By Victoria Endsley, CFJC Intern
In today’s current economy, where we may be just days away from defaulting, it has never been more important to look at the role of the federal government in managing the funding of progressive organizations. Where would we be without its support? In the world of food, this funding has never seemed more perilous, as coalitions and food organizations across the United States speculate whether there will even be a Farm Bill 2012. Before I was even aware of this legislation, Farm Bill 2008 came and went, and there was not much buzz around it. Legislation was passed, initiatives were green-lighted, and then the economy sank. Food programs that did not seem monumental four years ago are now hugely valued as the prospect of no new legislation or funding looms dangerously overhead. Food, after all, is at the nexus of many other issues that we have in the United States, including poverty, health and social justice. We can’t continue to think of these issues as separate and in fact through food, we can help address many pressing issues that we face nationally.
To begin with, we must prioritize the gravest problems in our food system. This analysis will then inform a discussion that ultimately should culminate in a national campaign to fight for these initiatives. This is when the question arises: How do we do this? How do small groups affect change?
Coalitions, by definition, are individuals who have joined together with a common goal and who represent a cross-section of the major stakeholders in the industry. Typically, they are comprised of representatives from leading organizations who, through their diverse mix, could have the clout to wield change in Washington. While by that description, coalitions may seem crucial to resolve any issue, the problem is that coalitions often fail to work together effectively to achieve their goals. It can’t be simply about ideals, it has to be about action.
With food, it is clear that nothing will be resolved if the major stakeholders aren’t represented in the discussion process. At CFJC, we greatly value the participation of local, regional and national organizations that have a vested interest in the Farm Bill. Our work in coalition building demonstrates just how critical cooperation is to resolve food issues and the flexibility and nimbleness required of any committee or organization to set forth initiatives that are new, and not just repetitions of previous agendas.
We are hopeful that after the federal government resolves this immediate crisis, there will indeed be an opportunity for us to move forward in bringing about food justice and resolving other cross-cutting issues.