State Departments of Agriculture Push Fresh Policy
CHEYENNE, WY – At the 2023 National Association of State Departments of Agriculture annual meeting, NASDA members adopted policy to protect farmers’ right to farm, fixing federal disaster relief, advocate for clear labeling on cell-based meat products, and agriculture apprenticeship programs.
Right to Farm
NASDA’s new policy supports laws that protect agricultural and forestry operations and facilities from nuisance lawsuits.
“The purpose of this new policy is to lessen the loss of farmland caused by nuisance lawsuits which can arise when nonagricultural land uses expand into agricultural and forest areas,” NASDA CEO Ted McKinney said. “Farmers are excellent stewards of the land and resources they use to produce food, fiber and fuel for their communities and the world. Protecting their right to farm is vitally important as we aim to inspire the next generation to consider farming as a career and encourage current farmers to use new technologies and practices.”
The USDA Economic Research Service reports the number of farmers and acres of land in farms is on a downward trend. The U.S. had 2 million farms in 2022, down from 2.2 million in 2007, and the U.S. had 893 million acres of farmland in 2022, down more than 20 million acres ten years earlier.
Federal Disaster Relief Programs
“Recent natural disasters and catastrophic events have highlighted the challenges farmers face in seeking disaster assistance. Particularly in Wyoming, USDA Farm Service Agency has worked closely with the state and farmers to help provide as much aid as possible. NASDA is advocating to give USDA more authority to be flexible in serving farmers and ranchers, especially small farms or specialty crop producers who compete on price instead of quantity,” 2022-2023 NASDA President Doug Miyamoto said.
Through an action item, NASDA members charged the organization to work with USDA to allow flexible conservation program timelines.
“Allowing for adaptive deadlines aligned with the damages or regional disaster patterns can help farmers recover faster and resume conservation efforts to build more resilient landscapes,” said Miyamoto.
Additionally, NASDA members passed a policy amendment stating existing gaps in insurance coverage and federal disaster relief programs leave farmers increasingly vulnerable to the growing number and severity of catastrophic natural disasters.
“The compounding impacts and damages caused by catastrophic wildfires, floods, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions and other natural or man-made disasters have immediate and far-reaching consequences that persist for several years; therefore, we encourage Congress and USDA to improve federal programs to help farmers recover,” Miyamoto said.
Cell-Based Meat Products
In an approved action item, NASDA members urged the establishment of regulatory frameworks for distinguished labeling of cell-based meat, poultry and seafood products and encouraged the U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service and U.S. Food and Drug Administration to analyze the cellular and nutritional properties of these products and indicate the differences, via labeling, between cell-based and conventional products.
“NASDA members are responsible for ensuring agricultural businesses of all sizes and types can thrive, and we have learned, especially through the pandemic, the importance of diversity in agricultural production. Equally important, clarity and consumer confidence in ingredients and labeling must always be upheld, which is the goal of the action item adopted today,” NASDA CEO Ted McKinney said. “NASDA encourages federal agencies to discuss and consider regulatory frameworks for these innovative products which accurately reflect differences between them and conventionally raised products.”
In March 2019, USDA and FDA established a formal agreement on how cultured food products would be regulated. In June 2023, the organizations issued the first Grants of Inspection and label approvals to two companies to sell cell-based chicken.
“NASDA members stand ready to work collaboratively with federal agencies on cell-based meat labeling requirements to ensure shoppers can have confidence in what they buy at the grocery store,” McKinney said.
Agriculture Apprenticeship Program
NASDA members amended the organization’s policy to support increased investment in apprenticeships and educational programs and directed the organization to support federal funding for agricultural education and workforce development programs.
“Across state departments of agriculture and industry-wide, there is a tremendous need for workers with training specializing in agricultural fields,” 2022-2023 NASDA President Director Miyamoto said. “NASDA believes that investment in certificate programs, micro-credentials and apprenticeships can fast-track new graduates and those looking to switch careers into the agricultural industry while ensuring they have the knowledge and skills necessary to continue advancing the industry.”
Looking at the long-game, one of NASDA’s new amendments for the organization specifically asks USDA to develop agricultural literacy resources for guidance counselors and other school professionals to help elementary and secondary school students discover career options in agriculture.
“Through engaging early to showcase the reward in working in agriculture, we can support and advance a skilled and stable agricultural workforce,” NASDA 2022-2023 President Doug Miyamoto said. “Investing in our agricultural workforce is investing in the resilience of the agriculture industry.”
To advance the same goal, NASDA Foundation is working with National Ag in the Classroom Organization, Nourish the Future, Children Learning through Outdoor Experiences (ChLOE) via the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture and other partners to explore opportunities to engage with USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Ag and Food Research Initiative grants focused on education and workforce development. Those grants include the Professional Development for Agricultural Literacy, Agricultural Workforce Training at Community Colleges, Food and Agricultural Non-Formal Education, and Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduates programs.
The NASDA Foundation also hosts the NASDA’s Next Generation program taking place at the NASDA annual meeting this year and every year since 2015.
In less than nine years, 5.35 million jobs will be available in the agriculture and food sectors. To learn more about careers in agriculture and what NASDA is doing to support workforce development visit nasda.org/WorkInAg.