What if we actually pulled off a Green New Deal? What would the future look like? The Intercept presents a film narrated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and illustrated by Molly Crabapple.
From Warren’s post:
For example, many farmers are forced to rely on authorized agents to repair their equipment. Companies have built diagnostic software into the equipment that prevents repairs without a code from an authorized agent. That leads to higher prices and costly delays.
That’s ridiculous. Farmers should be able to repair their own equipment or choose between multiple repair shops. That’s why I strongly support a national right-to-repair law that empowers farmers to repair their equipment without going to an authorized agent. The national right-to-repair law should require manufacturers of farm equipment to make diagnostic tools, manuals, and other repair-related resources available to any individual or business, not just their own dealerships and authorized agents. This will not only allow individuals to fix their own equipment — reducing delays — but it will also create competition among dealers and independent repair shops, bringing down prices overall.
I will tackle consolidation in the agriculture and farming sector head on and break the stranglehold a handful of companies have over the market.
Read the post here.
Article from Bayou Brief, written by Lamar White, Jr. on October 14, 2018
Loranger, Louisiana is an unincorporated town in Tangipahoa Parish, about fifteen minutes north of Hammond and an hour east of Baton Rouge. Its most notable “sightseeing” attraction, according to Facebook, is the Methodist Church, which had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places until its building was torn down and replaced three years ago. The Southern Baptists own a small summer camp there, Living Waters, on the banks of the Tangipahoa River.
There’s a local donut shop and a Dollar General, which both earn a mention on the town’s Wikipedia.
This place is tiny.
It’s also the hometown of Jessee Carlton Fleenor, the 34-year-old Democrat challenging Ralph Abraham, a two-term Republican congressman from Alto, another tiny town on the other end of Louisiana’s vast Fifth District.
Since qualifying, Fleenor has put thousands of miles on his old Dodge pickup truck, visiting all 24 of its parishes and the small towns that dominate its landscape.
Fleenor is a vegetable farmer. He grows lettuce, bell peppers, corn, broccoli, and cucumbers, among other things. It’s seasonal work, 12 weeks in the spring and 12 weeks in the fall. For the past few years, he’s operated what he calls a “farm to door” program, delivering bags of 8-10 items, including a small selection of fruit and flowers, every week to customers across the region. In the fall, he includes organic eggs and fresh bread as well.
He’s not in it to make a fortune. Most years, he says, he earns between $20,000 to $30,000; the average household income in the district is slightly more than $37,000 a year
I was able to hear an update from FMC’s Policy Director Ben Feldman today and would like to give a quick overview and call to action for all of my readers:
Hidden in all of the activity on Capitol Hill this month is Congress’ inability to pass a new farm bill. As many of you hopefully know, a new farm bill is passed every five years. The House and the Senate had each worked on their own version, but were unable to get anything out of shared committee to vote on. (One main difference between the two bills was work requirements for SNAP recipients, and the inclusion of LAMP* in the Senate version which would help the Tiny but Mighty programs, but the story now is that there are many other stumbling blocks to a final bill coming out of committee.)
What that means is that in a few days (September 30th) the current Farm Bill expires. The session is likely to end without an extension of 2014’s Farm Bill either. This leaves it to the lame duck session in 2019 to either get a new bill passed or an extension of the 2014 bill, and since that short session means some members are on their way home, and others may be waiting for new jobs on committees there is little hope a new Farm Bill will come from that session. However, it is quite possible that the lame duck session will pass an extension to the 2014 Farm Bill.
The biggest problem with only getting an extension of 2014’s FB as the achievement of the lame duck session will be the lack of funding included for what is called the “Tiny and Mighty” programs which do not have baseline funding. Baseline funding is essentially a funding threshold where programs are assumed to continue either in a new Farm Bill or in an extension of an old one. Without baseline funding, the Tiny but Mighty programs need to be named and inserted in any extension which is unlikely without pressure.
