Messaging and advocacy guide: A Farm Bill for All

By Peniel Ibe

The Farm Bill is an omnibus package of legislation that covers not only agricultural policy, but also nutrition, trade, conservation, forestry, and rural development programs. It is updated every five years and is up for debate in Congress again in 2023. 

The Farm Bill has the potential to reduce hunger and poverty in the U.S. and worldwide—and help address the climate crisis. We are calling on Congress to ensure that our agriculture system, economy, and environment work for all people for generations to come.  

As you engage with your community members, other advocates, and elected officials about the Farm bill, here are some tips to strengthen your messaging and advocacy.  

To engage in effective advocacy, your message should contain four critical elements: stating your values, identifying a problem, outlining the solution(s), and asking the targeted audience to take steps that are necessary to achieve the solution. 

Here’s a sample breakdown you can use:  

Scenario: You are meeting with your Congressperson and would like them to ensure that the Farm Bill has adequate funding to address climate change.  

Value: Everyone deserves to live in healthy communities with access to nutritious food and sustainable livelihoods fostered by thriving local economies.  

Problem: The current industrial agriculture system run by corporations is damaging our climate. At the same time, it is also vulnerable to climate disasters. In 2021 alone, $12.5 billion in farmland was lost to droughts, wildfires, and other climate-related disasters. Rising temperatures, extreme heat, and other conditions have resulted in illness and death among farmworkers.  

Solution: Congress should fund a food system that benefits the planet, protects the environment, and addresses climate change through the Farm Bill. 

Ask: Will you support efforts to strengthen and expand programs within the farm bill that help farmers implement climate-friendly, sustainable agricultural practices?  

Here’s another sample breakdown you can use:  

Scenario: You are meeting with your Congressperson and would like them to ensure that the Farm Bill expands access to food for communities in need.  

Value: I believe that no one should ever have to go hungry, especially in a wealthy country like ours.  

Problem: In the United States, nearly 24 million households often don’t have enough food to eat during the week, according to a June 2022 report from the Center for American Progress. Nearly half of those households include children.    

Solution: Congress should fund and strengthen programs that help tens of millions of people keep food on the table every day.  

Ask: Will you oppose any policy proposals that will undermine vital anti-hunger programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) through harmful requirements like time limits? 

Remember what we are trying to achieve.  

Our Farm Bill for All principles:  

  • The Farm Bill should help alleviate hunger in the U.S and internationally. 

  • The Farm Bill must support local and regional food systems —including the stewards of these systems – not big agricultural corporations.

  • The Farm Bill should fund a food system that benefits the planet, protects the environment, and addresses climate change.

  • The Farm Bill should advance racial justice and socioeconomic equity in our food systems.

  • The Farm Bill should support initiatives that do not undermine democratic practices and processes. 

Some messaging tips:  

Use humanizing language. This means avoiding language that may stigmatize people who use drugs, are houseless, low-income, disabled, etc. Do not reinforce any harmful stigmas or stereotypes about people who need food assistance.  

Keep it simple and know your audience. If you are talking with someone who is unfamiliar with the Farm Bill, avoid jargon or acronyms that are unfamiliar.  

Be solutions-forward. Avoid hyper focusing on what doesn’t work in the Farm Bill; remember to center proven solutions and actions.  

Identify systemic issues. When talking about equity issues in the Farm Bill, identify system and structural barriers that impact individuals and communities so as to avoid framing the issue as a unique problem.  

Personalize and localize your ask. Your experience as someone who has a stake in our food system is valid.  

Be specific. A strong ask is specific, measurable, and timebound for example “raising awareness” or “speaking out” can be too vague for your audience.  

For general equitable food systems messaging, the HEAL Food Alliance's 2020 messaging guide is a helpful reference:  


Source: Page 25, Rooted, Ready and Resilient – Uplifting a BIPOC-led Vision for Crisis-Proof Food Systems. HEAL Food Alliance.