January 25, 2013
Last week, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) held its semi-annual member meeting near Haines City, Florida. Every winter, NSAC members discuss, debate, and vote on the coalition’s priorities for the year. Amidst abundant sunshine, lunchtime canoe trips, and late-night bonfires, the coalition came to consensus on a wide-ranging slate of priorities for 2013. This year, we’ll be working to ensure that federal food and farm policy will:
INVEST IN THE FUTURE OF HEALTHY FARMS, FOOD & PEOPLE
Protect and improve sustainable agriculture initiatives, including those that support rural economic and community development, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, value-added agriculture, farm to school, local and regional farm and food systems, and sustainable and organic agricultural research and extension.
PROTECT OUR PRECIOUS AIR, SOIL & WATER
Protect and improve working lands conservation programs, including full funding for critical programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program and reattaching conservation accountability and grassland protection provisions to federal farm programs including crop insurance.
REFORM FARM SUBSIDIES & LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD
Close farm program loopholes that benefit mega-farms and millionaire investors, eliminate wasteful direct payments, reform crop insurance, stop bad policy riders from rolling back livestock market competition rules and giving agribusiness a free pass, and ensure food safety rules from the Food Safety Modernization Act work for sustainable and organic farmers and do not become a new policy-based incentive for farm consolidation and specialization, squashing local and regional food production in the process.
In the coming months, NSAC and our member organizations will work to make these priorities a reality by expanding and strengthening our advocacy at the grassroots level and on Capitol Hill. Our priorities, outlined above, are crucial to building health, prosperity, and equity for our nation’s farms, ranches, and communities.
And 2013 will be a huge year for sustainable agriculture policy efforts – not only will Congress consider agricultural appropriations along with the rest of its fiscal year 2013 and then fiscal year 2014 obligations, but the 2008 Farm Bill is up for reauthorization in 2013 when its temporary and selective 9-month extension expires in September. All that action will take place in the context of major budget battles this winter and spring, battles that will not only set the tone and parameters for agricultural legislation and but also provide an opportunity to fix the awful farm bill extension thrown together with no debate or review as 2013 began.
In addition, the Food and Drug Administration has released its proposed Food Safety Modernization Act rules, around which NSAC will launch a major grassroots comment campaign to ensure the rules are appropriate for sustainable and organic farmers, are consistent with best conservation practices, and do not hinder farm-based value-added agriculture and high quality local and regional food production.
In addition to setting policy priorities for the year, coalition members set-aside a day for a special workshop on dismantling racism in the food system, led by the Center for Social Inclusion.
NSAC member organization Florida Organic Growers (FOG) hosted the meeting and arranged for local farm tours and conversations with local Florida farmers.