This week, the full Senate will take up the Farm Bill and $4.1 billion in cuts to SNAP are included. 

 You can join advocates in opposing these cuts here:

USDA report: Nutrition Assistance in Farmers Markets: Understanding Current Operations

I have begun to take notes on the 799 page report released by the USDA last week (authored by Westat) on nutrition assistance programs managed at markets/with direct marketing farmers.
This (FM Ops) is the first completed phase of the 3 phases of research. Next will be a FM Client Survey, followed by a survey of organizations administering SNAP at farmers markets.

First, the data collection info:

2 parts to this research of FM Ops

First, 9 markets were interviewed in depth, picked by FNs based on their FNS regions and level of population below poverty level:
Eastern Market, Detroit MI
Peachtree Road, Atlanta GA
South Boston, Boston MA
Clark Park, Philadelphia PA
Market On The Square, Mobile AL
Fort Pierce, Ft. Pierce FL
Wytheville, Wytheville VA
Sitka, Sitka AK
Overland Park, Overland Park KS

Second, 1682 farmers markets and 570 direct marketing farmers were surveyed organized in 4 groups:
1. Those that were SNAP authorized and had redemptions between July 1, 2010 and August 31, 2011-77.4% (FMS) and 68.2% (DMFs) response among this group

2. Those that were SNAP authorized but had no redemptions between July 1,2010 and August 31, 2011- 69% (FMs) and 65% (DMFs) response among this group.

3. Those that were SNAP authorized and had redemptions between July 1, 2007 and August 31, 2010, but had no redemptions after August 31, 2010 – 56.8 % (FMs) response among this group -FNS did not differentiate FMs from DMFs until 2010 so there is no individual data on DMFs.

4. Never SNAP authorized- 51.8% (FMs) response among this group. Same issue as above in tracking DMFs so no numbers for that group in this stratum.

Westat also conducted focus groups with 2 markets in DC and Maryland, with some fascinating input from the participants:
“They don’t all make you feel that way, but sometimes you come across one that makes you feel a little bit like, ‘Oh, another EBT card.’ I don’t think they all do it and it’s not every time, but few and far between. They make you feel a little embarrassed, like a second class citizen.”

Much more to come…..

Women farmers doubled

Posted by Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, on April 29, 2013

“A study released today by USDA’s Economics Research Service, Characteristics of Women Farm Operators and Their Farms found that the number of women-operated farms more than doubled between 1982 and 2007. When all women involved with farming are added up – including primary and secondary operators – they are nearly one million strong and account for 30% of U.S. farmers.”

President’s 2014 Budget: Overview and Department of Agriculture – NSAC

President’s 2014 Budget: Overview and Department of Agriculture – NSAC.

Sen. Roy Blunt: Monsanto’s Man in Washington

Mother Jones.

SNAP and SNAP-ED under fire

The Healthy Farms Healthy People Coalition is sharing the below information, that was distributed by Steering Committee member organization, Public Health Institute.

Public Health Institute Call to Action:
Tell the Senate: America Depends on Our Nutrition Programs

On Wednesday the Senate Budget Committee began considering proposals that would slash billions from our country’s nutrition programs-reducing funding that provides SNAP (food stamps) to over 47 million Americans, and completely eliminating the nutrition education program SNAP-Ed. As budget conversations continue over the next few days, a proposal on the table from Senator Roberts, to slash $36 billion, is expected to be the first of many misdirected attempts to balance the budget by literally taking healthy foods off of people’s plates. The proposed cuts could go even higher, if we don’t stand up for nutrition programs today.

On the heels of last week’s devastating sequester cuts, we can’t afford to sever one of the most important safety nets for our poorest families. Cutting nutrition programs won’t reduce poverty, stop children from going hungry or provide resources that improve diets.

Call your senators.

34 States Shut out of Organic Farm Program by Congress and White House – NSAC

This is the kind of action alert that farmers and ranchers miss when there is no substantial statewide sustainable agricultural organization on which to rely. Again, to take it back to the market organizations-how can we help build the advocacy organizations for our farmers so they have access to programs to grow a better earth?