These are programs that have large impacts but small funding. Here is NSAC’s list of programs that will sunset on the 30th:
Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program
Conservation Reserve Program – Transition Incentives Program
Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP)
Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program (FINI)
National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCP)
Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI)
Organic Production and Market Data Initiative *
Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers *
Rural Micro entrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP)
Value-Added Producer Grants Program (VAPG)
This does not mean that grants funded by these programs before September 30 are in danger; if your project received funding in 2017 or 2018 with these programs, that money is already appropriated and will be available to you for the life of your grant.
The ten tiny but mighty programs of this series have made a nearly half billion-dollar investment in American food and farm systems over the course of the current farm bill cycle. These programs have represented 100 percent of the farm bill funding for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer programs, organic programs, and rural economic development spending.
Needless to say, spending for these critical programs is minuscule relative to the cost of the full farm bill, weighing in at just a fraction of one percent of total farm bill funding. Under a three-month extension scenario, for example, Congress would need to invest only $35 million to keep these critical programs active at their current 2014 Farm Bill funding levels.
So the message here is: write to your reps and senators and remind them of the work and impact that your farmers markets, CSAs, food hubs, farmer training programs and so on have in your community, and how these funds have helped your work in the past. Ask them to get an extension passed in the short term with the 10 Tiny but Mighty programs included. And then to get busy on the new Farm Bill.
They need to hear from you. Again and again. And as Hoosier Farmers Market Association pointed out on today’s call, those of you who work at the state level or on policy councils can help by amassing data on what DTC outlets and farmers in your state or area of work have received from those 10 programs and the impacts of those awards to send along to your elected officials.
*The Senate’s 2018 Farm Bill includes language to establish the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP), which would provide permanent funding for local food by consolidating existing programs into a single program.
- Consolidate Value Added Producer Grants, Farmers Market/Local Food Promotion Program, Value Chain Coordinators, and planning partnerships into a new program administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service in coordination with Rural Business-Cooperative Service;
- Maintain purpose and eligible entities for each program;
- Identify Cooperative Extension Service as the lead for outreach and technical assistance;
- Provide $60 million in mandatory funding and $20 million in appropriated funding;
- Reserve 35% of funding for farmer or rancher grants; and
- Reserve 10% of funding for projects supporting beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers.
Every direct marketing farmer and outlet has to be prepared for the next years of work, no matter what political affiliation one has. The reality is that many of the food and farming programs that we have worked to expand over the last few years may disappear, or at least shrink in size or in reach. As leaders, you should be cognizant of 3 levels of activism: advocacy, mobilization and organizing. Knowing the difference between those is often the key to avoiding burnout and for engaging people successfully: actively educating others about ideas and needs around your market and its producers (advocacy), encouraging others to be active about those ideas and needs (mobilization), teaching others to lead, defining tactics and building campaign strategies to push those ideas forward or to address a looming legislative crisis(organizing). There are wonderful resources like this one from NYFC to get up to speed on the skills and tactics necessary for different types of work. It is also vital that this work is visible at the local, state and at the regional and/or national level.
advocacy: Don’t Hide the Hard Work: Get ready folks, as this is my new mantra in 2017. It is wonderful that markets work hard to put on lovely, comforting markets that celebrate all that is good in community food and hide the duct tape that keeps it all together, but sometimes I think we leave the market organization’s own story behind. In order for it to be seen as a community asset, it is important that those who use it understand that money must be raised, partnerships have to be managed, and logistical issues are constant. So tell the story of the market and producers in words and pictures to audiences that are interested in expanding its impacts to others nearby. Don’t just tell the same “product available” version week after week, month after month; mix it up and instead use your email newsletter to advocate for a single policy change or to explain the FMPP proposal process or to highlight an evolution that one of your vendors has achieved or is working on. For example, it may be a story about one of your vendors getting their products on grocery store shelves and share some of the steps in terms of policy changes or product development that it took to get that done.
mobilization: • Ask your community to send out emails and tweets when legislators or other audiences need to understand how to make community food better. • Post your municipality’s public meetings and your state’s legislative schedule and invite members of your market community to attend as a group, dropping off some of FMC advocacy materials with your market information. That way, some of you might become information providers on food and farming issues for your legislators when necessary. • Don’t rely entirely on social media to mobilize everyone: Create a phone tree among your producers and affiliated stakeholders for when you want them to call about an issue concerning the market or production. • Offer bulleted points for people to write their own emails or letters. Don’t spend time creating online petitions; legislators rarely take those seriously. They are fine to raise awareness among a group of voters but they do little beyond that when it comes to actual policy changes.
