Leading Companies Urge Congress To Help More Farmers Access Conservation Programs in Farm Bill

Jul 14, 2023 10:30 AM ET
Campaign: Policy

July 14, 2023, /3BL/ - Ten leading food and beverage, apparel, and agriculture companies are urging Congress to use the 2023 Farm Bill to modernize and expand the tools for farmers to access federal conservation programs and resources.

In a letter sent Thursday to the House and Senate agriculture committees, the companies emphasize the need for improved technical assistance for farmers seeking to access voluntary U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs and funds, which yield cleaner water and air, healthier soil, and more biodiversity.

Signatories of the letter include Bonterra Organic Estates, Brown Family Farms, Eileen Fisher, IndigoAg, Mars Inc., New Belgium Brewing, PepsiCo, Sierra Nevada, Solectrac, and Stonyfield Organic. The diverse group of signatories reflects the strong support from the food and beverage, apparel, and agriculture industries to improve farmers' access to regenerative agriculture resources. It was also signed by the Evangelical Environmental Network and Kiss the Ground, two nonprofit organizations that are engaging farmers directly to advance sustainable and regenerative agriculture practices, and was organized by Ceres, a nonprofit that works with companies and investors to advance sustainability practices and policies.

“Unfortunately, many potential applicants can’t access these programs because the application process is overly complex and current Technical Assistance (TA) resources are insufficient,” the signatories wrote. “TA should provide all of our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners with the knowledge, tools, and resources they need to successfully participate in USDA-NRCS programs and access financial resources.”

The signatories outline opportunities to improve technical assistance, such as by forming new public-private partnerships and simplifying the application process. These improvements should aim to expand access to farmers of color, small farms, and beginner farmers that have historically struggled to access resources, and to benefit rural economies with a pipeline of well-paying jobs, the letter says.

“The 2023 Farm Bill is a critical opportunity to further invest in America and its farmers with smart and forward-looking agricultural practices to protect our food system and grow our economy,” said Zach Friedman, director of federal policy, Ceres. “Major companies recognize the huge potential of helping farmers adopt climate-smart practices that defend against climate and other sustainability threats, create good jobs and new economic opportunities in rural America, and help them meet their own climate goals throughout their supply chains. We urge Congress to take note of the expertise and insight of industry as they make it a priority to modernize and expand technical assistance for all farmers and ranchers during Farm Bill negotiations this year.”

In 2021, Ceres launched its Climate-Smart Agriculture and Healthy Soils Working Group, made up of leading food and clothing companies in support of agricultural policy that uplifts farmers as climate leaders. These companies have focused on making the economic case for a climate-smart Farm Bill, regularly meeting with members of Congress — most recently at LEAD on a Clean Economy 2023 in May — and organizing a letter to lawmakers outlining five key priorities for the bill, including modernized and expanded technical assistance.

Ceres has also worked with companies to support, uphold, and maximize the additional conservation resources provided by the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. And it has endorsed bipartisan legislation, crafted by Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana, to expand technical assistance certification to private-sector and non-federal organizations, increasing the number of technical assistance providers so more farmers can access them.


Ceres is a nonprofit organization working with the most influential capital market leaders to solve the world’s greatest sustainability challenges. Through our powerful networks and global collaborations of investors, companies and nonprofits, we drive action and inspire equitable market-based and policy solutions throughout the economy to build a just and sustainable future. For more information, visit ceres.org and follow @CeresNews.

Media Contact: Helen Booth-Tobin, booth-tobin@ceres.org, 617-247-0700 ext. 214