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Agriculture and Food System State Legislation: The SiX Hotlist 4/5/2021

Farmer equity, soil health, local meat processing, and preemption are current trends

This is the beginning of Agriculture and Food System bill tracking at the State Innovation Exchange (SiX). As we continue to grow this tool, we will add new issues to our bill tracking database.

The inclusion of bills in this list is not indicative of SiX’s support or opposition but rather is intended to provide an overview of some of the key legislative trends that we are seeing in state legislatures. This is not an exhaustive list of bills.

As is the nature of legislative language, the devil can be in the details; SiX can connect you with state legislators and local agriculture and food systems organizations.

Farmer Equity & Justice Bills

  • 19 bills have been introduced in ten states to advance farmer equity and access in the states.
  • Some legislators are taking components of the federal Justice for Black Farmers Act and working to advance a state counterpart.
  • In Illinois, Representative Sonya Harper has introduced two bills specifically to support Black Farmers. IL HR 6 passed the Agriculture and Conservation Committee on March 22, 2021.

Soil Health

  • Improving soil health can mitigate climate change.
  • States are attempting to put carbon back in the ground using a variety of legislative tools to incentivize climate-friendly agriculture practices.

Local Meat Processing

  • COVID-19 demonstrated how fragile the centralized corporate food supply chain is when shelves were empty while farmers were simultaneously dumping food that they couldn’t get to market.
  • States are working to localize meat processing to ensure farmers and ranchers have access to slaughter and processing and that communities have access to local healthy food.

Preemption & Right to Farm

  • Right to Farm laws are often used as a way to preempt local control and prevent local governments from regulating agriculture.
  • They can also be used to take away  citizens’ access to the courts if they have been harmed by agricultural practices.
  • Many feel that  Right to Farm laws are undemocratic and potentially unconstitutional.

Sign up for the CROP!

The Cohort for Rural Opportunity and Prosperity (CROP) serves as a virtually convening space for legislators who are working on policies that promote healthy and thriving rural communities through ecologically and socially-responsible agriculture and local, direct-market food systems.