My Dear Friends:
At the national level, today the U.S. Senate is holding its last scheduled committee hearing for input on the 2012 Farm Bill reauthorization process. From D.C., Lorette Piccano of the Rural Coalition reports that the House continues its “field hearings” in Jonesboro, AR on March 30th, and Dodge City, KS, on April 20th, although both the Senate and House will take a two week Easter/Passover recess soon.
While Congress is on hiatus, CFJC will help coordinate the dissemination of policy updates from national coalitions including NSAC, Healthy Farms, Healthy People and the GOAT (Getting Our Act Together) process. On the local level, in March/April CFJC staff travels throughout the state to hold regional public policy convenings with partner and member organizations like San Diego’s One in Ten Coalition and the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network.
CFJC also facilitates policy updates on our monthly public policy calls, the next of which is scheduled for Wednesday, March 28th, and at which we will introduce Holly Calhoun, the new national Healthy Farms, Healthy People Project Coordinator. To register for the March call/webinar please contact Christina at email@example.com.
We are excited to welcome Holly to the CFJC team and believe her presence in Oakland marks an important and innovative approach to national food and farm policy.
It is past time that California and others outside the D.C. beltway lend their perspective, passion, and leadership to food policy making throughout the national Farm Bill reauthorization process. After all, if we continue business as usual in federal policy making—giving our input, crossing our fingers, and waiting for those inside the D.C. beltway to advocate for our communities—we shouldn’t be surprised by a Farm Bill responsive to lobbyists who monopolize the attention of our legislators and their staff.
The Healthy Farms, Healthy People coalition also has a policy analyst in D.C. who along with our allies advocates for the priorities of member organizations from around the country. But the deliberate decision to house the HFHP project coordinator in California helps ensure a structure that for the first time can keep our communities in a communication loop throughout the process.
We fought hard to locate the coordinator at CFJC because we believe the people of California want food policy that supports local communities and sustainable farming and food practices. As Californians we want a food system and food policy that values food first and foremost as a means of providing nutrition to people, and not just as a means of enriching corporate profits. We demand a Farm Bill that is grounded in principles of equity—for farmers, workers, and local economies at every step of the food system continuum.
Because she is located in California we can all hold Holly and the Healthy Farms, Healthy People coalition accountable to those principles; just as she can and should rely on the full support of the rest of the CFJC staff and the people of California. From California, we have a chance to make sure that national food policy represents the will of the people.
At every turn, from what we have learned, given any opportunity the people of California are eager to engage in creating new economies and a better food system. One individual at a time, in small clusters of people and communities, people are building a better way of feeding ourselves.
Last month CFJC staff participated in two community events in Oakland. My contribution was to prepare food—rice and enchiladas—for the volunteers at Acta Non Verba’s community garden who planted lavender ground cover to replace the practice of pesticide applications. Elsewhere people are taking back vacant land by planting food, in community gardens, backyards and window sills; by supporting farmers’ markets and community food stands.
These small acts are taking place daily and are the revolutionary practices that are restoring our values.
We have a long way to go as we are just beginning the conversation about values. But clearly, people are demonstrating what they value by acts large and small, and our food system is center stage.
It is amazing that over the course of the next few months and years we will see the convergence of food policy making, politics, economics, and community well-being. I am excited by the opportunities we have.
No single vote in November is going to determine the kind of world in which we will live. No single piece of legislation will bring about the monumental changes we need to make to take back our food system. No single food purchase is going to change our consumption economy.
But all of these practices are pieces of the change that people in California are making.
We believe a focus on what is taking pace in California at the same time that national food policy is crafted will result in better outcomes. We believe that the voice of an educated and engaged population cannot be ignored.
Your CFJC staff and coalition members have worked long and hard to set the stage for this opportunity.
Please stay informed by reading CFJC newsletters and messages, and by staying connected and engaged in the activities of our member groups at your local level.
We have staffed up, and reorganized CFJC operations the better to respond to opportunities to build a food system that works for us all.
In 2012 we continue with the Taking Back Our Food System call to action launched at the 2011 national Food Justice conference in Oakland. It is a message that resonates with individuals around the state and across the nation.
These are exciting times, and I want to personally thank you for your continuing commitment to and engagement in creating the future in which we all want—and deserve—to live.
And yes, if you can, once again I would ask that you please consider making a contribution to help CFJC continue working on your behalf.
All the best.
Y. Armando Nieto