organizing: • Build an advisory team made up of vendors, shoppers and neighbors. If possible include younger people like vendors’ teenaged children or employees, using the time to talk in detail about policy issues that affect your market and its producers. Ask them to write short pieces for the market’s newsletter or to tag along when you are going to do an interview about the market. You’d be surprised how quickly members of your market community will get comfortable in talking about and even for the market if you bring them along carefully and with sensitivity to their fears about public speaking. • Invite state leaders to open the season (even for year-round markets) at the market with a ribbon-cutting ceremony or a bell-ringing. Ask a vendor board member or longtime shopper to spend a few minutes showing the leaders around. • Use Dot Surveys to regularly ask visitors and vendors questions about local issues and not always about food or farming. Post the responses and share them with the municipality.
as coalition members
advocacy: Don’t Hide the Hard Work. • Team up with the area’s intermediate buyers like restaurants to build support for farmers using multiple sales outlets. Ask those chefs and store buyers to use their social media sites to talk about the daily work of the market and your farmers.
mobilization: • Share data on your market impacts with your fellow markets and other food and farming advocates. • Organize a “rapid response team”for misleading stories about markets or farmers to give some context or analysis for the media or the market community. • Create a shared google calendar for writing letters to editors, to legislators and to your state’s policymakers on food and farming.
organizing: • Become members of an active market coalition and of at least one coalition where good food is not the primary goal; make sure any coalition you join is actively working on solutions for markets, producers or shoppers, and inclusive and transparent in its process. In those cases where it is less useful to meet regularly with nearby markets, focus on joining larger coalitions- like FMC of course!- but also try to find markets across the US that are similar to yours in terms of size, age or intent and organize yourself into an issue group. • Encourage your active community members to add a food and farming approach to their work if they are part of other groups, like anti-fracking, safe streets, immigration or in networking events for different professions (i.e. architects specializing in green building or recreational fishers) • Organize an event to show what a local food system looks and acts using as a toy village set up at your town hall or at the community center. Show some of the many, many films on food and farming now available.
This is only the beginning of the conversation. Be prepared to hear more from me and from others about the need for our market leaders to engage on many issues outside of market day. Remember too that markets are already “ahead” of many other organizers in that our work is all about being bridge-builders and working with people with a wide range of goals and perspectives. Let’s use our place in the public arena to connect more people and to build support for food sovereignty and active citizenship. And remind each other to not to allow “naive cynicism” to cloud our future or to limit the possibilities for action.
P.S. Hopefully most of you saw this on various listserves from Debbie Hillman but I think it bears reposting as often as possible:
Post-2016 election, this seems a good moment for U.S. food-and-farm activists to compare how federal resources are used on a regional (or state) level, especially whether these resources are— truly accessible to anyone and everyone— truly responsive to food-and-farm activists and practitioners.In this email, I am focusing on the seven regional offices of USDA’s Food & Nutrition Service (FNS), which is the primary federal division that focuses on food access — the food side of the food-and-farm dyad.
1. USDA FNS REGIONAL OFFICEsHere is a list of the seven USDA FNA Regional Offices:
Mid-Atlantic (Robbinsville, NJ), Midwest (Chicago, IL), Mountain Plains (Denver, CO), Northeast (Boston, MA), Southeast (Atlanta, GA), Southwest (Dallas, TX), Western (San Francisco, CA)See https://www.fns.usda.gov/fns-regional-offices for a list of the states served by each.
2. QUESTIONS to spark reflection and sharing
What do USDA FNS Regional offices do for food-and-farm activists?
How do activists in each region engage with the regional offices?
What can we learn from each other, region to region?
In 2017, what do we want to maintain in our regional offices?
In 2017, what do we want to put in place in our regional offices?
