My Dear Friends:
Its late Monday night and I am on a national emergency conference call where people are reacting to news that a set of Farm Bill amendments now likely to hit the Senate floor will not include Senator Udall’s bill to restore funding to the Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers program Section 2501. Please take a moment to revise the action alert to the left accordingly, refining the message for your electeds. More later.
In related news, this week June 20-21st the CFJC Steering Committee is meeting in Los Angeles with a full agenda that includes:
• Coalition building
• Getting the message out
• National food/Farm Bill policy work
• CFJC Leadership Role
• Possible CFJC name change
In addition to a review of current CFJC program activities, the agenda items above address head-on those issues that define and determine who we are as a coalition.
Re. the Farm Bill, Section 2501 for example…
By way of background, this is a proposed piece of legislation that a broad array of groups agreed was emblematic of a basic core principle we all share in the Farm Bill 2012 reauthorization process—equity.
When a new class of beneficiaries was added to Section 2501—veterans—at the same time that proposed funding was cut to $25 million, members of the GOAT (Getting Our Act Together) Coalition agreed that rather than complain and attack veterans, more beneficiaries required an additional funding allocation.
Two Senators were approached to help with the effort.
Senator Udall (D-NM) stepped up and proposed an amendment to increase Section 2501 funding to $150 million.
GOAT participants also contacted Senator Brown (D-OH), who agreed to include in his amendment $25 million for Section 2501, as a back-up safety measure.
For weeks, and especially over the past week people in home districts across the country and in visits to the “Hill” have been meeting with elected officials and legislative staff to educate and garner support for this critical program.
And tonight is seems all was for naught, as the Udall amendment will not be part of the Farm Bill, and Section 2501 funding has been stripped from the Brown amendment.
To be sure, members of the California Food and Justice Coalition, GOAT, Equity First Food Policy Cluster, and Healthy Farms, Healthy People Coalitions have other important priorities related to the Farm Bill reauthorization process.
For example, Senator Gillibrand’s (D-NY) amendment to restore $5 billion to SNAP and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, is something that again, all of us can support.
Some 43 other amendments will also likely show up on the Senate floor first thing Tuesday morning.
But to be clear, for many people on the national conference call tonight, rejection of funding for Section 2501 is seen as nothing less than a racist slap in the face to disadvantaged farmers, and to our ethnic communities.
As one member on the call opined, “it’s as if we are being punished for something we did wrong.”
I believe it is appropriate for CFJC to take the lead in telling this story, and to tell it broadly. I believe it is our role.
Because no one else is doing so.
Because we have this platform, and your attention.
Because we have to do our part to stop the cycle of making legislation that pits people of good will against one another.
Because it is ludicrous to act as if the richest country in the world is not capable of feeding its own people, and supporting the individuals and families—and not just corporations—who grow the food we need to survive and thrive.
Time after time, I find myself, as leader and spokesperson for your Coalition, in the position of learning more and more about how food policy and our food system operates. And it is not pretty.
Change in this time of economic uncertainty requires the participation of more than a handful of dedicated activists in D.C., and in our local communities.
Our representatives and elected officials need to hear from all of us, to be clear about the values that we hold dear in our homes, within our families, in our communities.
If this message ruffles a few feathers or is uncomfortable, that is understandable. This is new stuff. Over the past dozen years or so we have all been acculturated to act as if democracy is a spectator sport.
After all, we are the country where, when our president declared war, he told us we could support the effort by “going shopping.”
Yes, it is time to change the way we do things.
This is our time, our country, our government, and we are the grown-ups.
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.
Join with CFJC, or with another organization or group that is working to build a food system that prioritizes food for people, and not just for profit. If you need to connect with those groups, or learn more about how you can step up your involvement with others in the effort, visit the CFJC or other websites and follow the links.
Thank you in advance for your commitment to the health and well-being of our families. Thank you for caring, and for taking the time to make an effort.
And yes, if you are able, please consider making a contribution to help CFJC continue working on your behalf.
All the best.
Y. Armando Nieto
California Food and Justice Coalition