With the start of 2024, there are new agricultural policies to be proposed in the United States. On Dec. 13, leaders from the New Hampshire Food Alliance, the UNH Carsey School of Public Policy and the Monadnock Farm and Community Coalition hosted a Zoom session to share some upcoming proposed legislation that will affect the New Hampshire food system.

Yusi Turell, director of the Training Center on Impact Finance at the Carsey School of Public Policy, led the session and posed the question “How do we feed ourselves without damaging the planet or worsening rising levels of hunger?”

Shawn Jasper, commissioner of the NH Department of Ag, Markets & Food, explained, “This country is losing about a million acres of farmland a year.” Additionally, New Hampshire alone is contributing to that loss with about “800 acres a year,” according to Senior Project Manager of the Southeast Land Trust of NH Jeremy Lougee.

With the goals of protecting the environment and improving our ability to feed the growing world, some NH ag leaders shared their plans for 2024 legislation. The list of proposals focused on protecting farmers markets, providing farmer relief funds, monitoring carbon markets and pricing and more.

Rob Johnson, the policy director of the NH Farm Bureau Federation, spoke on the importance of allowing the use of drones to apply pesticides. He explained how “currently in state law, we have a statute that requires a special permitting process that requires a public hearing which is time-consuming … a detailed map to scale, and a justification of why other means aren’t being used.”

Having this extensive list of requirements keeps a lot of farmers from trying. Johnson hopes to make this process easier and make drone usage more accessible.

Stacey Purslow, program coordinator for the NH Farm to School Program, explained their new tactics to get the program approved in 2024. This is their third year proposing a bill for the NH Farm to School Program, one that would “incentivize schools to purchase local food.” Their revised bill focuses on a pilot program in which 10 schools will be accepted to participate (one from each Granite State county), and they would get money back for purchasing local products such as dairy, fish, poultry, eggs, fruits, vegetables and maple syrup.

Also focusing on food in our schools, Brodie Deshaies, the communications and policy manager from NH Hunger Solutions, spoke about the 2024 Hunger Free NH Act. The main goal is to allow more students to access meals during school. Two large parts of this act include having breakfast provided after the bell/during the school day, as well as ensuring all children up to 185% of the Federal Poverty Level can eat free lunch at school.

Be sure to stay up-to-date with all of the organizations who hosted or spoke at the event for more information come 2024. If you support any of these programs, reach out to your state officials to let them know.

by Kelsi Devolve