The Buzz – July 2016

The Buzz

These past couple of weeks have put race and racism front and center in the media, and, while those stories have focused in particular around policing and the criminal justice system, CFSA’s Policy Team knows that agricultural policies have also played, and continue to play, a role in creating racial inequity in our country.

Who farms? Who has access to the best land? How many century farms are owned by black farmers? Is this just the way it is? Farmland ownership; access to grants, loans and technical assistance; the presence (or lack) of healthy food in a community; the location of farms that produce waste; who holds low wage jobs in the food industry: none of these are things that just “happened.” They are the result of policy decisions made over generations.

The CFSA Policy Team is tasked with supporting policies that will develop a food system that is good for farmers, communities, and the environment; how can our work contribute to making a food system that confronts and resolves racial inequities? What can we at CFSA do, and will you help? Send me an email and let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you.

All the best,

Rochelle signature_cropped

Rochelle Sparko, CFSA’s Policy Director

P.S. Come work for us! The deadline to apply for our SC Policy Coordinator position is Aug. 1!


Buzz-Worthy News for July


Farm Aid’s statement

Farm Aid was in the Carolinas just a couple of years ago, holding its 2014 signature event in Raleigh. A little over a week ago, Farm Aid came out with a statement in response to the killings in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Texas. Check out what they had to say about the impact the shooting of Philando Castile had on the food and farming community in St. Paul.


Looking for some more information about the history of racism in agriculture?

Check out these stories about how USDA contributed to the extensive loss of land by black farmers. and

People of color are talking about the intersection of race and agriculture policy; check out this series of quotes from food and farming workers and activists.


One law shall rule them all

GMO labeling has been a contentious topic for years. With Vermont’s law mandating GMO labeling taking effect this month, the federal government has decided that a single, federal law will make things easier for food manufacturers. Unfortunately, the federal law doesn’t do as much as it could to make sure consumers know what’s in their food. Check out CFSA’s take, and review our history of opposition to this federal labeling law.



What is sustainable agriculture?

You may remember that there was a little dustup last year in North Carolina about the meaning of sustainable agriculture in the 2015 Farm Act. Ultimately, members of the of the General Assembly decided against defining sustainable agriculture, a move that CFSA supported, since we found the General Assembly’s definition overly broad. Now, after conducting some research, Southern SARE has put together its list of principles that it says define sustainable agriculture. Take a look. Did Southern SARE get it right? Should state government support  these principles?


Coming soon…

An organic checkoff vote is likely coming soon, and we have heard from a number of CFSA member farmers that they’re worried about how the money collected from organic farmers and food manufacturers will be used. (What’s checkoff? It’s when farmers of a particular produce–beef, pork, and, maybe soon, organic food, agree (by checking a box) to contribute a small percentage of their sales to a pool of funds that will be used to conduct research into that product and promote it to consumers. Think, “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.” or “Pork, the other white meat.”) Checkoff dollars are supposed to be used for research and/or promotion, but it looks like some checkoff programs haven’t been playing by the rules, and they’re working on getting federal legislation passed that will make it a lot harder for anyone to uncover misuse of checkoff dollars going forward.


Where have all the CAFOs gone?

The Waterkeeper Alliance and the Environmental Working group are trying to show us. Check out this article from the News & Observer about the maps the two non-profit organizations recently published showing where the CAFOs are.


And, while we’re on the subject…

The Wilmington Star News Editorial Board took a strong position, tying the maps, government oversight of CAFOs and 2015’s so called “ag-gag” bill together in a tidy package, that wondered whether the legislators would act in time to protect communities from the potential environmental damage CAFOs present before the next big hurricane.


The more you know, the more you grow!

Did you know that organic farmers are supposed to use certified organic seed, but when they can’t find organic seed, they can use conventional (but they can NEVER use GMO seed). The Organic Seed Alliance recently conducted a study to find out more about how much organic seed farmers are using. Check out the study here.  And, hey, don’t forget that you can help organic farmers by advocating for public dollars for organic seed research.


Who feeds the world? Organic agriculture!

Friends of the Earth recently pointed out that isn’t increasing crop yields that will feed the world; we’re already able to feed far more than the number of people on earth. Hunger stems from poverty and inequitable access to the materials of farming like land and water. According to Friends of the Earth’s report, industrial scale agriculture doesn’t address those problems, rather it exacerbates them. FOE suggested more public research dollars devoted to organic agriculture would be a great first step toward feeding the world. We think that’s a great idea. Check out this article about the report (it contains a link to the report).


From feeding the world, to feeding a town

NC farmers will now be able to sell their products in residential neighborhoods in Burlington! Props to the city council for making this policy change; while it won’t single-handedly create equitable access to healthy, locally grown foods, it’s a piece of the effort to chip away at the policies that make it easier and cheaper to buy unhealthy food than to buy healthy food grown in our own communities.


Why ARE those unhealthy foods so cheap, and are they making us sick?

Time reports that the Journal of the American Medical Association found that when you get a lot of your calories from subsidized foods like corn, soy, wheat, dairy and meat, you’re more likely to have diet-related disease. What could this finding mean for how the United States spends its money on food production, healthcare and nutrition? We’re not sure yet, but we’re sure interested to find out. Read a summary of the study here.


Small and mid-scale farmers have a tough go of it in the United States

Check out this article that argues that the barriers for these farmers are two-fold; first, that most regulation of food and farming is directed at industrial-scale operations, and that such regulation doesn’t work at a smaller scale. And second, that the government invests the vast majority of its money on research relevant only to large scale agriculture. Federal farm policy prioritizes industrial scale agriculture, and it is only with the commitment and involvement of the people reading the Buzz (you!) that we can change that.


Have we convinced you that policy shapes which types of food people eat, what farmers grow, how and where it’s processed, and who benefits from the food system the way it is now? Want to change it? Join us! Join CFSA to give our Policy Team a stronger voice when meeting with policy makers. Sign up for CFSA’s Action Alerts so that you know when policymakers are considering laws and rules that could have a big impact on the food system we’re working to support. Share The Buzz on your social media feed so that more people know about the intersections of food and policy.


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