MCE Policy Report

Melissa Vatterott

By Melissa Vatterott

2023 is a big year for policy work. On the federal level, it is a Farm Bill year. This means we are working to pass a new Farm Bill by September 30th that better supports farmers of color and beginning farmers, incentivizes practices that reduce our impacts on climate change and build resilience on farms, and builds up local food systems so consumers can eat locally-grown, chemical free food like the food from Known and Grown farmers. On the state level, MCE has been busy during the Missouri Legislative session and will continue to be busy after session to work with legislators on a multitude of issues. These issues address protecting Missourians from the public health and environmental harms from hazardous waste, mining operations, and industrial agriculture waste. We are also busy trying to protect our initiative petition process – the process that created Missouri’s renewable energy standard and can facilitate a multitude of good policies supported by the public majority. Lastly, we continue to advocate for innovative strategies to support small-scale fruit and vegetable farmers, especially in Missouri’s communities with limited food access so that we can grow the next generation of farmers and healthy food for those in need.

We need you to join in these efforts. Your legislators are more likely to advance policies on behalf of Missouri’s people and their environment if they hear how these ideas impact you and are important to you. Below is a deeper dive into MCE’s policy priorities.

The 2023 Farm Bill

The Farm Bill is not created according to the famous “Schoolhouse Rock” cartoon many of us know and love. It is created by the House and Senate Agriculture Committees after reviewing several bills introduced for consideration to be included in the often 400+ page final farm bill package. These bills are called “marker bills,” which are like draft pages of a book called the Farm Bill. MCE is advocating for several marker bills right now to make it into the final Farm Bill and they are outlined below:

  • Agriculture Resilience Act – Increased frequency of extreme weather events are creating additional challenges for farmers to thrive and for consistent production of food. The ARA is a farmer-driven, science-based roadmap for reaching net-zero emissions from our nation’s agriculture industry and for supporting farmers in adapting to the impacts of climate change like flooding and drought.
  • Crop Insurance Reform – We are working to improve crop insurance so that it serves the diversity of American agriculture – farmers of color, fruit and vegetable farmers, organic farmers, and others. We also are advocating to ensure crop insurance promotes natural resource stewardship, so that the land is more resilient in the face of extreme weather events.. Lastly, we hope the Farm Bill will level the playing field for family farmers through efficient use of taxpayer dollars in the crop insurance program. Information about official marker bills on crop insurance will be on our website once they are filed.
  • Credit Reform – As stated above, farming is hard with the unpredictability of weather impacting planting and harvesting as well as the total volume of crops that survives through the growing season. Small and mid-sized farmers, beginning farmers, and farmers of color face additional challenges, particularly accessing credit to start their farms, expand, and thrive. We are advocating for the 2023 Farm Bill to alleviate these challenges by improving government accountability to borrowers and creating new programs to increase access to financing for these farmers. Information about official marker bills on credit will be on our website once they are filed.
  • Local Foods – The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the fragility of our national food system while showing the rewards from the 2018 Farm Bill’s investments in local and regional food systems and supply chains. Projects funded through the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) helped ensure the necessary relationships between farmers and buyers and the infrastructure to process and transport local products were in place to fill critical supply chain gaps. The additional federal pandemic recovery and response initiatives also supported small and mid-sized farms in feeding those who needed it most at a time when grocery shelves were not always stocked. Through the pandemic, we have still seen that many producers lack access to these opportunities because of insufficient infrastructure for processing, aggregation, and distribution. As such, we are advocating for Congress to leverage the 2023 Farm Bill to apply what we’ve learned from the pandemic and create long lasting investments for our communities and our local food producers. Official marker bills supporting local food markets and local food infrastructure will be on our website as they are officially filed.
  • Strengthening Local Processing Act – The Strengthening Local Processing Act creates a national roadmap for sustained investment in small and very small meat processing plants, as most of our nation’s processing facilities are not set up to meet the needs of small-scale, pasture-raised livestock producers whose customers expect to purchase meat from the actual animals these producers raised. SLPA will ensure the 2023 Farm Bill continues the historic pandemic-response investment in small meat processing plants that is creating a more resilient and diversified food processing system and reducing logistical complexity for farmers.

Federal Action for Radioactive Waste Cleanup in North St. Louis County

Senator Hawley introduced the Justice for Jana Elementary Act in February, requiring the clean up of Jana Elementary School which was found to have radioactive contamination in the fall of 2022. Jana Elementary is positioned next to Coldwater Creek, known to have radioactive contamination. The bill also orders the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to test all other Hazelwood School District properties for contamination. You can learn more about the contamination found at Jana Elementary on our website.

Priorities for the Missouri Legislature: 2023 and Onward

MCE recognizes that whatever activities we do on the land — building homes, extracting minerals, applying fertilizer — has an impact on Missouri’s people and the safety of air, water, and soil in our state. As such, we have been focused on supporting small-scale farmers who are growing nutritious food for their communities as well as advocating for better protections from the harms posed by various industry activities. An outline of our priorities are below.

  • Hazardous Waste – We are approaching 80 years since the nuclear bomb waste from the Manhattan Project has been allowed to plague the neighborhoods of North St. Louis County. We cannot continue to allow our children to be collateral damage of World War II. We must band together to demand a safe, healthy environment to live, work, and play in. MCE is working with legislators to create policies that ensure more notice to residents of their risk of exposure to radioactive materials and to ensure the Department of Natural Resources is notified when projects in this area may disturb soil and water, risking movement of radioactive materials.
  • Mining – MCE believes Missouri must embrace effective safe mining practices for the health and safety of mining workers, the surrounding communities, and future generations. Visit our website to read MCE’s Mining Policy Position and fact sheets on the harms of mining cobalt, Rare Earth Elements (REEs), and silica sand. If Missouri wants to leverage the mineral reserves in our state, we must do so in a manner that acknowledges risks and minimizes impacts on our social, economic, and environmental well-being through safe and responsible mining practices.
  • Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations – CAFO waste is a danger to our public and environmental health, whether the waste from CAFOs is handled on-site or taken by a third party. There is insufficient regulation in Missouri on third-party recipients of CAFO waste. Because of the health risks associated with the waste from CAFOs, it is critical that we close these loopholes. Such gaps in the law put our communities and our natural environment at risk. Therefore, we need to understand who is handling CAFO waste and how they handle it. You can learn all about the harms from CAFOs on our website, which includes fact sheets, a map of CAFOs in Missouri, and a CAFO Action Toolkit.
  • Specialty Crop Production and Healthy Soils – How and where our food is grown has an impact on our health and the environment. Small-scale agriculture production can be more intentional about those impacts and often work to improve soil health and long term productivity of the land without the use of chemicals. MCE recognizes the importance of supporting small-scale fruit and vegetable farmers in Missouri — for their contributions to building soil health and resilience in the face of climate change as well as for their contributions to feeding fellow Missourians. As such, we have been advocating for a tax incentive for small-scale specialty crop farmers — those who grow fruits and vegetables — that grow in low income communities with limited healthy food access or “food deserts.” We are also advocating for more support for farmers to improve water quality and soil health, not just protect it from further degradation.

The best way to stay engaged on these policies is to sign up for our e-alerts at moenvironment.org.