemp, nor does it cross-pollinate with marijuana.
Despite these facts, it is currently illegal to grow hemp in most states. A provision in the last Farm Bill has allowed a few states to legalize the production of hemp for academic and research purposes, but it is still classified in the same category as marijuana!
Comer-et al Amendment No. 63 would remove industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act, and places it under the USDA's jurisdiction as an agricultural commodity.
Check out the information on our website at for more details on these and other issues with the Farm Bill.  

We need to change the rules that favor Big Agribusiness and Big Food over small-scale, local producers.  
Please consider  joining or making a donation  to FARFA to support our work to help independent family farmers and protect a healthy and productive food supply for consumers.