The Farm Bill and Cultivating the Future – 2024 NGA Winter Meeting Task Force Meeting

At the 2024 NGA Winter Meeting, Idaho Governor Brad Little and U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Albert Bryan Jr., Co-Chairs of NGA’s Education, Workforce and Community Investment Task Force, co-hosted a discussion on agriculture, rural development and the Farm Bill. The discussion came on the heels of comprehensive Farm Bill priorities NGA released in the fall of 2023, as well as Congress’s one-year extension on the Farm Bill.

During the meeting, Governors underscored the critical role of the Farm Bill to states and territories, addressing aspects such as ensuring ongoing nutritional support despite high food costs, the importance of bolstering the agricultural workforce, and the continued collaboration between states and regions to tackle agricultural issues.

The Governors were joined by panelists Jennifer Lester Moffitt, Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Ted McKinney, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) CEO. The two panelists engaged in substantive discussions regarding the current state of agriculture and rural America, emphasizing the importance of a robust supply chain to support working farmers and ranchers to provide food across the country and globe. They also stressed the need to strengthen agricultural trade and assistance nationwide.

Governor Little kicked off the meeting by sharing some examples of work taking place in Idaho to address the unique needs of the state’s farmers and ranchers, stressing the future of the state’s and country’s agriculture necessitates “adapting to change” and remembering “the most important product that we raise [is] our young farmers and ranchers” who face a number of challenges, including those related to trade, profitability and forestry – all matters that the Farm Bill can help address. During his remarks, Governor Little also touted the Idaho LAUNCH program, which is a new initiative to provide grants up to $8,000 to Idaho students who participate in postsecondary education programs that lead to good paying jobs, including those in Idaho’s agriculture sector.

Governor Bryan’s opening remarks touched on how some of the agricultural work underway in the U.S. Virgin Islands can benefit other parts of the country, such as the island’s goal to “move our food production from […] 3% of everything we eat” to 35%. The island is exploring innovative ways to grow more of its own food, in part, to address high food prices while also considering the impact of potential supply chain disruptions as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic and previous natural disasters. Governor Bryan also discussed the need for the territories to be included in Farm Bill programs, and to consider the importance of having healthy food options and the impact of high food costs, especially for those who live in the territories.

In the months ahead, conversations on the Farm Bill and rural resiliency will continue following the successful adoption by Governors of the Task Force’s 2024 federal priorities at the 2024 Winter Meeting. These priorities include the reauthorization of the Farm Bill and build upon the work previously done by the Task Force, including the NGA Farm Bill priorities released in September 2023.

Watch the full session below.