The Next Farm Bill Can Save Money, Reduce Food Waste, Address Hunger, and Combat Climate Change

The Next Farm Bill Can Save Money, Reduce Food Waste, Address Hunger, and Combat Climate Change

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The Next Farm Bill Can Save Money, Reduce Food Waste, Address Hunger, and Combat Climate Change

April 26, 2022

Today, the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, in collaboration with NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), ReFED, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), released “Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2023 Farm Bill,” a new report detailing how Congress should prioritize food waste reduction in the next U.S. Farm Bill. 

Every year, Americans waste over one third of all food produced in or imported to the U.S. Producing this wasted food consumes around 21% of all freshwater and cropland in the U.S. and generates around 270 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions – equivalent to as much as 58 million cars. Recovering just 30% of this wasted food could feed every food insecure American – about 50 million people in 2020.

The Farm Bill, passed roughly every five years, is an omnibus bill that authorizes more than $400 billion in federal funding. It is the primary legislation addressing all aspects of the American food system. The 2018 Farm Bill was the first to include any funding for food waste reduction, but much more remains to be done. “Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2023 Farm Bill” provides specific recommendations for Congress to implement in the next farm bill across four key areas of food waste reduction: food waste prevention, surplus food recovery, food waste recycling, and food waste reduction coordination.

“We were thrilled when the 2018 Farm Bill was enacted and included food waste reduction among its funding and programs for the first time ever, yet more must be done to ensure we reach our national goal of halving food waste by 2030,” says Professor Emily Broad Leib, Faculty Director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic and a lead author of the report.  “The next Farm Bill offers a bipartisan opportunity for Congress to build on its success by enacting reforms to further reduce food waste, cut emissions, and ensure edible surplus food is able to serve those who are facing food insecurity. We urge policymakers to read our 22 concrete and feasible recommendations and incorporate these solutions into the proposed bill.”  

The 2023 Farm Bill is an opportunity for Congress to build on initiatives first implemented by the 2018 Farm Bill, which prioritized food waste reduction for the first time by offering funding for local community compost and food waste reduction plans, establishing a new Food Loss and Waste Liaison position at USDA, implementing a Farm to Food Bank program within TEFAP, and updating food donation standards for liability, among other successes. “Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2023 Farm Bill” offers Congress actionable recommendations on how to further these efforts. 

“The Farm Bill offers a major opportunity to improve our food system. With up to 40% of our food supply going to waste, incorporating food waste reduction strategies in the bill can ensure more food goes to feeding people,” notes Yvette Cabrera, Director of Food Waste at NRDC and a co-author of the report. “Adopting these food waste reduction solutions also means we can keep organic materials out of landfills and incinerators, where they produce climate change emissions, and recycle them to help build healthy soil. Our report outlines bipartisan approaches that can make a real difference for the health and safety of our planet and our communities.”

"The Farm Bill is the largest piece of food-related legislation in the United States, and it's at the core of how our food system operates," says Dana Gunders, Executive Director of ReFED and a co-author of the report. "If the recommendations in this report are included in the Farm Bill, we would see measurable progress in the fight against food waste. This is how we can really drive action."

“Transitioning to a regenerative food system is essential to feeding our nation and reversing climate change and nature loss. Until we address the amount of food from farm to table being lost and wasted, a regenerative system will be out of reach,” says Pete Pearson, Senior Director, Food Loss and Waste at World Wildlife Fund. “In the 2023 Farm Bill, Congress has the opportunity to definitively put the U.S. on a path to eliminate food waste, building on the steps taken in 2018 and ensuring the food we produce positively contributes to the health of both people and our planet. This report provides a roadmap on how we make this a reality.”

The report’s recommendations are based on insights from countless discussions with nonprofits, businesses, and local and state governments, comprehensive food waste reduction research conducted by ReFED and published in their Insights Engine, and stakeholder interviews with Farm Bill funding recipients. 

The report indicates which elements of the US Food Loss & Waste Policy Action Plan for Congress & the Administration, released in 2021 by FLPC, NRDC, ReFED, and WWF, can be implemented in the Farm Bill. The Action Plan is supported by many American cities, non-governmental organizations, and industry leaders such as Google, Unilever/Hellmann’s Best Foods, and Marriott International.

ReFED is a national nonprofit working to end food loss and waste across the food system by advancing data-driven solutions to the problem. ReFED leverages data and insights to highlight supply chain inefficiencies and economic opportunities; mobilizes and connects people to take targeted action; and catalyzes capital to spur innovation and scale high-impact initiatives. ReFED’s goal is a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive food system that optimizes environmental resources, minimizes climate impacts, and makes the best use of the food we grow.

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