Getting Our Act Together (GOAT) on the Farm Bill
The GOAT Process is a collaboration among a broad range of groups across the country with the purpose of strengthening capacity of grassroots communities in influencing national food and farm policy. The goal of the GOAT Process is to deepen the collaboration between groups, facilitate more consistent transparent communication, and enable a dialogue where we can share best practices around federal policy. GOAT participants collaborate on issues of equity, justice, and access across the titles of the 2012 Farm Bill and beyond.
The GOAT Process developed out of initial discussions in November 2011 at CFSC’s Food Justice Conference in Oakland, CA. The second in-person GOAT Convening was held in DC January 31st and February 1st in the context of the most unconventional Farm Bill in recent memory to evaluate 2012 progress and set the course of food and agricultural policy and action for 2013. Through GOAT, CFJC is able to maintain a strong stance during the Farm Bill reauthorization, bringing the community voice to the negotiating table, and reporting honest updates to our membership throughout the process.
GOAT holds weekly conference calls, which CFJC helps to facilitate. The weekly calls create a space to identify shared work on alternatives that engage grassroots leaders and assist communities in influencing national food and farm policy, leading to equitable farm and food policy. There have been a total of 65 scheduled one-hour information-sharing and strategy-alignment calls from February 2012 until January 2013. These weekly calls had a maximum of 41, minimum of 11, and an average of 27 participants per call.
According to the recorded attendance on the Pirate Pad, a total of 69 organizations have participated on the GOAT calls over the past year in addition to individual farmers, ranchers, researchers, activists, and progressive media allies. Additional organizations and individuals participate on the Google Listserv (total 150 participants), in-face meetings, sign-on letters of support for Farm Bill programs and various other actions, but do not participate regularly on the calls.
Many GOAT participants that have the capacity to sign-on to GOAT-affiliated letters are national organizations that represent members in as many as 48 States. GOAT organizational participants join the process from throughout the country, and focus on a range of Sectors and specified Expertise, including but not limited to the following:
- Public Health
- Equity and Civil Rights
- Food and Ag Policy, Advocacy
- Agriculture – Sustainable, Urban/Rural
- Rural Development – Food Sovereignty, Credit, Land/Resource Access
- Community Food – School Food, Local and Regional food
- Food System Workers –Tribal and Farmworker Rights, Immigration, Beginning Farmers and Ranchers and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers
GOAT participants have jointly created and signed onto over 25 sign-on letters supporting equitable Farm Bill programs and a fair Farm Bill process. A variety of organizations have taken responsibility for writing and delivering these letters with input solicited from all GOAT participants. On many occasions, multiple organizations have collaborated on more than one letter. On average, between 100-180 organizations have signed on to letters to support programs, amendments, particular marker bills, or Representatives in their efforts for supporting a fair Farm Bill. Some areas that were covered in the sign on letters include but are not limited to:
- General Collaborative Letters on Key issues like the Fiscal Cliff, Sequestration and the some 37 critical programs that lost baseline funding
- Beginning Farmers and Ranchers
- Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Programs
- Soil and Wetlands Conservation
- Organic Crop Insurance
- Micro-Loan and Credit
- Substantial Underserved Trust Area (SUTA)
- Packer Ban
- Broad Farm Bill Support
- Rural Development
- An Analysis of Floor Amendments during the full Senate Farm Bill Debate was also developed and delivered to all 100 Senate offices in June. A similar analysis of 106 proposed amendments to the House Agriculture Committee Farm bill draft was delivered to al House Agriculture Committee members. The Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucus members on the committee expressed particular appreciation for the guide.
Petitions and Press Coverage
On September 20th, 2012, a press conference and petition delivery with 35,000 signatories was sponsored by the Color of Change, Rural Coalition, National Family Farms Coalition (NFFC), National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association (NLFRTA), Community Food and Justice Coalition (CFJC), and Live Real, all of which are GOAT participants. Some were present at the press conference and others helped spread the word via new and social media.
The above picture shows Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson discussing the importance of protecting SNAP benefits and the 2501 program. His remarks were followed by comments from Congresswoman Rosa Delauro, Congressman Jim McGovern of the House Ag Committee, Congresswoman Terri Sewell from Alabama, Kathy Ozer of the National Family Farm Coalition, Rudy Arredondo of the National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association, and a closing statement by Lorette Picciano of the Rural Coalition. Hagstorm report released an article covering the Press Conference which can be found here.
Additionally, GOAT participant National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) developed a petition calling on Congress to pass an equitable, sustainable, 2012 Farm Bill, which included nearly 22,000 signatures. The petition was delivered to Congress in November, followed by a national call-in day and supported by a social media campaign. The petition had nearly 60 partner organizations, including several organizations that are active GOAT participants. This seems to demonstrate that as we work together into 2013, more collaborative press and media events would help with visibility and shared costs, and therefore help frontline communities share their stories to reinforce national Farm Bill programs supported by participants of GOAT.
Significant Participant Survey Results
A survey monkey was distributed on the GOAT googlegroup for participants to complete. Participants have provided information on various initiatives their organization has taken in partnership with GOAT and/or as GOAT participants. Thirty GOAT participants completed the survey, with some of the most significant results highlighted below.
Many organizations joined GOAT for many reasons; survey respondents have indicated that GOAT has satisfied these reasons for joining at 100% level. Some reasons include:
- Collaborative work on the Farm Bill
- Community-based approach
- Find out more and better understand the Farm Bill
- Believe in equity, food justice and including rural America
- To improve our understanding of equity and diversity issues of historically underserved communities
- To have a united voice linking grassroots and advocacy
92% of respondents believed “the GOAT process has led to more collaborative and productive action on Farm Bill Policy/Food and Farm Policy.”
The meaning of Equity for each of the individual organizations who participate in GOAT seemed to vary, however, the importance of equity as an overall goal for the GOAT Collaboration is a top priority, as demonstrated by the text of our collaborative letters which have received up to 200 organizational sign-ons. All GOAT initiatives and discussions are processed through an Equity lense. Discussions of establishing an Equity Title in the 2012 Farm Bill were a result of the second GOAT convening, and action steps following the discussion are in play.
At the second national GOAT convening in DC on January 31st and February 1st, participants gathered to review the progress of GOAT to date and begin developing an inclusive strategy and next steps for collective, national and grassroots efforts in policies impacting the food system.
Below are survey results for the role of the GOAT process in the food movement in 2013. In addition to the below listed items, GOAT will continue to: work to bring Equity to food and farm policy particularly through the 2012/13 Farm Bill; develop capacity of participant partnerships through the community mapping project; engage grassroots organizational participants; and develop a collective vision in the coming year.
To read the full 2012 GOAT evaluation report, click here.