In our hyper-polarized political environment, examples of bipartisan lawmaking are hard to find, and it’s understandable why many Americans believe policymakers accomplish little for their constituents.

However, this year we have an opportunity to pass genuinely bipartisan legislation: the United States Farm Bill. Not only does this legislation represent an opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to accomplish something for the American public together, it also represents a tremendous opportunity to fight to protect our natural resources while supporting the farmers who provide for our country.

An expansive piece of legislation covering many topics, the Farm Bill dates to a 1933 law establishing a farm commodity support program.

Restructured and reintroduced approximately every five years, the Farm Bill now encompasses community food access, agriculture, nutrition assistance, research, the development of specialty crops and bioenergy programs. For environmental advocates, it is also critical to efforts to protect our commonwealth’s 86,000 miles of waterways.

The iteration of the Farm Bill now in effect expires at the end of September. The next version of the bill will be one of our nation’s largest investments, with an anticipated appropriation of almost $1.3 trillion.

It is critical to note that many of the agricultural programs funded by the current Farm Bill are oversubscribed, meaning there are more applicants for funds than can be provided for. These programs are scientifically proven, obviously popular, and voluntary for farmers — from incentives to plant cover crops, to conservation easements for wetlands and grasslands. To truly transform the farming and food production landscape, there are many conservation programs that need new, enhanced investments made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA).

The IRA augmented funding for conservation programs authorized by the current Farm Bill and made additional investments. The increased funding for these conservation programs will help energize rural economies and improve the resilience of our environment, making our nation’s farmers, ranchers and foresters part of the solution. The new Farm Bill represents the best opportunity in decades to meet producer demand for conservation programs.

These voluntary programs aren’t just critical for curbing pollution. They also help improve water quality and preserve sensitive ecosystems while reducing costs for farmers and increasing crop yields. These programs help American farmers compete in the global marketplace and will lower the cost of food for working families at a time when many people are struggling to make ends meet because of high inflation.

The IRA contains a decade of funding for these programs. As negotiations over the Farm Bill continue, it is vital that these funds are preserved or even increased. We must not allow these critical programs to be traded away as part of a political deal benefiting special interests.

As our nation grows, the importance of our agriculture and food production industry comes into sharper focus. To meet our expanding needs and confront new challenges, American farmers must be supported in new ways.

Our agricultural industry touches the lives of every American family more than any other industry, and the Farm Bill programs provide it critical support. The Farm Bill brings together some of the most unlikely partners to advocate for something increasingly rare — a bipartisan bill enjoying the broad support of Congress and our nation in its increasing diversity. The environmental advocacy community looks forward to contributing to the new Farm Bill and making sure our nation continues to be one of plenty in an environmentally sustainable way.