3. MIDWEST OFFICE EXAMPLE: GoodGreens (OH, IN, MI, IL, WI, MN)
To kickstart the conversation, here is a description of GoodGreens, a monthly networking event (plus monthly newsletters), hosted by the Midwest Office of USDA FNS. I have written about GoodGreens before, but have never asked about other regional offices. In my opinion, GoodGreens is a win-win model of government staff engaging with residents.
Official description: GoodGreens – Supporting local food systems in the Midwest RegionGoodGreens is a collaboration facilitated by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service Midwest Region to share resources and best practices that support sustainable local foods production and increase consumption of healthy, locally grown foods. GoodGreens meetings are held monthly in person at the USDA Midwest Regional Office in downtown Chicago and via conference call.
— Monthly networking meetings open to anyone (every month except December)
— Monthly newsletters (usually 2 per month)
— Occasional special notices (new USDA grant cycle, events)
Public Affairs Office (Alan Shannon, Public Affairs Director)
USDA FNS Midwest Office
PRACTICAL BENEFITS TO REGIONAL ACTIVISTS
— Regular and easy-to-ready information (including meeting agendas and minutes)
— Meet or learn about other activists (people, organizations, businesses, projects)
— Connect niche areas (farm-to-school, urban agriculture, food hubs, etc.)
— Connect geographically (find potential partners in same state, county, municipality, etc.)
— Share details of your work (presentation at meetings, announcement through newsletter, etc.)
— Access to information about current resources (jobs, grants, events, etc.)
— Food justice activists learn about farm justice
— Farm justice activists learn about food justice
— Mutual learning among rural, urban, suburban communities
— Meetings are well organized but informal, held in a circle (conference call capability for people who can’t come to the office)
— Easy coalition building – no one is excluded
PRACTICAL BENEFITS TO USDA FNS REGIONAL OFFICE
— Easy way for regional office to learn about new food-and-farm initiatives
— Creates database and regional and state-by-state snapshot of food-and-farm issues
— Professional development for government staff: observe and learn the interconnection of everything and everyone in the food system
— Non-partisan (office is a facilitator, not a promoter of any agenda)
— Free to activists
— Little additional cost (if any) to USDA FNS regional office
GoodGreens began in 2007 as a collaboration between the USDA FNS Regional Office and a Chicago Congressman (Bobby Rush, 1st Cong. District – IL). I believe that Cong. Rush was getting a lot of requests from constituents about food-and-farm issues. Like most urban people in the U.S. (who are trained to be ignorant of the food-and-farm system), no one really knew what to do. So a senior staff member in Cong. Rush’s office (Anton Seals) suggested monthly networking meetings. These meetings were originally held in Cong. Rush’s office. After a couple of years, they were moved permanently to the USDA FNS Midwest Regional Office in downtown Chicago.
REPLICATION IN OTHER REGIONAL OFFICES?
I think that this model is easily replicable in other regional offices — and would even be a good model for civic engagement in most (if not all) areas of government. Getting a local Congressional representative on board might be one of the best ways to start the conversation.
Key to replicating this model is having a Public Affairs Director who is really interested in people and mutual sharing, in addition to being concerned about food access. In my opinion, we would not have GoodGreens without Alan Shannon, who set the tone for GoodGreens from the very beginning. (I sure hope we can keep him, but I’d be willing to share if he can help other government offices learn how easy it is to engage with the people they’re supposed to serve.)
SAMPLE NEWSLETTER: Jan. 26, 2017 meeting
Here is a link to the most recent GoodGreens newsletter (now on Constant Contact):
— Agenda for Jan. 26, 2017 meeting
— News, Resources, Grants, and More….
— Sign-up to receive future newsletters
4. OTHER USDA FNS REGIONAL OFFICES?
I’d be interested to hear about what’s going on in the other six USDA FNS Regional Offices. Maybe activists in the Midwest Region would want to borrow from the other offices. I’m pretty sure that others on COMFOOD, FNS, and NAFSN would be interested, too. — Debbie
You can’t fix agriculture without addressing immigration and labor or without rethinking energy policies; you can’t improve diets without reducing income inequality, which in turn requires unqualified equal rights for women and minorities; you can’t encourage people to cook more at home without questioning gender roles or the double or triple shifts that poor parents often must accept to make ends meet; you can’t fully change the role of women without tackling the future of work, childcare, and education; you can’t address climate change without challenging the power of corporations and their control over the state—and, not so incidentally, without challenging Big Food. The fight for healthy diets is part and parcel of these other struggles, and it will be won or lost alongside them.
