What the Upcoming Farm Bill Means to Your Community

The Farm Bill is the most important tool we have for addressing food security in our country. See what’s at stake as we advocate for policy updates.

By Mark Nicholson, Senior Policy Director at Fair Food Network

Family shopping at farmers market selecting peaches from a vendor.

Americans are spending a larger percentage of their income on food than they have in three decades, according to new data from the Labor Department. Families who spend more than 30% of their monthly budget on food are facing fewer options when it comes to affording fresh fruits and vegetables. Luckily, the new Farm Bill is a chance for Congress to help increase access to healthy food, all while supporting local farmers and food systems.

Let’s see what’s at stake as negotiations for this powerful, multi-billion-dollar package of legislation continue.

The Senate recently passed a House bill that included a bipartisan one-year extension of the 2018 Farm Bill, that was set to expire on September 30, 2023. We are hopeful that bipartisan negotiations will continue and Congress will pass a new Farm Bill in the coming months to give families and farmers the support they need to put healthy food on the table.

What is the Farm Bill?

As described by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the Farm Bill is a package of legislation passed roughly every five years that has a tremendous impact on farming livelihoods, how food is grown, and what kinds of foods are grown. The Farm Bill is also the most important tool we have for addressing food and nutrition security in our country. Nearly 80% of the bill’s spending goes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as programs like the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP), that help Americans with low income combat food insecurity and access healthy food.

Since its inception in 2008, GusNIP has proven to be a successful public-private partnership that has expanded healthy food options for families and sparked economic opportunities for farmers and communities across the country. Nutrition incentive programs, like our Double Up Food Bucks program, rely on funding from GusNIP. The partnership also allows Fair Food Network to support hundreds of nutrition incentive and produce prescription projects by leading technical assistance for the Nutrition Incentive Hub.

Policy advocacy is a key strategy to Fair Food Network’s approach creating immediate community impact and long-term systems change. The upcoming Farm Bill presents a crucial opportunity for us to advocate for the expansion and optimization of GusNIP, the only federal program with dedicated resources to help SNAP families eat healthier through improving access to fruits and vegetables. And it works.

A recent analysis from the Nutrition Incentive Hub, led by our partners at Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition, shows that people who use nutrition incentives eat more fruit and vegetables compared to the average American while improving their food security. Fair Food Network and our partners in the Alliance for National Nutrition Incentives (ANNI) are advocating to grow support for GusNIP and realize its full potential for supporting families, farmers, and local economies.

How can the Farm Bill help your community?

In addition to helping families with low income bring home more healthy food, the economic impact of GusNIP is considerable; for every $1 invested in a healthy food incentive program, we can expect to see up to $3 in economic activity generated as a result. It’s a win-win-win for our communities, helping families, farmers and the local economy alike.

More than 600 groups from across the country expressed their support to make changes that will help GusNIP projects benefit more farmers and families. Numerous lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and the Capitol see the potential, too; there have been three marker bills introduced this year that are all pieces of the puzzle as the Farm Bill is negotiated in 2023. Here’s an overview:

  • GusNIP Improvement Act: This comprehensive bill from Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) would transform GusNIP with much-needed resources to scale up the program across the country and enable more partners to participate. Additionally, the bill provides win-win impacts for both public health and farmers with increased funding and reductions to matching requirements.
  • GusNIP Expansion Act: This bipartisan bill from Rick Crawford (R-AR) and Dan Kildee (D-MI) will reduce program barriers to enable more partners to participate and will allow projects to expand statewide to improve access to nutrition incentives.
  • Opt for Health with SNAP (OH SNAP): This bicameral legislation from Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) provides significant investment to dramatically scale up the reach of nutrition incentives so that many more farmers and families can benefit.

These different marker bills reflect the extraordinary momentum and interest in expanding both the policy and resources for the program in the next Farm Bill so it can reach its full potential. As lawmakers come together to negotiate the Farm Bill, these proposals combined serve as inspiration for what is possible so that the program can help more farmers and families.

How can you get involved?

Visit the Fruit and Vegetable Incentives website for more on the Alliance for National Nutrition Incentives (ANNI) and the actions we want Congress to take to boost incentive programs in the upcoming Farm Bill. You can also read stories about the impact of nutrition incentives and produce prescriptions across the country and find ways to get involved.

Join our e-newsletter for the latest updates on the next Farm Bill, our work with nutrition incentives, and so much more.



Mark Nicholson leads Fair Food Network’s national policy work and is based in Washington, DC. He is joined by associate director of policy Alex Canepa based in Michigan. Learn more about our team and connect with Mark on LinkedIn.