Sierra Club Farm Bill Priorities 2023

Below you will find Sierra Club’s priorities for the 2023 Farm Bill. With record investments in infrastructure, clean energy, and green jobs, we have set an ambitious goal of implementing programs and policies that cover a wide range of issues in this Farm Bill. In addition to the priorities outlined in this document, we would also like to see the $20 billion investment from the Inflation Reduction Act in agriculture and conservation technical assistance programs protected in this Farm Bill. Acting on these priorities and implementing these programs and investments will make a real difference in peoples’ lives and will slash pollution, conserve our environment, boost community resilience, advance racial equity, support family-sustaining jobs, and bolster economic security.

Conservation: We would like to see increased baseline funding for conservation programs and the hiring of more NRCS and FSA staff to support farmers in accessing conservation programs and implementing environmentally sustainable projects. We would also like to see prioritized EQIP spending on projects that demonstrably improve the quality of the environment and expansion of the Conservation Technical Assistance Program to provide support through NRCS or other contracted service providers to PFAS-impacted farmers to update their farm management practices. Lastly, we encourage the investment in family-sustaining jobs that protect the environment and our communities by expanding the Civilian Conservation Corps.

  • Equity Issues: Include set-asides for research funding and increased funding to HBCUs and Tribal Colleges. Expand Tribal access to conservation funding to include traditional conservation practices that are not necessarily recognized by USDA and NRCS and allow Lands Held in Common and by Tribal entities to access conservation programs.
  • Grazing/Livestock: Exclude CAFO projects (e.g., manure lagoons, animal mortality) from EQIP and remove the 50% livestock set-aside.
    • Prioritize multiple benefit practices in conservation programs that emphasize diversified operations and grazing like soil health, water quality protection, water-retention capacity of soil, habitat protection, and reduced input use.
  • Pollinators & Native Plants: Expand the Solar Habitat Pollinator Program and require native plant usage, boost CRP funding and increase CRP Grasslands minimum acreage enrollment, and fight any bad pesticide riders. Implement the National Seed Strategy and require native plant usage in USDA programs.

Forestry and Lands: We would like to see the prioritization of protecting mature forests and old-growth trees from the impacts of climate change and commercial logging, and help mitigate the impact of climate change and pollution on frontline communities by supporting urban tree canopy and forestry projects such as the Neighborhood Tree Act.

  • Wildfire: Support efforts to protect communities in the wildland urban interface from wildfire. One of the most effective ways to keep communities safe from fire is to incentivize hardening of homes, such as using fire resistant building materials. We strongly support including language from the Wildfire Defense Act (from the 116th Congress) in this year’s Farm Bill.
    • Vegetation management must be informed by science and robust community input; focus on protecting older trees AND restore natural fire regimes by reducing tree density and removing small trees and brush in dry, fire-prone forests; prioritize work near communities to protect human safety.
    • Indigenous peoples have used fire to manage landscapes and cultivate food, medicines, and other necessities since time immemorial. Western land managers have much to learn from indigenous scientific and ecological knowledge.
  • Public Lands: Put together a bipartisan package of wilderness designations and lands protection bills that: includes bills such as the Virginia Wilderness Additions Act and Land Between the Lakes Recreation and Heritage Act and others; establishes the Craggy National Scenic Area in North Carolina; and includes protections for parts of the Shawnee National Forest in Illinois, in the Farm Bill.

    Regenerative Agriculture
  • Improve and increase funding for conservation programs, promote regenerative organic agriculture, and reduce water pollution. This includes moving away from funding industrial corn, soy, and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
  • Lower barriers to SNAP benefits, boost funding for local food promotion, sourcing programs, and procurement.
  • Support small, BIPOC, and beginning farmers and ranchers through land access, debt relief, support for PFAS-impacted farmers, and integrating the Justice 40 Initiative into the USDA's programs.

Water Conservation: Improve water quality and soil health by encouraging farmers to plant cover crops, prioritizing the protection of drinking water, and driving climate-smart agriculture practices through new soil health initiatives to sequester carbon.

Stop Toxic Sugar Field Burning: The Federal Sugar Program in the Farm Bill provides an opportunity to address the environmental injustice and health impacts on frontline communities. The solution of green harvesting can further climate change mitigation, the creation of new sources of fossil-free energy production, and the creation of green family-sustaining jobs. This win-win solution to the problem of sugar field burning is already practiced in developed sugar-growing nations, and this year’s Farm Bill provides an opportunity to modernize our domestic sugar industry to promote justice for all.

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