It’s official – the wild blueberry barrens at Clarry Hill have become a Forever Farm,…
In the last of our series diving into our top 2023 Farm Bill priorities, we are expanding upon why the bill should include a federal safety net for PFAS-impacted farms and prioritize PFAS focused research.
Every five years, Congress drafts a new federal Farm Bill, which determines how billions of dollars are spent in our communities. The Farm Bill shapes what’s grown on the land and who grows it, conservation and climate, the safety of our food system, and the economic health of rural businesses and communities. This year we’ve outlined our four top priorities to advocate for inclusion in the Farm Bill. These priorities are: 1) farmland protection and access, 2) local and regional food systems development, 3) climate-smart agriculture, and 4) a federal safety net for PFAS-impacted farms.
The 2023 Farm Bill should include a federal safety net for PFAS-impacted farms and prioritize PFAS focused research.
Learning from the experience of Maine farmers and based on the knowledge that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination is widespread across the country, we need policy action to support affected farmers with financial and technical resources. Farmers need support to replace lost farm income; cover testing costs and interpret results; acquire new, needed on-farm infrastructure; navigate challenges selling contaminated farmland and accessing new land; and pivot business plans and on-farm management practices.
How we will support change:
MFT is advocating for the inclusion of the Relief for Farmers Hit by PFAS Act in the next Farm Bill. This bill is a bipartisan, bicameral effort to provide vital assistance to farmers affected by PFAS across the country. U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden introduced the Relief for Farmers Hit with PFAS Act, which would authorize grants for states to provide financial assistance to affected farmers, expand monitoring and testing, remediate PFAS, or even help farmers relocate.
The funds authorized by the Relief for Farmers Hit with PFAS Act could be used for a variety of purposes at the state level including:
- Income replacement and loan flexibility
- Financial support for new on-farm infrastructure needed to pivot business models
- Business planning technical assistance
- Relocation support
- Farmland protection and access projects to help impacted farmers afford new land
The bill would also create a task force at USDA charged with identifying other USDA programs to which PFAS contamination should be added as an eligible activity – bringing even more resources to impacted farmers through existing programs. Additionally, the task force would provide technical assistance to states to help them coordinate their responses effectively.
We specifically would like to see the following responses within federal programs:
- Establish a PFAS-focused state block grant program to provide financial assistance to affected farmers, expand monitoring and testing, remediate PFAS, or help farmers relocate through integration of the Relief for Farmers Hit by PFAS Act into the next Farm Bill.
- Expand federal research and grant programs to dedicate funding to advance PFAS-related research and education, such as:
- Including PFAS-related research and education as a qualifying topic area that can be addressed by Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grants.
- Including within the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) a separate track or priority for PFAS-related research.
- Setting aside a portion of Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research program funds for PFAS/microplastics research.
How can you get involved?
You can join MFT in advocating for the inclusion of the Relief for Farmers Hit by PFAS Act in the next Farm Bill. Since Maine’s Congressional Delegation is already in full support of the bill, the most important way to contribute is to reach out to friends, colleagues, and family members in other states. Talk to your network about the PFAS crisis unfolding in Maine, stress that PFAS contamination is a national issue, and urge them to call their elected officials to share their support for the Relief for Farmers Hit by PFAS Act and a federal safety net of support for impacted farmers.
You can learn more about our 2023 Farm Bill Priorities by downloading a full copy of our top recommendations, which includes why the issue matters to Maine farmers, how we are advocating for change, and a list of specific desired changes within federal programs.
Are you a farmer interested in joining MFT to create policy change? Share your priorities and get involved.