Diana Eisman Greenhouse Groundbreaking at Stowe Farm
Cultivate KC recently teamed up with fellow members of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), Kansas Rural Center and Missouri Coalition for the Environment, as well as the Greater Kansas City Food Policy Coalition to host a Farm Bill Success Stories event. This bi-state, bi-partisan event brought together Members of Congress and their staff, state and local elected officials, and local farm and food system supporters to celebrate regional successes that came out of the 2018 Farm Bill and advocate for policy reforms needed in the 2023 Farm Bill to sustain this work.
Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II (MO-5) welcomed the full house to Vine Street Brewing Company. He wrapped up saying, “I’ve never voted against a Farm Bill in my 19 years in Congress, but when you start taking away SNAP or making people prove that they’re poor enough to receive it, I’m going to fight it. Poor people need an advocate. The rich are always going to get things out of the farm bill. And when you look at the subsidies, the subsidies are taking care of the huge farms and the small farms are in trouble.”
Tom Buller, Executive Director of the Kansas Rural Center and a farmer in the Lawrence, KS area, introduced everyone to the 530-page, 428-billion-dollar Farm Bill in two minutes. He said, “Calling such a huge piece of legislation the Farm Bill is a misnomer. It should really be called the Food and Farm Bill… If you eat food, the Farm Bill is important to you.”
The featured success stories included the creation of the Office Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production, the new Regional Food System Partnership Program, the expansion of the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentives Program, improvements to grants under the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program, and the reauthorization and budget increase for Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education.
Guest speakers included:
We also heard reflections on the Farm Bill from Representatives Sharice Davids (KS-3) and Mark Alford (MO-4), both members of the House Agriculture Committee. Representative Davids said, “Every single one of us is impacted in one way or another by getting the Farm Bill passed. And sometimes people get pitted against each other for lots of different reasons.” She went on to paraphrase an idea she heard from Lydia Nebel while visiting the KC Farm School, “Small farmers are not trying to edge anybody out or make it so some people don’t have access to the Farm Bill and some people do. We’re trying to make sure that everybody has a chance to make use of the programs that are included in the Farm Bill.”
Representative Alford talked about his view of the three legs of the Farm Bill stool, “First, providing farmers, ranchers, and producers – and that includes you – with the safety nets to get the job done. Second, feeding our nation – the SNAP program is now 81% of our Farm Bill. We have to make sure that if you are hungry in America, and you are not able to work, that we help you out. The third leg is conservation. We have got to be good conservators of our land. If we don’t have healthy land, healthy water, healthy sky, then we can’t grow the food we need to feed the nation.”
Melissa Vatterott, Policy Director with Missouri Coalition for the Environment, closed out the night with a call to the Members of Congress to co-sponsor four priority marker bills for the 2023 Farm Bill.
Underlying each of these marker bills are NSAC’s 2023 Farm Bill priorities – invest in healthy communities, advance racial equity, build a climate resilient future, and level the playing field for small farmers – which we are all working towards in the upcoming Farm Bill.
We encourage you to reach out to your Senators and Representatives to amplify the call for co-sponsorship of these four bills, along with several other priority marker bills to support the priorities outlined above.
Thank you to Daniel Robinson with Groundwork NRG for assisting with outreach to Members of Congress and speakers. Huge thanks to Vine Street Brewing Company, Missouri’s first Black-owned brewery that opened in the 18th & Vine District of Kansas City, Missouri in July 2023, for hosting the event, and also to Chef Shanita McAfee-Bryant and her team at The Prospect KC for preparing a delicious farm-to-table spread. The beer and food were enjoyed by all.