Throughout history, shocks to society — from plagues to economic uncertainty to natural disasters — have catalyzed a reordering or reorganization of our food and agriculture systems. For example, famously, farm management decisions and agrarian policy changes in the 1930s led to the Dust Bowl. Exacerbated by economic depression, the Dust Bowl led to widespread hunger and unemployment, which gave us one of the most important pieces of legislation that shaped our farmland management, rural communities and food in this country: the 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA). The act was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of the New Deal. Today this legislation is commonly known as the farm bill, and it gets renewed every five years. I believe that these past shocks and disasters throughout U.S. and global history have allowed for a reorganization of our agriculture and food system.

Many of us thought the COVID-19 pandemic would be a once in-a-lifetime reorganization opportunity for our food system and society. As Naima Penimann reminds us: "In a state of emergency we can choose urgency or emergence," inspired by the writing of adrienne maree brown.

The farm bill is one of the most comprehensive ways to address agricultural and food issues in the United States. Despite its original intent to support conservation practices and stabilize the food supply chain across America, the bill has had dire consequences for Black farmers in the South leading to the decline of Black farm ownership. With the leadership of the Biden-Harris Administration, we are actually seeing long-term visioning and investments in the gaps that the pandemic made so apparent.

USDA’s announcement of an investment of up to $550 million divided between two programs for institutions and organizations to support land access and career pathways for the next generation agriculture professionals will create the tools our next generation needs to succeed in agriculture. This is how these proposed programs can affect young farmers:

  • Giving young farmers land access
  • Building out the government support staff for farmers 
  • Canceling student debt

Read the full article about next-gen farmers by Vanessa Garcia Polanco at GreenBiz.