By Y. Armando Nieto, Executive Director, May 2012 Newsletter
My Dear Friends:
The latest word from D.C. is that the 2012 Senate Farm Bill will hit the floor in the beginning of June.
This week, the House is holding hearings in preparation for its version of a 2012 Farm Bill.
And while most readers of this column will celebrate the efforts of D.C. inside/outsiders to ensure a more equitable Senate Farm Bill, everyone agrees that the House process is certain to result in drastic cuts for those most affected by policies that prioritize corporate profits over the health and well-being of people.
Here’s what CFJC is doing in the national policy arena on your behalf:
The California Food and Justice Coalition provides support for the GOAT (Getting Our Act Together) and Healthy Farms, Healthy People coalitions, and more recently, a Kellogg Foundation funded Equity First policy cluster.
The Equity First process is perhaps most instructive of how CFJC works, and illustrative of how any of us can affect national policy making efforts. Here’s the background.
In May of 2011, CFJC along with sixty food policy and other sector advocates from around the country participated in the Asheville, NC, Kellogg Foundation meeting on food policy. The result was a report that highlights a Food Policy Lifeline for Children and Communities.
Next week CFJC joins 600 activists and food policy advocates in Asheville to build upon the seminal work of 2011. To be clear, the WKKF report calls for food and agriculture policies that prioritize children and communities, and that:
• Defend Existing Programs;
• Imagine New Ideas; and,
• Go Beyond the Farm Bill reauthorization process
As the CFJC staff present in 2011, I was most struck by the passionate dialogue one simple statement that is captured in the report elicited:
SNAP [food stamps] matters, but has limitations—it should be health and wealth building, [and] not [considered] welfare.
Although surprised, I was glad to be on hand to take part in the conversation, because CFJC believes public policy/SNAP is not a hand-out. Public policy/SNAP is a duty that government owes to its people.
This is the entirely logical extension of what we at CFJC have always asserted—that access to healthy food is a basic human right.
From these conversations and the 2011 Asheville meeting, the Kellogg Foundation has decided to move forward and support a food policy equity cluster—the Equity First policy cluster.
Along with the Center for Social Inclusion, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Rural Coalition, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, CFJC is now taking a leadership role to ensure that equity is the basis of national food and agriculture policy.
This means that the concerns of communities in California and across the country will be front and center in ongoing national food policy advocacy efforts if we at CFJC remain constant to the manner in which we have always conducted our work.
It also means that advocating consistently and loudly for the health and welfare of people in making public policy really can have positive effects, and move us closer to our public policy goals.
Of course neither CFJC alone, or even in partnership with four other organizations, is going to effect the paradigm shift required to change food and agriculture public policy at the national level.
If we want to see the kind of change that prioritizes the health and well being of our people, and of our local communities, over the profits of multi-national corporations, we all have to take part in the effort.
The path forward is going to be rough, because of the nature of today’s politics and the economics of our times.
But what I can promise you is that CFJC is up to the task of taking a lead in the food and agriculture policy work before us—and not because we are more “special” or deserving than any of the multitude of efforts that people and organizations are making in communities all across the country.
No, we are up to the task because we take our work on your behalf seriously.
And we also realize that it is our good fortune to be so positioned that we enjoy the support of the Kellogg Foundation and of communities and organizations from across the country.
On a personal level, I arrived on the scene at CFJC less than two years ago and am proud to carry on the work pioneered by many others in local communities.
Going forward, our intention and practice is to use our good fortune to leverage increased funding and support for those local efforts. Please reach out to CFJC staff to see how we can best make that happen.
We call upon each of you and your organizations to join with us as we move forward to change the way public policy is made in our country.
Thank you for your commitment.
And yes, if you are able, please consider making a contribution to help CFJC continue working on your behalf.
All the best.