34 States Shut out of Organic Farm Program by Congress and White House – NSAC.

Rural Co-ops Show the Way to Urban Job Growth – Politics – Utne Reader

Recently, I have worked with US Federation of Worker Cooperatives as a way to further my efforts as a trainer for markets and food systems. Thankfully, the USF0W is willing to share skills and resources from their excellent DAWN network with other sectors. Worker cooperatives differ from marketing cooperatives in that their very definition is about workers being involved in the decision-making in their workplaces. Marketing cooperatives are often a loose confederation of separately owned businesses marketing products or services together. Both types exists within the market movement, and both types need to be understood better so they can be encouraged more.
The article below talks about rural co-ops and their effect on urban job growth. Effective language and one finds some practical language for markets interested in using co-op techniques to encourage real growth, just as urban communities have done by learning from their rural neighbors.

Rural Co-ops Show the Way to Urban Job Growth – Politics – Utne Reader.

“A market and a sentiment are not a movement”

Love this article from Sunday’s NYT which was sent to me by a non-foodie friend. As always, I appreciate Pollan’s clarity and honesty, but I do disagree that this election season is a litmus test for our work.
The present administration has not made localized healthy food systems a core part of its mandate yet and as much as I appreciate the First Lady’s resolve and leadership on good food, lets be honest: it’s not the only flag (or even the main flag) that they are flying. As for initiatives, ballot referendums in California have yet to have serious impact on the rest of the nation. Trust me-I worked on Ohio’s Issue 5 back in the 1990s that was modeled on California’s labeling law of cancer and birth defect-causing ingredients: talk about a bloodbath.
I also say that the issues centrally addressed by this referendum are exactly what we are NOT about: refashioning the industrial food system at its edges. Our work is life and death on every front and about creating an alternative food system that by its very life means death to poisonous, fake foods controlled by a few dozen monolithic corporations. (Asking them to refashion their products for approval is like Al Capone being asked to use a 6 shooter rather than a Tommy gun-everyone would still be in danger and he would still have become richer and more powerful.)
I’d say that the true test of this system as an election kingmaker will be when there are actually candidates that stump for office using localized healthy food systems for all as their mandate. Unfortunately, that has little chance of happening on its own.
The other way we can test this system is when we actually reach across race and class lines and age groups to find one day that the majority of the country has 1) successfully shopped at a farmers market more than once 2) went to a school that regularly served healthy food that was culturally recognizable 3) honors farmers and harvesters by refusing to vote for developments that drive up prices of farmland or waterfront property and 3) choose brands that don’t pollute, use dangerous ingredients or undercut workers to bring you the best price on a product.
Then, the mandate in DC will not depend on the weak resolve of a privately funded politician, but on the goodwill of the electorate. And yeah, until then, it’s a damn good article about movements.

“One of the more interesting things we will learn on Nov. 6 is whether or not there is a “food movement” in America worthy of the name — that is, an organized force in our politics capable of demanding change in the food system. People like me throw the term around loosely, partly because we sense the gathering of such a force, and partly (to be honest) to help wish it into being by sheer dint of repetition. Clearly there is growing sentiment in favor of reforming American agriculture and interest in questions about where our food comes from and how it was produced. And certainly we can see an alternative food economy rising around us: local and organic agriculture is growing far faster than the food market as a whole. But a market and a sentiment are not quite the same thing as a political movement — something capable of frightening politicians and propelling its concerns onto the national agenda.”


2012 FMPP grants awarded

Congress will likely go on recess without any resolution on farm bill

Grist article

GMO language taken out of Farm Bill

In case you wondered what the Bernie Sanders (VT) amendment on GMO that failed to pass the Senate was about, here it is:

Co-sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Sanders’ amendment would have made clear that states have the authority to require the labeling of foods produced through genetic engineering.
In the United States, Sanders said, food labels already must list more than 3,000 ingredients ranging from high-fructose corn syrup to trans-fats. Unlike 49 countries around the world, however, foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients do not have to be labeled in the U.S.
The measure also would have required the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to report to Congress within two years on the percentage of food and beverages in the United States that contain genetically engineered ingredients.