This last Monday at The California Endowment’s Oakland Conference Center, forty two individuals from different organizations, including the Environmental Working Group, Food and Water Watch, and Roots of Change, joined an afternoon listening session about the Farm Bill. The event was co-hosted by the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) and California Food and Justice Coalition (CFJC). The session sought to understand the historical and political context of the Farm Bill, propose new policy changes, and brainstorm top priorities and leverage points to focus on.
After individual introductions, CFSC Executive Director Andy Fisher shared a history of the Farm Bill, introducing it as the main legislative vehicle for food and farm policy beginning in the 1950’s. As a $90 billion per year tax bill for food, feed, fiber, fuel, and conservation authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Fisher noted that the Farm Bill appropriates nearly two-thirds to nutrition assistance like food stamps and the remainder to commodity programs, crop insurance, and land conservation. This legislation is reauthorized every five to seven years, with the next one anticipated to be done at the end of next year.
CFSC Policy Director Kathy Mulvey transitioned the group to brainstorming priorities for Farm Bill policy changes. The following four priorities issues were identified by the group through a straw-polling process: (1) local food infrastructure needs, (2) increasing SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits to healthier food, (3) increasing diversified farming systems, and (4) social justice.
Within these four priority issues, the following themes and ideas emerged:
The need to diversify all aspects of the food system as a mechanism to remove those impediments: diversify and lift up small and mid-scale farms, diversify research and education programs, diversify local food marketing and business opportunities, and diversify and scale up SNAP utilization.
Addressing social justice is an over-arching principle that needs to be considered in all policy changes. Ideas presented in achieving social justice through the Farm Bill included access to and protection of capital and loan programs to low-income producers and producers of color and scaling out community retail market incentives like the Healthy Food Financing Initiative.
We want to hear from you! When it comes to food and justice, what are your priorities for the Farm Bill? What areas are important to you and would you like to see addressed by the Farm Bill? What leverage points and opportunities do you see for California?
Future listening sessions throughout the state about the Farm Bill are being drafted. If you and your organization are interested in co-hosting one, please do contact us.
Moving toward food justice in California through the Farm Bill:
* Further analysis about farm subsidies in California by the Environmental Working Group
* “Understanding the Farm Bill: A Citizen’s Guide to a Better Food System” Facebook page, with up-to-date information about the Farm Bill nationally and in California
* Join the conversation. Leave a comment here or on Facebook.
* CFJC Public Policy Meetings, next one February 23rd. It is hosted on the 4th Wednesday of every month.
Become a CFJC member and be part of a collaboration of community-based efforts working towards a food system that’s sustainable and healthy for all.
For inquiries about this listening session, please contact Executive Director Armando Nieto at email@example.com.