It’s all connected; the common threads are justice, fairness, and respect. “Sustainable” is a word that we must now apply to democracy itself: a nation built on perpetuating injustice and the exploitation of people and nature doesn’t qualify. And a “sustainable food system” cannot exist inside an unsustainable political and economic system.
- “I’m disappointed that the rules don’t go as far as what was proposed early this year,” said Danielle Nierenberg, president of Food Tank, a nutrition advocacy group. “USDA has missed an opportunity to increase the availability of and access to healthier foods for low-income Americans.”
The earlier proposals also recommended leaving food with multiple ingredients like frozen pizza or canned soup off the staple list. The outcome is a win for the makers of such products, like General Mills Inc. and Campbell Soup Co., which feared they would lose shelf space as retailers added new items to meet the requirements.
But retailers still criticized the new guidelines as too restrictive. Stores must now stock seven varieties of staples in each food category: meat, bread, dairy, and fruits and vegetables….
…More changes to the food-stamp program may lie ahead. The new rules were published a day after the House Committee on Agriculture released a report* calling for major changes to the program, which Republicans on the committee say discourages recipients from finding better-paid work.
*Some of the findings from the 2016 Committee on Agriculture Report “Past, Present, and Future of SNAP” are below.
- • Program participation nearly doubled (up 81 percent from FY 2007 to FY 2013) as a result of the recent recession. In an average month in FY 2007, 26.3 million people (or about 9 percent of the U.S. population) were enrolled in SNAP. That increased to 47.6 million people (or about 15 percent of the U.S. population) in FY 2013, owing to the fact that the economy was slow to recover and many families remained reliant on SNAP. Even now, with a 4.6 percent unemployment rate (compared to a 9.6 percent unemployment rate for 2010), there were still 43.4 million SNAP participants as of July 2016.
- • SNAP is now a catchall for individuals and families who receive no or lower benefits from other welfare programs, largely because the eligibility criteria in SNAP are relatively more relaxed. As a result, the net effect has been to increase SNAP enrollment. For example, in the welfare reforms of 1996, the cash welfare program Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was converted into a block grant known as TANF, which has rather rigorous work and activity requirements and includes a time limit. Another program available to those who are laid off from work is Unemployment Insurance (UI). These benefits require individuals to have a work history and to be fired through no fault of their own to be eligible for assistance. UI benefits are also time-limited, typically lasting six months. A third program, Federal disability benefits, requires individuals to prove they are unable to work. For many families who have not collected SNAP in the past, SNAP is now a default option for filling in the gaps.
- • USDA data shows that spending on SNAP remains three times what it was prior to the recession ($23.09 billion pre-recession average compared to $73.99 billion post-recession in FY 2015). However, SNAP spending is now projected to be significantly lower than it was estimated at passage of the 2014 Farm Bill.
- • For FY 2017, the maximum monthly benefit in the 48 contiguous states and DC is $194 for a one-person household, $357 for a two-person household, and $649 for a four-person household.17 In determining a household’s benefit, the net monthly income of the household is multiplied by 30 percent (because SNAP households are expected to spend 30 percent of their income on food), and the result is subtracted from the maximum benefit to determine the household’s benefit.
- • Seniors have the lowest rates of SNAP participation among eligible households of any demographic. While the low participation rate has a variety of causes, a prominent explanation is the stigma associated with SNAP and welfare in general. Many factors contribute to a lack of access to food among seniors, including a lack of a substantial income, the gap between Medicaid and the cost of living, limited income with specialized diets, and mental and physical illnesses. The issues facing these populations must be viewed holistically, with SNAP as one piece of a larger solution to solving hunger for seniors.
