Farm Bill 2018

4 January 2018

blog

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

It is not possible to live in the United States and not have some inkling that 2017 was an unusual year, in politics and cultural society. Happy New Year. No, really.

This Executive Director Column has a fairly large distribution, which is growing monthly. For more than a year I have struggled with how to deliver the message which is rooted in just (as in “justice”) food policy, but which ranges to the many issues that also affect how we grow and work and distribute food, and co-exist with one another. Because of events leading up and into 2017, that meant writing about voting disenfranchisement, the erosion of regulations that protect the environment and human health, sexual abuse and harassment, loss of life at the hands of police authorities, standing up—and kneeling—for civil and human rights, the greed of corporate America, and many other “hot button” issues.

My intent has never been to incite controversy. On the contrary, while raising issues that affect communities in many parts of the country the goal has been to hone my writing skills to make the monthly message clear and accessible to a wider range of individuals. It has been a daunting task, to write about the hot button issues in a way that does not try to convince or brow beat or “turn-off” people, but rather, that illuminates and documents the culture in which we live from a broader perspective to a wider audience.

I have done so because I believe that it is only by reaching out to nontraditional allies that we will be able to overcome the rhetoric of the bullies who have shaped and maintain control of the national conversation—and our government—today. But if we are to change the course of the country it requires increasing numbers of our country men and women to actively participate along with us in the democratic process. Such is the effort required to change the culture of demonstrable greedy and self-serving cronies currently in charge.

I hope I am getting better at the job. Because now it is time to bring it all together, in the process of advocating for a full and fair Farm Bill in 2018. In that process please bear in mind that we believe in civil and voting rights for all; a safe and harassment-free work place and culture; regulations and regulatory processes that protect the environment and human health; food policy that prioritizes people, human health, conservation and equity over corporate profits; police policy and practice and national security that does not allow for subjecting disproportionately people of color to unwarranted imprisonment and death within the U.S.; and a legislative process that is open and transparent.

If you “click” on the graphic next to this column you will be directed to the CFJC website, where you can actually read through the timeline and legislative process it normally takes to produce a Farm Bill. However, given the 2017 legislative processes, we will have to fight for a transparent and regular process and support and hold our Congressional champions accountable in 2018 if we do not want a repeat of 2017.

And we cannot afford a repeat of the 2017 legislative process, not with a $1 trillion Farm Bill 2018 that Speaker Ryan has targeted to pay for his corporate tax cuts.

Clearly, one of the things we learned in 2017 is that we cannot rely on Congressional champions to stop the majority party from running roughshod through a regular legislative process. Either the system does not allow our Champions to put up effective resistance, or they just don’t have the capacity, on their own.

If we want to make sure the Farm Bill 2018 reflects our values and not the values of the corporate donors of the majority party we have to be organized, vocal, loud, and omnipresent.

Fortunately, we have allies in D.C., and in communities across the country.

Community Food Banks in California and other states have expanded capacity to include policy advocates in addition to the food they provide people desperately in need of sustenance. In those efforts they are joined by school food programs, nutrition advocates, and a growing number of community organizations, faith-based coalitions, and other volunteers.

At the national level, the National Family Farm Coalition, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and the Rural Coalition/Coalicíon Rural along with CFJC anchor the GOAT process, but also work with other national food and agriculture efforts (National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Assoc., FRAC, HEAL Food Alliance, National Farmers Union, etc.) on the Farm Bill and food policy.

CFJC is proud to be a founding member of the GOAT (Getting Our Act Together) process that for more than five years has convened a weekly conference call of individuals and organizations advocating for equity and a just, fair Farm Bill. Created to work on the 2014 Farm Bill at the end of 2011, one of the significant achievements of the GOAT process was a statement to Congress (ultimately) signed by more than 500 organizations representing thousands of groups, coalitions, and hundreds of thousands of individuals and communities from across the country demanding a Full and Fair Farm Bill.

In the first few days of the new year President Trump tweeted that his nuclear button was “bigger and more powerful” than North Korea’s and “actually works!”; his former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was quoted trashing members of the president’s family in Michael Wolff’s new book “Fire and Fury,” including assertions by Bannon that the Trump campaign was involved in treason; and Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III hired 17 new senior U.S. Attorneys to fill the positions vacated after the president fired all 46 of them 300 days ago.

To add insult to injury, the new U.S. Attorneys for the southern and eastern districts of New York—where the Trump empire is based—were personally interviewed by the president against all precedent, and include a former partner (Geoffrey Berman) of erstwhile N.Y. Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a close confidant of the president.

If the first few days of the year are any indication of what is to come—and they are—it will be challenging to keep a focus on food and agriculture policy and the Farm Bill 2018.

And yet, that is our task. As with the 2017 Tax Cut Bill that redistributes wealth from the middle class to corporate donors, this Farm Bill 2018 has the potential to further damage and fundamentally change who we are as a country, and we must not allow political shenanigans and theatrics to distract us.

At CFJC we will do our part to help keep the focus. In this space, in the GOAT process, and wherever we are called upon to participate.

We encourage each and every one of you to do likewise. Remember, anyone can volunteer or donate food at the local Food Bank. Keep the conversations going wherever you encounter potential new allies.

And please, don’t forget that keeping the conversation going is perhaps the best tool we have for building a growing consensus of what we have to do to take back our country, a consensus built on shared values.

As I indicated in the last column of 2017, CFJC is largely a volunteer effort at this point, but we nonetheless are committed to the values and ideals of all those who comprise the coalition on behalf of everyone, and it does require minimal funding to continue. Please go to the CFJC website to make a donation as you are able.

Also let us know if there is anything we can do to support the work you are doing as an individual, organization or community. We’d like to help, or at least celebrate the effort in this space.

Once again, thank you, and all the best throughout the New Year.

armando-sig

 

 

 

Armando Nieto
Executive Director

 

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CFJC promotes the basic human right to healthy food while advancing social, agricultural, environmental and economic justice. Through advocacy, organizing and education, we collaborate with community-based efforts to create a sustainable food supply. We envision a food system in which all activities, from farm to table, are equitable, healthful, regenerative and community-driven.

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