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NSAC Members Set 2016 Priorities for Sustainable Agriculture

February 5, 2016


NSAC group photo with some of our members

NSAC group photo with some of our members

Last week, over 100 representatives of 50 member organizations of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) gathered in Davis, CA for their annual Winter Meeting to discuss, debate, and vote on the coalition’s policy priorities for the coming year. NSAC’s meeting was hosted by the California Caucus, a set of 15 NSAC member groups based in California. The Caucus helped organize local farm tours at Collins Farm in Davis, Otow Orchard in Granite Bay, and the UC Davis Student Farm, to showcase the innovations and sustainability of California farmers.

2016 will be an exciting year for sustainable agriculture as we prepare for the upcoming presidential election and the next Farm Bill cycle. NSAC members spent several days at our annual meeting developing a campaign platform that builds on past victories and works to advance sustainable farming and food policy.

Top NSAC policy priorities for 2016 include:

CHAMPION FARM TO SCHOOL IN THE CHILD NUTRITION ACT REAUTHORIZATION

NSAC will continue to work on the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization, specifically to push forward support for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program and local procurement reform. The Farm to School grant program provides funding support for projects that connect local farms with local schools and that provide important education about farming and healthy eating for students. NSAC helped to secure an initial $5 million increase in annual mandatory funding for the program as part of the Senate’s draft CNR legislation for 2015-2016 and we are committed to working with our supporters and legislators to ensure this increase makes it into the final version of the bill. We are also committed to making it easier for school food purchasing authorities to buy directly from local and regional farmers by reforming regulations that currently restrict or hinder these types of purchasing arrangements.

ENSURE FOOD SYSTEM INTEGRITY THROUGH LABEL REFORM

Farm tour NSAC Winter Meeting-2016

Collins Farm Tour

NSAC is committed to developing and ensuring consistent, rigorous, and truthful labels that relate to sustainable food and farm products. The inconsistent application of terms like ‘natural’, ‘local’ and ‘grass fed’ is a disservice to both producers and consumers. Labels are the main channel of communication between food producers and consumers about the characteristics of food products, and in recent years we’ve seen the public yearning for authenticity grow. Recognizing this mounting groundswell of public demand and need, NSAC members voted to implement a multi-year campaign to reform policy related to agricultural product marketing.

PROTECT AND ENHANCE SOIL & WATER QUALITY THROUGH IMPROVED CONSERVATION PROGRAMS

As a leading advocate for working lands conservation programs, NSAC is committed to protecting and improving conservation programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). With USDA’s recent announcement of the 2016 sign-up period for CSP and a major overhaul scheduled for 2017, it is more important than ever that NSAC advocate for conservation programs that support sustainable agriculture. NSAC also looks forward to working with USDA to improve options and payment rates for land transitioning to organic production.

CAMPAIGN FOR COMPREHENSIVE CROP INSURANCE REFORM

The current federal crop insurance program subsidizes farm consolidation, monoculture production, cropping on marginal lands, and over application of chemical inputs. NSAC seeks to cap currently unlimited subsidies, bring the insurance program, the highest costing federal farm program, in line with the nation’s natural resource protection and environmental goals, and level the playing field so that the federal crop insurance program provides all types of farmers viable risk management options.

APPROPRIATIONS

Each year, NSAC engages in the appropriations process, through which Congress funds the basic functions of the federal government.  NSAC’s work primarily involves the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees of the House and Senate, which determine how farm, food, and rural development funding will be allocated.

NSAC’s members also set priorities for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2017 Appropriations process:

  • Farm Bill Conservation Funding – The farm bill, not the appropriations bill, funds the major USDA conservation financial assistance programs, yet both the Administration and congressional appropriators sometimes attempt to use farm bill conservation funding as a piggy bank to pay for unrelated discretionary spending. Our goal in 2016, as in most years, is to defend against any such raids and protect critical farm bill conservation programs from these backdoor cuts.
  • Food Safety Outreach Training Program (FSOP) – We seek to ensure FSOP provides ample funding for direct farmer training projects, and to ensure that funds are directed toward on-the-ground training projects that benefit small and mid-sized family farms, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, organic and sustainable farms, and local food enterprises.
  • Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers (Section 2501 Program) – The 2501 program had its annual mandatory farm bill funding cut in half under the 2008 Farm Bill, even as Congress expanded the program to also include veteran farmers. This dramatic reduction of funding has had severe repercussions and stifled the ability of organizations to serve the needs of the growing number of minority farmers seeking support and technical assistance, and needs to be reversed via the appropriations process.
  • Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) – SARE remains the only USDA competitive grant research program dedicated to sustainability. SARE program applications currently have a success rate of only six percent, which indicates that there is high demand and that a huge number of meritorious applications are going unfunded. Congress increased SARE funding for 2016, and NSAC will continue to work with appropriators to move program funding to at least half its authorized level.
Otow Orchards 2016-1

NSAC members tour Otow Orchards in Granite Bay to learn about diversified fruit production in California’s Central Valley

In the coming months, NSAC and our member organizations will work to make the goals of our policy priorities a reality by expanding and strengthening our advocacy at the grassroots level and on Capitol Hill.


Categories: General Interest


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