The Farm Bill Buzz Has Begun!
The Farm Bill—a massive piece of federal legislation—is up for renewal in 2023. It is still months away, but buzz for the bill has already begun. The Farm Bill will face months of revisions and deliberations before Congress votes on it next year, and we must ensure that it includes important protections for farm animals and pets.
What Is the Farm Bill?
Renewed every five years, the Farm Bill identifies national agricultural priorities and reaffirms the operating procedures of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Because the USDA is charged with enforcing the Animal Welfare Act, critical animal welfare matters like protecting horses, preventing puppy mill cruelty and establishing humane living conditions for farm animals are embedded in this bill.
The first Farm Bill was drafted nearly a century ago in 1933, in the wake of the Great Depression. The U.S. economy had plunged, and low commodity prices were causing farmers to overproduce crops like corn and wheat to make a profit. To make matters worse, severe drought and dust storms during the historic Dust Bowl period magnified the crisis. The Farm Bill was introduced as a lifeline to farmers, financially incentivizing them to reduce production and sell excess product to the American government. With these harvested crops, the government bolstered food programs, alleviating hunger and giving the land time to heal.
The Farm Bill has evolved to dictate how our food and farm systems operate and how funding is allocated, but over time, the lobbying power of industrial agriculture has manipulated Farm Bill spending to benefit its own bottom line. As a result, the Farm Bill has a reputation for underwriting corporate profits in lieu of funding worthy and environmentally friendly food systems from healthy and more humane sources. Money is typically directed to farmers through subsidy payments, and most of the payments are funneled to Big Agriculture, an industry dominated by animal cruelty and greed.
Today, only about 25% of U.S. farmers receive subsidy payments from the Farm Bill, and of those, a mere 10% of farmers account for 75% of the total payments. Even programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, created with the intention of helping farmers protect the environment, have been implemented in ways that continue to support and fund factory farms.
What You Can Do
Together, we can advocate for a Farm Bill that reflects our values and vision of a brighter future for food production and farming. The bill should also advance other policies and programs that promote the welfare of horses and companion animals. With nearly $500 billion in federal spending at stake, we must prevent the Farm Bill from continuing to support practices that cause animal and human suffering and damage to our planet.