This blog post was written by Kyla Kaplan and Tess Pocock, summer interns with the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic.
On Wednesday, July 19th, FLPC interns Kyla Kaplan and Tess Pocock along with their clinical instructor Nicole Negowetti, presented to attendees of the Delta Regional Forum as part of the Panel on Land, Food Systems, and Policy. The presentation, titled “What’s at Stake for Mississippi in the 2018 Farm Bill,” provided an overview of the structure of the farm bill as well as how changes to farm bill programs and funding will impact Mississippi and the Delta at large.
The purpose of the presentation was to provide a history of the Farm Bill, an overview of the Farm Bill Law Enterprise (FBLE) (including the four published reports), and snapshots of current Farm Bill programs that significantly impact Mississippi and the Delta region, including: SNAP and Nutrition, Conservation, and Support for Minority and Women Farmers. The presentation also discussed opportunities and challenges these programs face during the reauthorization process of the 2018 Farm Bill.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s largest food safety net, helping 41 million individuals access food annually. Currently SNAP serves 537,000 Mississippi residents, or 18% of the state population (1 in 6 individuals). Since SNAP serves so many in Mississippi and the Delta region as a whole, the added work requirements and physical barriers to access SNAP will greatly impact individuals.
Since the mid-1980s, the farm bill has contained conservation programs aiming to address the impact of agriculture on natural resources and the environment.These programs support anything from relieving land of production to supporting conservation practices on land currently being used. Two of the most important conservation programs–the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)–play a major role in the Delta region. For example, in Mississippi, the top 13 funded counties receiving EQIP and CSP were located in the Delta.
Minority and women farmers have had disproportionately less access to credit under decades of racist and sexist lending practices in USDA programs. As a result, many have lost the opportunity to own land and to transfer land to successive generations. Criticism surrounding USDA practices caused the agency to confront its structural inequities in cases such as Pigford. In response, the USDA has implemented programs that support beginning, women, and minority farmers, including the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, the Section 2501 Program, and the Microloans Program. In 2013, the year the Microloans Program was implemented, Mississippi was the number one state in the country to receive microloans.
The presentation concluded by discussing opportunities for the Delta region in the 2018 Farm Bill, including: enhancing SNAP, improving access to loans for socially disadvantaged producers, strengthening insurance programs for diverse production systems, and increasing USDA transparency in its lending practices.