As the dust settles on last week’s presidential election, I’ve been thinking about how deeply divided the urban and rural parts of our country are. Donald Trump won a larger percentage of rural voters than Mitt Romney did four years ago, while Hillary Clinton won a larger percentage of urban voters than Barack Obama did in 2012. The Carolinas are no exception to this demographic. We’re getting further apart.
I’ll be honest; I feel disheartened. The chasm seems so vast. And, could it be that CFSA –whether through farm tours, the Sustainable Ag Conference, support of food councils, development of short supply chains, and advocacy for policies that encourage investment in farms and food businesses– is doing the important work of connecting rural and urban people through our focus on local, organic agriculture?
I hope so. CFSA’s Policy Team is committed to continuing our work with rural and urban individuals and communities to support agriculture that is good for farmers, farmworkers, eaters, and the environment. We have done and will continue to do this while working against racism, sexism and xenophobia.
Policy matters. It controls what types of agriculture receive government dollars, staff resources, and a voice in crafting regulations. Support CFSA’s Policy Team in our work to bolster local, organic agriculture by committing to take action. CFSA has been doing this for years, and has a number of resources to help you wade in, even if you’ve never thought about yourself as a “policy person” ever before. Start with this video about how to call your member of Congress. If you have questions, please call or email us. We’re here to help our members and supporters make a difference.
We are proud to work with you, whether you are a farmer, educator, food business owner, consumer, or one of our many allies dedicated to improving the food system for everyone. Thank you for all you’ve done, and let’s keep up our decades-long effort to connect consumers with farmers who share their values.
Rochelle Sparko – CFSA’s Policy Director
Buzz-Worthy News for November
(Note: these articles were compiled and subtitled on Nov. 11th. With the speed that policy discussions are moving after the election, some of this information may be out of date by the publication of The Buzz.)
Looking for clues about what’s going to happen with the Farm Bill or crop insurance? Here’s a blog post with information about president-elect Trump’s agriculture policy statements. It also includes the text of responses from Trump to a Penton Agriculture series of questions that were sent to both presidential candidates before the election.
Money is an important factor in political campaigns. This article reveals the origin of $93.4 million in political contributions from the ag sector to candidates and political action funds during this election cycle. There is no doubt that that this type of money can influence high level policy and decisions that can ultimately affect our entire food system.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (of which CFSA is a member), highlights what lies ahead at the federal level with upcoming budget appropriations, Food Safety Modernization Act implementation and the Farm Bill. CFSA agrees with their assertion, that, “The election of any new President comes with many challenges and opportunities. In this time of change, it is more important than ever that we in the sustainable agriculture community make our priorities clear, and that we take the opportunity to continue to shape the direction of agricultural policy for the next four years and foreseeable future.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation calls for a balanced approach to immigration reform. U.S. agriculture is experiencing a labor crisis and that many agricultural jobs involve hard work and low pay, making these jobs unattractive to most Americans. AFBF states that immigration reform and construction of a wall on our border with Mexico – central promises of Trump’s campaign – ignore the fact that inexpensive immigrant labor, both legal and illegal, is central to much of agricultural production and food processing in the United States.
How did the election influence the global warming conference held last week in Marrakech, Morocco? Attendees reacted to the new reality that America’s next president will almost certainly be openly hostile to efforts to address climate change.
The New York Times put this article on the front page, above the fold. It details an extensive examination by the Times of agrichemical industry claims that GMOs increase yield, decrease herbicide use and are necessary to feed the world. It turns out that all of those claims are suspect.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Waterkeeper Alliance assessed the effect of Hurricane Matthew on North Carolina’s coastal plain. Through aerial surveys and imagery, the groups took a detailed look at the impacts of the flooding caused by the hurricane on 36 factory farms along the Neuse, Black and Cape Fear rivers. The report, “Exposing Fields of Filth,” highlights 140 feces-strewn swine and poultry barns, more than a dozen open pits brimming with hog waste, and thousands of acres of manure-saturated fields. If that didn’t gross you out, you can read the whole thing.
State agencies are important stakeholders in farm to school initiatives. The South Carolina Department of Agriculture recently established a partnership between CFSA member, GrowFood Carolina, and the South Carolina Department of Education to develop local food procurement resources for a pilot “farm to freezer” project. This USDA blog posts provides information about this important partnership and other good work associated with the USDA Farm to School Grant Program. CFSA has been working to support advocacy for increased funding for this program, which will hopefully come soon with the reauthorization of a new Child Nutrition Act.
North Carolina is moving toward licensing farmers to grow Industrial hemp. Hemp can be used to make paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, construction materials, health food, and fuel. It is grown in more than 30 countries, and it has been legal to import hemp products into the United States for many years. CFSA has been working over the past two years to influence the state legislation and the hemp research program that is currently being developed, so that small, mid-size and organic farmers have a fair place at the table while the true economic opportunities and challenges of this marketplace are explored.
This article from The New Yorker tells the story of an intimate dinner discussion in Vietnam between President Obama and Anthony Bourdain during a recent episode of Bourdain’s show “Parts Unknown.” The author highlights how the exiting administration has been criticized for failing to deliver on promised reforms to the industrial-farming sector, however, she affirms that both the president and Mrs. Obama made food-related issues more mainstream.
The Alamance Food Collaborative got a chance to highlight some of the food system challenges that many communities face across the Carolinas in this column published in their local paper. Many other food councils are considering similar issues and we encourage them to consider pitching a story to their local paper, too! CFSA regularly supports food councils and, this fall, along with Community Food Strategies and Plate of the Union (a national initiative focusing on food system issues during the election), helped three food councils host candidates’ forums. Alamance Food Collaborative, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Food Policy Council, and the Durham Farm and Food Network each hosted events in their communities during the week before the election to encourage open discussion and networking between candidates for public office and the community members. The events also featured moderated forums where candidates were asked questions about their views on issues related to food, farming and health.
National Geographic tells the story of how Austin, Texas is balancing growth, the need for affordable housing and a commitment to farmland preservation. Also highlighted is how technology is being used to improve urban farming. Austin is a prime example of just how much can be done when municipalities and counties invest in staff who consider sustainable agriculture – like their Food Policy Manager – vastly increasing capacity to bring government, the non-profit, and the for-profit sectors together to improve the community food system.