DRAFT for Discussion—May 16, 2011
This month marks a critical milestone in the development of the Community Food Security coalition’s 2012 Farm Bill platform. You—our members and constituents—have shaped a set of proposed Farm Bill priorities for the coalition, and now we need your help to refine them. Please read this document and give us your feedback, in person or online, by the end of May! Together, we can win important federal policy gains in the months and years ahead.
Founded in 1994, CFSC catalyzes food systems that are healthy, sustainable, just, and democratic by building community voice and capacity for change. The coalition’s diverse membership includes more than 500 social and economic justice, anti-hunger, environmental, community development, sustainable agriculture, community gardening, and other organizations.
CFSC advocates for federal policies that promote community food security and provide resources for community-based initiatives, including within the Federal Farm Bill and the Child Nutrition Act. Past successes include creation and increased funding of the Community Food Projects grants, and a Farm to School grant fund.
THE FARM BILL: WHAT IT IS AND WHY IT MATTERS
Every five years or so, the US adopts a new Farm Bill. This massive piece of legislation sets the framework for what we eat, whether our food is nourishing and affordable, what assistance our society provides to feed hungry people, what crops farmers grow under what conditions, global grain and fiber markets, and how rural land is used.
This cycle is underway again, as the $284-billion 2008 version of the law runs its course. This round of debate over food and farm policy comes at a time of intense and growing public interest in food issues. It also comes at a time of economic uncertainty for our families, communities, and nation—when the concept of public investment in our future is under attack.
The past three Farm Bills have been key vehicles for advancing CFSC’s agenda, including by: helping low-income people get access to fresh and healthy food, promoting farmers markets, getting more local foods into schools, and supporting community projects that generate jobs and improve food access. With our partners, we won significant victories in the 2008 Farm Bill.
2012 FARM BILL CONTEXT
Both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have new Chairs in the 112th Congress. The new Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), is known as a supporter of commodity crops; sixteen of the 26 Republican members of the committee are new to Congress. The Ranking Member, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), is joined by several new Democratic members from non-traditional districts—including urban representatives such as Jim McGovern (D-MA), who co- chairs the House Hunger Caucus. On the Senate side, there are only two new members of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, with new Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) known as a champion of specialty crops. Pat Roberts (R-KS) has taken over the role of Ranking Member from Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).
Pressure to trim the federal budget deficit is affecting all legislation in the 112th Congress, including the Farm Bill. There is little money available for increased spending and it is likely budget reconciliation will happen at some point, which would require mandatory spending cuts across the board. In addition, several key conservation and social justice programs that CFSC’s allies have fought hard for over the years expire with the current Farm Bill in September 2012.
CFSC 2012 FARM BILL PLATFORM DEVELOPMENT PROCESS
CFSC has been engaging our members, constituents, and partners in the development of our 2012 Farm Bill policy platform. This past fall and winter, we organized a series of Farm Bill listening sessions involving more than 700 people and 18 partner organizations in every region of the country. These listening sessions tapped into the emerging public interest in food and farm issues—most of the participants said they had not worked on a Farm Bill before. Based on the listening session results, we have focused our platform development this spring around four priority areas:
Strengthening local and regional food infrastructure; Increasing purchases of local and healthy foods through the SNAP program; Increasing food access and supporting community-based agriculture; and Supporting Farm to School. Our next step is to vet potential policy advances related to these priorities with CFSC members and constituents, partner organizations, and potential Congressional and Administration champions. We aim to complete the platform by July 2011, with opportunities for sign-ons thereafter.
PROPOSED CFSC 2012 FARM BILL PLATFORM PRIORITIES
Through discussion of the above priorities with members, experts, and allies, two overarching themes for CFSC’s 2012 Farm Bill platform surfaced: Improving access to healthy food for everyone, especially low-income people; Building local and regional food systems and infrastructure. These themes place our work for 2011-2012 in the context of our longer-term vision for a Farm Bill that better supports community food security. They are helping us to set policy priorities that will put the U.S. on the path to a sustainable and just food system, in which good agricultural policy is linked to sound nutrition policy.
Each of the priority areas coming from the listening sessions relates to one or both of these themes, which are themselves intertwined. Improving access to healthy food for everyone, especially low-income people Given CFSC’s mission and history, we are particularly well positioned to champion access to healthy food, and getting more nutritious food into federal nutrition programs. Addressing the twin crises of hunger and obesity will benefit especially low-income people, who suffer disproportionately from diet- related diseases. Support for community-based agriculture across the urban-rural spectrum, Farm to School, SNAP redemption at farmers markets, and incentives for purchasing fruits and vegetables through federal nutrition programs all fit under this theme. Building local and regional food systems and infrastructure CFSC’s mission also revolves around local foods.
As public interest in and demand for local foods grows, there is a need to rebuild regional food infrastructure—investments that will benefit local economies, farm families, and health. Food hubs, farm to institution programs, Community Food Projects and the Farmers Market Promotion Program can be engines of job creation, job training and small business development. A favorable policy environment, including land-use regulations that encourage community-based agriculture and Food Policy Councils that bring together various food system stakeholders, is also a vital part of the infrastructure needed to support local and regional foods.
Primary Priorities Primary priorities are those that CFSC considers of paramount importance; in order to gain passage of these items, we must play a lead role in advocacy and organizing. Below are the proposed primary priorities for CFSC in the 2012 Farm Bill. The farm-to-institution provisions are also proposed priorities for the National Farm to School Network. This list represents our current assessment of CFSC’s primary contributions to the 2012 Farm Bill, in light of the feedback and information we have gathered to date. However, the scope and exact content of our priorities remain in draft form, subject to change based on our further consultations and analysis of political conditions.
