The Farm Bill is up for reconsideration this year. Reviewed every five years, it’s a pivotal piece of legislation. The first round of Farm Bill hearings gets underway today, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on the developments.

What happens to the Farm Bill greatly impacts what we eat, what food costs and how safe our food is. It also affects international trade and climate change policy. Just in the past year, we’ve seen the devastating effects of food crises around the world – from Somalia, where thousands perished during the famine, to South Sudan, where worsening hunger threatens a massive food crisis. The new Farm Bill must respect the environment and help secure access to healthy food and clean water, in the United States and worldwide.

Unfortunately, insight into the deliberations already reveals a likely cut of 7 million acres from the Conservation Reserve Program. This decision would lead to 11.6 million metric tons of carbon that, usually absorbed by soil, would instead be released into the atmosphere, worsening the climate change threats of drought and famine.

But some have already pointed to two pieces of legislation worth rallying around: the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act that would invest in younger, sustainability-focused farmers and the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act of 2011 that would support small farmers and the local food movement.

The new bill will have to be ready by this summer in order to be passed before the 2008 version expires in September. As deliberations continue, we must demand a Farm Bill that supports sustainable development, addresses a worsening climate crisis and secures access to food for all.

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