DOSWELL—Farmers know that if they don’t have a seat at the table, their interests won’t be on the menu. As national leaders shape the 2023 Farm Bill, over 100 stakeholders pulled up chairs to discuss their priorities with Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th.
Every five years, the omnibus spending package expires and must be updated through a process where items are proposed, debated and passed by Congress. Farmers and agriculture industry leaders gathered at The Meadow Event Park
in Caroline County to discuss dozens of topics during Spanberger’s Farm Bill Summit, held in partnership with Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.
Now serving a third term representing Virginia’s 7th District, Spanberger is the only Virginian serving on the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture.
“I’m so excited this is a farm bill year—I’ve waited for this!” Spanberger said. As challenges to the farm bill emerge, “I want to know how we can best support our farm families, ag businesses, infrastructure, ag workers and economy.”
Andrew Walmsley, senior director of government affairs for American Farm Bureau Federation
, said Congress needs to pass a farm bill this year to ensure farmers have the risk management tools necessary to cope with extreme market volatility and record-high production expenses.
“Taking these opportunities to educate and inform lawmakers is critically important,” Walmsley said, especially with 260 new members of Congress who were not in office during the 2018 Farm Bill debate.
Title 2 of the current farm bill covers conservation programs that help farmers implement natural resource protection practices. U.S. farmers have voluntarily partnered with the federal government to enroll over 140 million acres into conservation programs. They currently receive financial and technical assistance to install resource preservation methods like cover-cropping, which enhances soil health and mitigates runoff.
Row crop farmer Jenna Miller of Miller Farms in Central Virginia said she participates in cover crop and nitrogen application programs, but has to pony up for nutrient management plans.
“It’s nice because of environmental benefits,” she said. “But it costs money just to go over it with someone, and the program doesn’t cover all those costs.”
Agricultural lands dominate the Chesapeake Bay watershed, said Adrienne Kotula, Virginia director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission
. Farm bill programs deliver $173 million annually for watershed protection, while Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania contribute $500 million into their state cost-share programs.
“If we’re going to hit our water quality targets, we need to see increased investment from the federal government,” Kotula said. “The Chesapeake States Partnership Initiative, established in 2022 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a vehicle for increased funding to help meet those goals. The $73 million allocated each year will enable us to get there over the next decade—a top priority for the farm bill.”
Media: Contact Connor Joseph
, representing Spanberger’s office, at 202-384-5425; Walmsley
at 202-406-3686; Miller
at 804-873-9196; or Kotula