What Is the Farm Bill and Why Does It Matter?



The Farm Bill is the federal bill that has the greatest impact on how we produce and consume food in the US, and yet most likely do not know about the US Farm Bill at all.

As dedicated animal advocates, we often demand that our government pass and enforce stronger laws that protect animals. Many of us may not realize that one especially large piece of legislation has a tremendous impact on how animals are affected by our food system. Understanding the US Farm Bill and how its many complex components can impact farmed animals is integral to pushing for real change.

How does the Farm Bill work?

The Farm Bill is an enormous package of legislation (over 500 pages long!) that establishes how the government will prioritize and allocate funding for the entire American food system. It expires every five years, requiring Congress to review the bill, make changes based on new science and opportunities, and repass the bill by majority vote. While it’s collectively called the “Farm Bill,” each new bill is given a new unique name (The 2018 Farm Bill was titled the Agriculture Improvement Act). It goes through extensive deliberations and a long voting process in Congress, and it will be the law of the land for the next five years.

This bill impacts nearly every aspect of how food is produced and consumed in the US. It sets the funding amounts and requirements for programs involving support and training for farmers, insurance and assistance in disasters, farmland conservation and stewardship, food access for lower-income families, and nutrition programs.

Within each of these programs, there are myriad opportunities to increase protections for farmed animals and promote more plant-based foods.

How can this bill change the lives of animals?

In the US, 99% of animals raised and killed for food spend their lives on factory farms. Factory farming subjects animals to cruel conditions, exploits natural resources, and has catastrophic impacts on the environment and local communities. In recent years, the lobbying power of the meat industry has ensured that the farm bills heavily favor the animal agriculture industry and support factory farming. The 2018 bill, for example, increased the amount of government assistance and tax breaks available to the largest factory farms.

To challenge this trend, we must demand that Congress stop directing government funds to support the growth of cruel, heavily polluting mega-farms. Instead, the 2023 Farm Bill must increase funding for programs that prioritize plant-based foods, support farmers who are growing crops for human consumption, and fund conservation programs that protect and expand wild habitats currently threatened by agriculture. This is only possible if we make our voices heard and let our legislators know that these are issues that must be tackled.

Check out our unique Animal Advocates Guide to the Farm Bill, which outlines our asks of Congress and provides ways for you to get involved. It’s time we had a Farm Bill that protects, rather than exploits, animals, farmers, and nature.

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