According to research by the AARP Foundation—a charitable affiliate of AARP—over 17 percent of adults over the age of 40 are food-insecure. Among age cohorts over age 50, food insecurity was worse for the 50-59 age group, with over 10 percent experiencing either low or very low food security. Among the 60-69 age cohort, over 9 percent experienced similar levels of food insecurity, and over 6 percent among the 70+ population.
• The operation of the program is at the discretion of each state. For instance, in California, SNAP is a county-run program. In Texas, SNAP is administered by the state… Dr. Angela Rachidi of the American Enterprise Institute cited a specific example in New York City where SNAP, WIC, school food programs, and child and adult care programs are all administered by different agencies and the result is that each agency must determine eligibility and administer benefits separately.
K. Michael Conaway, Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture. Hearing of the House of Representatives, Committee on Agriculture. Past, Present, and Future of SNAP. February 25, 2015. Washington, D.C. Find report here
From CNN this week:
The number of people seeking emergency food assistance increased by an average of 2% in 2016, the United States Conference of Mayors said in its annual report Wednesday.
The majority, or 63%, of those seeking assistance were families, down from 67% a year ago, the survey found. However, the proportion of people who were employed and in need of food assistance rose sharply — increasing to 51% from 42%.
Glad to see Richard’s take on the election and on our food organizing future even if it seems bleak:
I am very much on edge that the hard-fought battles for greater transparency, greater community engagement and shaping local control over foods … could be wiped out….
…there is no longer a consensus about social, economic and political obligations to one another…we need to build mechanisms for social cohesion….
Still, leave it to Richard to find the cracks in the sidewalk for shoots to grow:
While Trump and Brexit signal a “hard-right nationalism,” they also represent “votes against large, faceless, unresponsive institutions or political blocs … a vote against large imperial elites,” McCarthy said from Slow Food’s Brooklyn, New York headquarters.
Trump’s popularity outside cities and the coastal elite, he said, also means a rejection of an “economy that treats rural economies as places that we extract resources from rather than as places where we grow wealth and community….
…Food continues to be this persistent wormhole in the universe between people who are otherwise divided.
..we still have all of this baggage from the second half of the 20th century; growth-driven economy, globalization, ultra-specialization where we don’t even know or have to know where our food comes from as long as it comes in cheaply. That system is unraveling; in the unraveling, it’s no longer functioning for people.
there is a sense that I want a different kind of relationship in my community with my food…there is an instinct to reach out and there is an instinct to want to withdraw. I can’t do anything about the withdrawing although I fully understand why one would want to…(but) food is a fairly benign gateway for us to forge relationships, connections….
The place where food and family intersect is ripe for developing a strong block of food voters, especially in swing states, pollsters said. The organic-milk mom could be the new bipartisan soccer mom. With Walmart selling organic produce, farmers’ markets in nearly every community and McDonald’s promoting a new less-is-more ingredient philosophy the line is growing faint between what were once considered latte-drinking liberals and red-state beer buyers.
”Millennial voters are more articulate about food issues than any generation before, and less apt to be loyal to any one political party. And food is one of the few issues in which lawmakers from different parties can find common ground,” Mr. Massie said.
I might suggest the level of success we see in getting food and farming issues into electoral politics will be directly linked to how organizations and producers use their bully pulpit to get elected officials (including candidates) to their markets, gardens and farms.
To assist with that, Farmers Market Coalition is offering an updated Advocacy Kit this summer which already contains excellent tips on how to bond with one’s legislators, including how to invite your legislators to your site.
So what are YOU doing for National Farmers Market Week?
… with the launch today (March 7) of the Plant Based Foods Association, a new collective voice is set to join the fray. Organized by its executive director, food and public health attorney Michele Simon, the group’s goals will be similar to those of its animal-based counterparts: public education, media outreach, and lobbying—only in this case it will seek to change the policies that put eggs, meat, and dairy front and center.
“The deck is stacked against plant-based foods because they cost more and people can’t find them,” Simon told Quartz. The new association, she says, is aimed at “leveling the playing field.” To do that, the organization will educate retailers and foodservice companies about these products, Simon says, and it has hired Elizabeth Kucinich, who previously served as policy director at the Center for Food Safety and as director of government affairs at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, to represent the group in Washington as its policy and partnerships consultant. (Kucinich is the wife of ex-congressman and former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, and she helped form the Congressional Vegetarian Staff Association.)
