Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2023 Farm Bill – NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council)

Today, Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, NRDC, ReFED and WWF are releasing “Opportunities to Reduce Food Waste in the 2023 Farm Bill,” a report that provides recommendations across food waste prevention, surplus food rescue, food waste recycling, and coordination in food waste policy in the 2023 Farm Bill. 

The Farm Bill, reauthorized every 5 years, is a roughly $500 billion omnibus bill that is the primary agricultural and food policy tool addressing many aspects of the American food system. Congress has already demonstrated the potential to address food waste by including first-time measures in the 2018 Farm Bill. For example, funding was allocated to USDA to boost community composting and food waste reduction projects, resulting in $2 million granted to 24 local governments in 2021 and $900,000 in 2020.  

Up to 40% of food in our country is wasted, which has reverberating impacts on the climate, the environment, the economy, and access to food. Wasted food occurs up and down the supply chain – from food left unpicked on farms, to the perfectly good milk that happens to be past the sell-by date at the grocery store, to those strawberries we forgot about in the back of our fridge. Despite the many drivers of food waste, there are an abundance of solutions. 

In the 2023 Farm Bill, we’re calling on Congress to build upon the successes of the previous Farm Bill and make food waste reduction a top priority. The report includes 22 recommendations split across four categories, prioritized according to the EPA’s food waste reduction hierarchy: 

  • Prevention: Top recommendations include standardizing and clarifying date labels and launching a national education campaign
  • Recovery: Top recommendations include strengthening the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act and increasing funding support for food rescue infrastructure and for innovative food rescue models 
  • Recycling: Top recommendations include providing planning and implementation grants for state organic waste bans and providing grants and loans for composting and anaerobic digestion facilities 
  • Coordination: Top recommendations include increasing funding for USDA’s food loss and waste liaison and providing funding for the federal interagency food loss and waste collaboration 

The recommendations in the report address many different levers and levels of food waste reduction action. For example, they include low- or no-cost legislative measures that could dramatically cut down on food waste, like expanding liability protections for food donations. Some recommendations call for better data collection and a broader research mandate. Other recommendations call on the federal government to lead by example by addressing food waste in their own operations and contracts, and to provide much-needed support for cities, states and tribal governments to do the same.

To achieve our national goal of reducing food waste 50% by 2030, Congress can and should prioritize food waste reduction through the 2023 Farm Bill. This new report shows them how and why it is critical. For the full set of recommendations, read the report here. And, for more information and recommendations for the federal government on food waste reduction actions beyond the Farm Bill, see the US Food Loss and Waste Action Plan.

Want to join the fight? We’re hiring.