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Farm Bill 2023: Will There Be an Agrarian Revolution?

Farm Bill 2023: Will There Be an Agrarian Revolution?

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A monumental package of legislation stands poised to redefine the fabric of the U.S.’s farmlands, foodscape, and their relationship with the natural environment. The Farm Bill 2023 carries within its pages the seeds of transformation for the agricultural landscape, and promises to change how food is grown, distributed, consumed, and addresses environmental concerns. However, given the polarized political climate in Congress, there is skepticism that Congress will be able to reach an agreement by the September 30 deadline to pass the Farm Bill. Is an agrarian revolution on the horizon, or is it destined wither in the fields of division?

Farm Bills have been the backbone of domestic U.S. agricultural policy since the first Farm Bill in 1933, influencing everything from crop subsidies and conservation efforts to nutrition programs and rural development. These bills have shaped the very essence of agriculture in the U.S., affecting millions of farmers and consumers. Negotiated approximately every five years, this year’s Farm Bill – if it incorporates the wealth of aspirational change – aims to do more than offer a continuation of its predecessors; it aspires to be a beacon of a progressive, sustainable, and inclusive agrarian future.

At the forefront of the Farm Bill lies an ambitious commitment to environmental stewardship. Climate change has cast a long shadow over the agricultural industry with issues of soil degradation, water scarcity, biodiversity decline, and extreme weather events posing existential threats to farming communities. For farmers, this means productivity dwindles for both crops and livestock. Recognizing these threats, some advocates are calling for substantial funding for research and implementation of eco-friendly practices as part of a push toward “climate-friendly” agriculture. From promoting regenerative agriculture to incentivizing carbon sequestration and investing in clean energy solutions for rural areas, the Farm Bill could represent a stride toward cultivating sustainability and safeguarding the soil for future generations.

As the U.S.’s urban populations continue to grow in number, rural communities are often overlooked and marginalized. The 2023 Farm Bill could bridge the rural-urban technology divide by encouraging the adoption of advanced agricultural technologies. Some have called for further investments in the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) via the Farm Bill to provide greater voluntary financial assistance to farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses to drive improvements in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Others have similarly dreamed of investments in technology, albeit aimed at “reducing labor and chemical inputs and providing new solutions for sustainable livestock production.”

Furthermore, food security remains a pressing concern, with millions of Americans still struggling with hunger and malnutrition. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 10.2 percent (13.5 million) of U.S. households experienced food insecurity at some point during 2021, which was relatively unchanged from the 10.5 percent in 2020. The 2023 Farm Bill could adopt a comprehensive approach to addressing food insecurity by fortifying nutrition assistance programs and making them more accessible to vulnerable populations, and by promoting healthier food options. Moreover, the bill could emphasize support for local food systems, connecting farmers directly with consumers and reducing reliance on long and complex supply chains. By nurturing a resilient food ecosystem, the legislation can ensure Americans do not go to bed hungry.

Beyond domestic implications, the bill could set a new benchmark for international agricultural policies. As one of the largest economies, the U.S. has the potential to shape and influence global agricultural practices, which are currently in murky waters given the ongoing war in Ukraine. At least one organization has called for Congress to support numerous global nutrition assistance programs to tackle “acute and chronic hunger and malnutrition,” including Food for Peace Title II, the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust, and the Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer Program. The same organization has called for increased research and development in global food security, which has been echoed by other advocates.

Overall, the 2023 Farm Bill has the potential to be more than an ordinary legislation; it could be a catalyst for an agrarian revolution. Within its potential provisions lies the promise of sustainable farming practices, empowered rural communities, food security for all, and an agricultural landscape imbued with innovation and a global competitive edge. However, the Farm Bill will only likely come to fruition if bipartisanship can be achieved. Fiscal conservatives are seeking to “slash spending” on nutrition assistance and conservation, and others are seeking greater investment in “climate-resilient agriculture” to support sustainable agriculture methods. For some, the current legislative drafts do not do enough to endorse change. A notable alternative, the Food and Farm Act, has been proposed to “redirect billions of dollars away from subsidies for commodity farms towards programs that support small farmers, climate-friendly agriculture and increasing healthy food access,” and “food waste management and animal welfare.”

The current legislation expires at the end of September. In the event that Congress fails to meet the September 30 deadline to pass new legislation, they can vote to “temporarily extend the most recent 2018 Farm Bill,” which will maintain some funding, but programs requiring annual funding approval will be left out to dry. And although it appears that there are “common denominators” shared by lawmakers, the issue of allocating funding remains and the limited funding could be the stick in the sand that prevents an agrarian revolution coming to life.


Climate Security in Focus is a blog series dedicated to exploring key elements of climate security that impact American interests both at home and abroad. The series aims to examine specific aspects of climate security issues in order to better understand climate policy challenges, facilitate conversation, and generate ideas