You may know Michele as the author of the excellent report: Food Stamps: Follow the Money, and the book Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back and as president of Eat Drink Politics, a watchdog consulting group.
This is going to be helpful to food advocates to have this focus in D.C.
Although this is a vital article on the breadth of the problems and issues that face the fight for the farm bill, I hesitate to wrap the entire alternative food and farming movement inside of a crisis, even one that is so monumental like public health.
In my mind, our work is powered by the most diverse set of ideas and goals captured by the simple exchange of food regionally grown, caught or made by hand. Rural, peri-urban and urban uses of land, water issues, transportation systems, safeguarding import-replacing production, creation and preservation of public space and stewardship of private land for farming and social activities, anti-hunger campaigns, appropriate technology, hands-on education for children, democratic distribution, encouraging multi-generational understanding, fighting corporate control of food, unique approaches to wealth creation, celebrating current culture and reviving food history, job creation, worker rights, immigrant issues, disaster mitigation, attacking institutional and individual racism, supporting personal health goals, sharing intellectual ideas without need of institutions to shepherd it, expanding civic activity, ….
In other words, remember that we are pirate ships and not an armada.
Original piece on the pirate ship metaphor here
I know that many will say that all or most of the items above can be encapsulated within public health, but to me, the diversity of how each of us approach this is our greatest strength.
I agree with Michael on the end goal, but I prefer to say it like this: we sail alone, but need to anchor together at times like this for this historic farm bill fight. So, when some or most of these good ideas can be brought into a single campaign by folks like the public health sector, we need to welcome them and maybe even let them lead for a while.
This came up on a listserve today. Thankfully by opening that email I was reminded of this page’s existence and reassured by the possibility of a stray elected official doing something right for all Americans.
“By rejecting reforms and doubling down on mean-spirited cuts in nutrition and the SNAP program, a critical mass of people across the political spectrum couldn’t stomach this bill. The result was a strong ‘no’ vote, leadership looking embarrassed, and the House in disarray.”
Well done critique of the food politics that we currently live and die with. Yes instead of encouraging “fencerow to fencerow” agriculture (even for seemingly well meaning reasons), we need to assess our true needs and grow the proper food accordingly and grow it well with less inputs and environmental destruction in every succeeding generation. And instead of running into each other over middling legislative issues, we need a movement of big ideas like food sovereignty and human rights to push fairness for all that allows everyone to chime in as needed and to allow us to move past crisis campaigning. When, for example, will the US food organizers work side by side with the rest of the world’s organizers? When will we embrace true import-replacement strategies? When will all pieces of the food chain be valued?
Farm Bill Fiasco: What is Next for the Food Movement?”, a Food First Spring Backgrounder
By Christopher Cook
Deciding how America will nourish itself and sustain its farms would seem a top policy priority— yet as the US Farm Bill demonstrates, sustainably grown, healthy food and livable incomes for farmers and workers remain an afterthought in a process controlled almost entirely by agribusiness and a handful of farm-state legislators. Despite strong public opinion supporting local food, farmer’s markets, organic agriculture, food workers’ rights and access to fresh produce, agribusiness and commodity interests continue to dominate food and farming policy.
That’s largely due to their prodigious lobbying clout: agribusiness spent $137 million last year muscling Congress to do its bidding and another $46.6 million on federal candidates (about 60 percent Republican) in 2010. This phalanx of power includes commodity producer groups like the American Corn Growers Association; corporate food processors and purveyors such as Kraft and Dean Foods; the Farm Bureau; dairy and meat industry giants; and seed and petrochemical corporations like Monsanto.
On the other side, armed with ideas and passion but little money, stand hundreds of groups from across the US pressing Congress on an array of policies—including commodity subsidy reform, fair prices for farmers, public monies for local foods and small farmers, and conservation and nutrition funding. With a handful of lobbyists and diverse interests, they fight doggedly for small wedges of the Farm Bill pie.
But is the Farm Bill a productive venue for food movements to make meaningful change in food and farming policy?