Today the Senate takes up the 2013 Farm Bill—mimicking the (which should happen once every five years) 2012 Farm Bill process. It is possible they will debate and decide on an as-yet-undetermined number of amendments and pass a Farm Bill before the Memorial Day recess, but as with so many things about this Farm Bill process, we just don’t know for sure.
CFJC and our partners have continued to meet at least weekly to advocate on behalf of the programs you believe in—SNAP and SNAP-Ed, Beginning Farmers and Ranchers, Specialty Crops, and Equity throughout all Titles—and so that we can keep you informed.
At the same time, last week (thanks to underwriting from a donor) staff met at a ranch near Yosemite to decide how best we can serve the Coalition’s and California’s interests, which was the culmination of a six-month long discussion.
Today staff will send out a list of proposed amendments compiled by GOAT (Getting Our Act Together) participants, including those programs we want to see included in a new Farm Bill, and those amendments which will harm farmers and restrict access to healthy food, among other things.
There is no doubt many valid reasons why good people of differing opinions will debate the merits of Farm Bill programs, including the role of government, fiscal responsibility, and personal values. However, we don’t actually debate the issues—that is what Senators do on the floor of the Senate.
At CFJC we believe our duty is to you, and the members of our Coalition and communities. And through a year long process of listening sessions, workshops, meet-ups and summit activities you have been clear about the need for a Farm Bill that is based on equity—for workers, for farmers, for the health of our children and families, and for the good of our country.
This means that we have to restore funding to programs that do just that: SNAP and SNAP-Ed, and the other programs included in the list of amendments, where they were not restored in the Senate Ag Committee package.
It also means that we are looking for savings in programs that benefit large corporate interests over family farms, including commodities, crop insurance, and credit programs.
The GOAT process has been particularly useful in providing a safe place to discuss these issues by a growing number of organizations from across the country, and CFJC is proud to help convene and facilitate the process.
We also believe it is time for CFJC to have a more active presence in D.C., and elsewhere that organizations and communities are working in a growing collaboration to rebuild our food system. To that end, at our staff retreat we decided to move forward with relocating some of our Oakland staff. I will therefore be working part time in Washington, D.C., and Christina Spach will be heading up efforts in the South.
We are still working out the details of these personnel moves and will keep you all posted on developments. Again, the purpose of this restructuring is to better advocate for the priorities of our membership.
Over the past four weeks we have taken a number of opportunities to reach out to you for support for those advocacy activities. In those efforts we have been building a narrative, and a case, for why we need your support. It has been especially gratifying to see where some of you have forwarded our request for support to your own friends and contacts. We on the other hand, have been learning how better to communicate the need for urgency, and for ongoing support to hold Congress accountable to you, the people.
In our efforts on your behalf we have become part of a growing and powerful group of organizations whose values in these efforts are in alignment; the Rural Coalition, National Family Farm Coalition, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Center for Social Inclusion, Live Real, Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, Environmental Working Group, Healthy Farms Healthy People Coalition, San Diego Hunger Coalition, and many others—on our last GOAT letter to Congress more than 130 organizations signed-on.
This then is what CFJC staff does. We bring the concerns of local communities and organizations to discussions with potential and existing allies, who then join with us in advocating for policy that works for people.
And still we need your help. For CFJC to continue this work we need you to contribute to our Advocacy Fund, so that we can be present and stay on top of what transpires.
We will continue to document and publicize the steps Congress is taking on “our behalf.” And we will come back to you to ask what you want us to do to hold them accountable—to people, and not just the corporate interests that pour so much money into the public policy process.
It bears repeating again that there are many heroes in Congress who still attempt to do the people’s business while navigating corridors filled with lobbyists intent on one thing only—to sway Congress by any means necessary, and to say they have gained the upper hand is an understatement.
So again, we ask that you make sure your voice is heard, at your dinner tables, among your friends and family, and at your place of work. And make a donation to ensure that your values and voice, that the needs of our children, our families, and the people on our farms and in our communities are once again the standard of excellence in a country where greed has become a paragon of virtue.
Among the tragic stories unfolding in communities devastated by severe weather events across the country, we still have to pay attention to what is happening right now in Washington, D.C. Even as we pray and keep our fellow countrymen, women and children in our thoughts, we have to hold Congress accountable.
Remember, we have to accept that the current make-up of Congress is comprised of many people who simply do not believe that government should have a significant role in providing a safety net—that a safety net should be provided exclusively by charity and faith-based efforts. Recent events underscore how short sighted and dangerous this thinking can be.
CFJC has worked hard to position staff strategically to advocate for your beliefs and values. Please make a contribution now, to make sure that we continue to do so.
On behalf of all CFJC staff and volunteers, thank you for your personal commitment to the health and well-being of your community, and of communities across the country.
Remember, because you cannot always travel to Sacramento and D.C. to make your voice heard, we will do so with your help.
So please, if you are at all able, click on this link to make a contribution to the Community Food and Justice Coalition, so that we can continue to speak out and work on your behalf.
And best wishes in this ongoing struggle to reclaim our food system.
Y. Armando Nieto
Community Food and Justice Coalition