A coalition of center-left House Democrats is emphasizing conservation, diverse farm income, and nutrition in its farm bill priorities.

The New Democrat Coalition, which includes 100 lawmakers, released their first-ever legislative preferences for a farm bill on Friday. 

The group’s goals are to “work to bridge the partisan divide with a solutions-oriented approach to politics." An outline of the five priorities said the coalition hopes the farm bill can use “agriculture as a way to improve our environment.”

“Part of this is making sure that we protect the $20 billion of Inflation Reduction Act funding that goes toward conservation programs,” said Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Wash.

Schrier chairs the coalition's farm bill task force and told Agri-Pulse small producers and family farms are the ones who benefit from conservation programs in her district. 

The programs "serve like a triple purpose. One is protecting little farmers, two is supporting little farmers, and three is that they're good for the environment,” said Schrier.

Don't miss out sign up for a FREE month of Agri-Pulse news! For the latest on what’s happening in Washington, D.C. and around the country in agriculture, just click here.

Another of the coalition’s farm bill core principles, according to the group's outline, is to “address the modern nutritional needs of Americans and provide innovations for program efficiency.” The group aims to strengthen existing federal nutrition programs through legislation.

Schrier said there are a number of proposals in introduced marker bills that could accomplish these goals, including measures that aim to improve food programs and supply food banks.

“To make sure that local farmers can secure contracts to get their local fruits and vegetables to their local food bank,” said Schrier. “So, lots of bills that can be included in this farm bill if they do it right.”

The coalition’s announcement also mentions the need to help farmers and ranchers diversify income streams.

Schrier said the farm bill can do that through rural development grants. She heard from a dairy farmer in her district who was able to open a creamery with the federal assistance.

Schrier made the focus on small farms clear.

“A farm bill should help the many. It should help the little guys and we've got specialty crops and small family farms and medium family farms in Washington state and around the country who just need a hand up, and if we don't want them to all consolidate or be bought up by international corporations, we have to thoughtfully support our own domestic family farms.”

The New Democrats developed their farm bill priorities separate from the work of a task force appointed by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.

For more news, visit Agri-Pulse.com