Defend and expand funding for community food security programs, including Community Food Projects and the Farmers Market Promotion Program. Emphasizing the community economic development and job creation aspects of these programs will be crucial to securing gains such as increased funding, mandatory funding for FMPP, tying CFP funding to inflation, or reducing the CFP match requirement to 2:1.
Secure support for the infrastructure necessary for local and regional food systems to thrive. Infrastructure such as on-farm processing equipment and aggregation, distribution, and processing facilities would strengthen regional food hubs, Farm to School, value-added production, and other rural development programs. USDA could be directed to promote multi-use public facilities through existing programs. Support would also include training and technical assistance for farmers, food service directors, and other key players in local and regional food systems.
Increase access of federal nutrition program participants to farmers markets, CSAs, and other local, healthy, sustainable food enterprises. Measures could include providing EBT devices to farmers markets and CSAs, piloting the use of smartphone technology for SNAP at farmers markets, and allocating a portion of FMPP funding to technical assistance. Setting aside a portion of SNAP- Ed funding for promoting SNAP participants’ shopping at farmers markets and CSAs, and encouraging the use of community organizing strategies, could further enhance access.
Create an interdepartmental workforce within USDA responsible for urban-rural linkages across existing programs. Such an initiative could foster collaboration among Farm Service Agency and Extension staff to better address urban and rural food access, as well as institutionalize the collaboration developed through the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative. It would also provide a structure for enhanced collaboration with other agencies such as EPA and HUD—for example through formal USDA membership in the President’s Sustainable Communities inter- agency workforce.
Require USDA to harmonize and streamline SNAP redemption and technology with other federal nutrition programs. Minimizing administrative barriers to redemption of SNAP/EBT, WIC and Senior FMNP would maximize farmer participation in these programs, with increased sales benefiting both producers and consumers.
Promote incentives for fruit and vegetable purchases by federal nutrition program participants. Targets could include increasing SNAP benefits and allocating a portion of the funds for a healthy food incentive pilot program at farmers markets, and doubling the Senior FMNP program.
Call for a USDA report and guidance document on how local government regulations can support access to healthy food. Just as CDC has developed guidance on the role of local government in preventing obesity, USDA could explore how local zoning and land-use regulations relate to food access. A report and database highlighting positive examples and best practices would be invaluable resources for Food Policy Councils and other local advocates.
Incorporate more local product into the Department of Defense Fresh and USDA Foods (formerly known as commodities) programs for school meals. Establishing an avenue for schools to use these funds to purchase and/or process local products would help ensure that small- and mid-size farmers can participate in these programs, strengthening local economies. To facilitate local purchasing, the prime vendor system for DoD Fresh would also need to be addressed.
Institutionalize the tracking and evaluation of Farm to School programs. Data-gathering on Farm to School programs and local purchases should be incorporated into the school meals audit process, and data on farm income and product availability should be collected and included in the agricultural census. It may be useful to work with processors and distributors to track some of this data.
Secondary Priorities Secondary priorities are also important in the context of CFSC’s mission, but in these areas we expect to be able to play a support role—backing initiatives led by allies in the sustainable agriculture, nutrition, public health, anti-hunger, rural development, social justice, worker rights, and other fields. We intend to participate in targeted advocacy, as our resources allow, in relation to these priorities. We also recognize the need for some flexibility to respond to emerging needs identified by our allies and partners.
Protect SNAP from cuts and changes to its entitlement status.
Support financing and/or incentives, including the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, to enable more healthy, local food retailers to develop and thrive in communities that currently lack these markets. Promote fair markets and increased competition in agriculture.
Maintain support for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers through the Office of Outreach & Advocacy. End policies that encourage overproduction and dumping of commodities. Protect key conservation programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program. Protect the Beginning Farmer & Rancher Development Program. End promotion of food crops as a source of biofuels that threatens food security in low- and middle-income countries.
LAUNCHING CFSC’S FARM BILL ORGANIZING & ADVOCACY Here’s where you come in: we need your help this month to hone CFSC’s policy priorities, and then to move the platform forward starting in the summer. If you are not already a CFSC member, please join and give us your feedback—in person at the Food Policy Conference, or online via a Zoomerang survey (http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22CDW95D7JD/).
f your organization or community is also working on the Farm Bill, please think about where our agendas converge and how we might work together. Other debates in Congress—on issues such as the FY2012 budget, the federal deficit, and the debt ceiling—may have significant implications for the Farm Bill, community food security programs, and other federal programs that serve low-income people. CFSC will inform members about the final content of our Farm Bill platform, provide regular updates on other relevant developments in federal policy, and mobilize our base in targeted and timely actions over the coming months.
CFSC’s major strategies for 2012 Farm Bill organizing and advocacy are: Generate organizational support for our policy platform and specific policy asks. Cultivate Congressional champions for CFSC’s policy priorities, and neutralize opposition. Organize individuals in targeted districts to support our platform. Develop and widely distribute a range of tools to advance our policy platform. To get involved, sign up for our federal policy listserv at http://nacaa.net/policy.html or contact our Policy Office in Washington, DC at 202.543.8602. Kathy Mulvey, Policy Director – kathy[at]nacaa.net Megan Lott, Associate Policy Director – megan[at]nacaa.net