Farmers, farmworkers, and their allies gathered in Washington D.C. from March 6-8 for the Farmers for Climate Action: Rally for Resilience. The grassroots coalition, led by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), The Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association (OEFFA), and numerous organizational partners, demanded that members of Congress prioritize climate change policy in the 2023 Farm Bill.

The group called for on-the-ground technical support and resources to help farmers implement climate-resilient practices. Proposed initiatives include baseline funding for conservation programs, increased availability and quality of technical assistance for climate-friendly farming, investment in resilient local food systems, and more resources for farmers who have been historically underserved by Farm Bill programs.

During the rally, OEFFA sponsored a delegation of rural and urban farmers and crop handlers to meet with USDA staff and aides. Molly Sowash, a beginning beef farmer in Athens County, Ohio joined the rally in D.C. to share the impact of farmer-led climate solutions.

“In order to grow our operation,” said Sowash, “we need support from the NRCS to implement conservation practices but struggle to gain funding year after year.”

By ensuring that funding is accessible to small and medium size farms, beginning and established farmers will be better positioned to prevent soil erosion, improve perennial agriculture, and sequester more carbon, which will be crucial for mitigating the climate crisis.

During a meeting with the office of Senator J.D. Vance, Michelle Ajamian of Shagbark Seed & Mill drew attention to the fact that bean subsidies are only applicable to soybeans, which are primarily used for animal feed, not human consumption. She noted that genetically modified corn and soy are the primary culprits in agricultural soil degradation, and suggested a restructuring of crop insurance payments to better support smaller, diversified farmers.

“When we talk about the climate, the majority of the acreage, revenue, and environmental impact come from GMO corn and soy,” said Ajamian.

In the past few decades, premium crop subsidies and administrative and operating costs significantly increased. According to data from the USDA’s Risk Management Agency website, premium subsidies rose from $889.4 million in 1995 to $6.3 billion in 2020. Administrative and operating costs exceeded $1 billion annually between 2007 and 2018.

OEFFA’s proposal aims to reduce paybacks to corporate farms receiving over $100,000 while increasing support for smaller farmers practicing climate adaptation and mitigation techniques. However, the names of the top third of subsidy recipients were redacted from public USDA data, obscuring the extent of taxpayer payout.

The coalition also emphasizes the need to center climate justice efforts explicitly around Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color.

“Centuries of exploitation of people and land—especially by a handful of large food and agriculture corporations—have led to catastrophic consequences, including a devastating climate crisis that is here now,” said Maleeka Manurasada, National Organizer at HEAL Food Alliance, a supporting organization.

The Farm Bill has historically neglected the expertise and needs of Indigenous and traditional communities and systematically discriminated against Black farmers, resulting in inequitable access to land and capital for farmers of color.

“While the climate crisis threatens the health, safety, and livelihoods of all of us,” says Manurasada, “Black, Indigenous, and farmers of color’s livelihoods are some of the most at risk.”