On the GOAT call this afternoon we discussed the need to regroup as Capitol Hill staff work out differing scenarios, depending on the results of the 2014 mid-term elections, now just two weeks away.
I don’t think anyone really has an idea of who is going to win the election season sweepstakes, but when Congress returns in November they have a Continuing Resolution (which they enacted in lieu of a Federal Budget) that expires on December 11th and a $1 trillion Food and Farm bill implementation process to address.
CFJC and our partners want to be prepared to advocate effectively for the same provisions we have been promoting for three years—such as the 2501 Outreach to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers, and Beginning Farmers programs, and especially no cuts to SNAP benefits for children and families still struggling because of policies that continue to erode our national safety net.
However, because Congress has delayed action on so many issues—immigration, border security, etc.—we know that their actual agenda will be determined by which party controls the House and Senate. This is not political rhetoric; it is Congressional reality.
If they returned today, no doubt legislation for increasing the NIH and CDC budgets would be on the table, even though both have been victims of budget cuts for years. An Ebola scare will do that.
And now that we are back in the war business, at some point Congressional action will be required to authorize, and pay for activities in Syria, Iraq, and Iran, for starters.
However, unless there is a complete turnaround after the election in the way Congress has been conducting its business, they will be looking for places to cut in the Federal Budget to pay for any new priorities.
This is where and why it is so important for us to be prepared to defend the gains made on behalf of farmers, food workers, and communities over the three year Farm Bill reauthorization process.
We all need to remember that more than 450 groups from across the country signed on to the letters we sent to Congress and the President about a Full and Fair Farm Bill. Since then, in New Mexico and Mississippi and New York and California and Georgia and South Carolina and virtually every state in the country people have continued to meet in their communities and Coalitions, working from the field to prepare for the restoration of old programs and implementation of new programs that will help rebuild their lives and economies—because Congressional inaction has had real and terrible consequences.
I think one of the best things we can do at CFJC is try and help keep a focus on what so many people and organizations across the country have been working together on with regard to food and farm policy, at a time when attention is actively being pulled in so many directions.
For us, it all comes back to basic values and priorities.
We are all blessed to live in a country rich in resources and people. For many of us, that is tempered by an increasing awareness of the fallibilities of our leaders, and the small and mean spirited nature of politics.
But we should be able to agree on some simple values.
We live in a democracy, and that means that we do have to put up with some pretty wild opinions, from anybody and everybody. However, that does not mean that we should allow fear to limit participation in the democratic process. Or determine U.S. policy.
Whether or not you believe it takes a village to raise a child, we can agree that no one in this country should have to go to bed hungry.
I don’t normally quote Benjamin Franklin. My thinking and beliefs tend to align better with Thomas Jefferson or Thomas Paine—two of our other fallible but precious forbears.
However, I think we would all be well-served to remember Benjamin Franklin, who said,
”People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.”
Fear has become a powerful tool, whether it is fear of border security, or terrorists, or Ebola or some other pandemic, and that tool is being used constantly this never-ending political season. Certainly, those things exist, and we have to come to terms with those and many other challenges of modern day life. That is our job as members of a free society.
But doesn’t it make sense we should do so with our best thinking, and based on our beliefs of what is best for all of us? It is hard to do so with voices yelling at us with the “right” belief; with candidates making promises we never see anyone keeping once they get into office.
Over the course of the Farm Bill process we have used this space to highlight and talk about the issues that affect food policy and life in a democracy in the throes of a maturation process.
CFJC has learned that the best thing we have to offer is a “safe” space to hold conversations. We don’t claim to have the right answers, or the right beliefs, or the magic pill that is going to fix what ails our communities and our country.
But we believe that you do.
And by you, I mean the collective you.
There is wisdom in the people and families that have inhabited the country, and geographic area of the U.S. for hundreds of years.
If we can outlast the noise and yelling of the current form of electoral politics and governance, and continue the conversations that are taking place at kitchen and dinner tables in homes, towns, schools and communities, increasingly across the country; then we have a chance to evolve beyond the current state of politics and culture.
We do not have to live in fear. We do not have to let fear determine our politics, or defeat our values.
We do need to have faith in the idea of our democracy.
And we need to believe in one another.
At CFJC, we are committed to maintain a place, a safe space, where you and others can meet to discuss what is next, and what is best, for your community, and for the people of our country.
As I wrote at the outset, that means we have to prepare for whatever version of Congress convenes after November 4th
We will do so.
Please do your part in determining the composition of a new Congress, and the nature of our democracy after the election. Remember, it is an ongoing participatory process.
And once again, I need to ask again that you take a moment to make a commitment to the work we are doing by making a donation, so that we can continue to work with you and for you every day of the year.
Yours in partnership and respect.
All the best.