A form of advocacy that almost everyone can participate in: write your legislator!
The Food Policy Council and Committee Members recently coordinated a 2023 Farm Bill letter-writing campaign. Our vision is to create a resilient regional food system, and the 2023 Farm Bill can support this! Our letters are unified in the message of regional resilience, and members' letters speak to each person's individual priorities and stories within that vision.
Each Committee brainstormed Farm Bill priorities to spotlight. Our Committees are named after our four topics of interest: Farms and Land Use, Infrastructure, Access and Education, and Institutions. Each Committee devised three or four priorities within the topic of interest. You can read about the Committees' priorities in the Farm Bill Issues to Solutions document below!
We are excited that we were able to come together as a Council but advocating for a resilient regional food system isn't just for Council and Committee members. You can write a letter and advocate for a Farm Bill that represents similar priorities, too! The Farm Bill is set to be reauthorized by the end of September (although it might end up taking longer), so you still have time.
Writing a Letter: Where to Begin?
Step One: Find Your Legislator
Do you know your federal legislators? If you don't, you can follow the button below to find them! You can also learn more about all eleven federal legislators in our ten-county region by reading our Farm Bill Letter-Writing Guide document below.
When you look up your federal legislator, glance at the Senate or House Committees they serve on! Why? Because the Senate or House Committees reflect the legislators' priorities.
Your letter's messaging should be adapted to your audience. If you are writing about the Farm Bill, but the legislator does not serve on the Committee on Agriculture, then you want to explicitly connect their committee roles and other known priorities with the Farm Bill to highlight the correlations for them and drive them to action. For example:
Example of a Relevant Issue from the Farm Bill Titles
Special Committee on Aging
The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program is a supplemental nutrition program to help aging people.
Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship
Small family farms and farmers markets as hubs for entrepreneurship.
Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance, and Investments
Natural disasters impact the cost of crop insurance, so there is a need for disaster readiness to avoid increased rates & payouts for insurance.
Subcommittee on Rural Development, Energy, and Supply Chains
Title 6 of the Farm Bill (Rural Development) connects the need to strengthen the economy of rural areas through things like Utility Supplies, the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), and broadband access.
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Food is transported, stored, and handled as it travels from farmers to consumers, so the infrastructure is essential to the food system.
Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Supplemental nutrition incentives help support healthy kids and seniors.
Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness
Title Seven focuses on agriculture research, and the USA can strive to be better than global competitors by outpacing others in agriculture research.
Committee on Financial Services
Title Five (Credit) and Title Eleven (Crop Insurance) are two Farm Bill topics that align with the overall work of the Financial Services Committee in the House Chamber.
Step Two: Choose Your Priorities and Calls-to-Action
An effective letter is personal and appeals to its audience. We recommend that letters are written in the following format (borrowed from the Kentucky Food Action Network's advocacy tools):
Story + Data + Call-to-Action
Both the letter writer and the letter reader can relate to this format.
Some things to consider when writing a letter in this format are:
The story demonstrates the issue and the individual(s) the issue impacts. A good story has three parts: a story of self, a story of them, and a story of us.
The data supports the anecdotal story with numbers and other quantitative information that convey the big picture. It is essential to reference any of your sources (but it doesn't have to be in a formal, academic-style citation!).
The call-to-action addresses the issue that the story and data present, with tangible solutions the legislator can support, such as cosponsoring a marker bill or supporting a specific recommendation that a variety of sustainable food and agriculture organizations have suggested (which are outlined in our Farm Bill video series).
To know which call-to-action you will advocate for, you must know which issue you want to address. The issue can be broad (like the need for more regenerative agriculture research funding) or specific (like the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovation Programs needs equivalent mandatory funding from the 2023 Farm Bill rather than just appropriations funding).
You may already know which issue you want to spotlight in your Farm Bill letter. However, knowing where to start can be tricky. You are welcome to borrow from the three or four broad Farm Bill priorities each of our Committees agreed upon.
If you need assistance choosing your issue and a potential call-to-action, you can utilize our Issues to Solutions document (linked above). The dropdown menu below spotlights the broad priorities for each Committee.
Access & Education Farm Bill Priorities
Utilize existing programming like SNAP and farm-to-school as opportunities to connect food access and food education so children and their families can learn how to grow and use the nutritious food they receive.
Support and strengthen nutrition programs like SNAP, GusNIP, and the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) through additional funding and programming management since these specific programs can help get more fresh produce to consumers.
Demonstrate the clear link between farmers markets and nutrition programs to emphasize that the connection supports both the farmers and the consumers in the region.
Connect the nutrition programs of SNAP, SFMNP, and GusNIP to Food As Medicine, since access to nutritious food can address issues around nutrition, vitamin deficiencies, and preventable chronic diseases.
Farms & Land-Use Farm Bill Priorities
Increase access to crop insurance for small to medium-sized specialty crop farming operations.
Require revisions to commodity and conservation subsidy programs that don’t incentivize landowners to leave agricultural land stagnant and unused.
Strengthen the federal conservation programs so the USDA prioritizes regenerative farming practices.
Infrastructure Farm Bill Priorities
Increase the access to USDA funding and grants for small to medium-sized farming and food hub operations so the system's navigation is more straightforward and more equitable.
Incentivize nutrition programs that support regional food systems and directly impact the economic resilience of small to medium-sized farms and the consumers who want to support them.
Strengthen regional supply chains so it is efficient and economical to get food from the producer to the consumer.
Institutions Farm Bill Priorities
Increase the volume of fresh (and preferably regional) produce going to institutions like food banks and schools through either purchasing or donations.
Analyze and support a regional response where consumers utilizing nutrition programs can feed their families nutritiously and appropriately while minimizing the impact on food banks and their partners when there are federal decreases in nutrition program benefits.
Ease the process for procurement of local produce and other fresh food by institutions through streamlining the distribution process, clarifying the labeling requirements, and amplifying access to the produce.
Step Three: Write Your Letter
If you want an example of a Farm Bill letter, check out this annotated letter below:
Please read the comments for additional guidance on the letter-writing process.
The sample letter is a bit long (ideally, it would be one page) but full of compelling data. Your letter can be shorter, emphasizing your personal story.
You can also write a letter in the form of a postcard. FPC has postcards available for printing, as linked below. The postcard includes prompts to make the letter-writing experience easier! All you need to do is write your message, address the postcard, and stamp it to send!
Why Does This Matter?
Legislators' jobs are to represent their constituents. If we, their constituents, don't voice what matters to us, the chance that legislation representing us will pass is slim. Letters and postcards are direct ways to communicate with your legislators, and multiple letters saying similar things impact the legislators' decision-making.
Food and agriculture aren't just issues for farmers, farmers market managers, or nutrition advocates. Food and agriculture impact every single person, as food moves through the food system from seed to consumption.
Let's work collectively towards building a resilient regional food system that supports us socially, economically, and environmentally.
What Is Next?
If you don't have time to write a letter, we'll have an opportunity for individuals and organizations to sign the backbone staff's cover letter about the Farm Bill. Keep an eye out on our social media, newsletter, and blog for when we post it!
🧑🌾 If you'd like to get more involved in our advocacy work, join a Committee!