Celebrating 25 Years and Strategizing for the Future of Sustainable Agriculture
August 16th, 2013
Last week, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) held its semi-annual member meeting in Holland, Michigan. Members convened to review priorities, plan for next steps, and engage with fellow members. The meeting was hosted by three of the seven NSAC member organizations located in Michigan — Fair Food Network, Michigan Food and Farming Systems, and Michigan Land Use Institute.
Twenty-fifth Anniversary Reflections and Celebrations
At this year’s summer meeting, NSAC celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the coalition and used this opportunity to reflect on the incredible accomplishments made towards the promotion of environmental stewardship and family farms through federal policy. Some highlights from the session included a retrospective on NSAC’s success in advocating for such programs as the Conservation Stewardship Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, National Organic Certification Cost-Share, Value-Added Producer Grants, Farmers Market Promotion Program, Farm to School grants, Beginning Farmer Down Payment Loans, and the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program as well as a reflections on the history of how the coalition formed in the backdrop of the farm crisis of the 1980s.
Reflecting on twenty-five years of tireless work and commitment to the founding principles of NSAC provided the impetus to look towards the future and reinvigorate the membership, as they deal with the challenges of a difficult political environment.
FSMA Training and Call to Action
During a plenary session on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the membership received an overview on the proposed rules and the issues of concern for sustainable agriculture. The NSAC grassroots team also provided general information on the comment campaign timeline and strategy as well as a call to action to submit comments on the proposed rules.
Farm and Farmers Market Tours
Between policy strategy meetings and grassroots trainings, NSAC staff and members toured Visser Farms, a family farm in nearby Zeeland, Michigan. Visser Farms actively participates in Double Up Food Bucks, a program started by NSAC member Fair Food Network, which increases access to healthy and sustainably grown food to SNAP recipients by matching SNAP purchases at farmers markets for Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables.
Just a few blocks from the conference center, NSAC toured the Holland Farmers Market at the height of blueberry season. Michigan is the number one producer of highbush blueberries in the United States. The market houses over 100 vendors from Michigan and incorporates kid-friendly activities and nutrition-oriented booths.
Farm Bill and Appropriations Strategy
With Congress on a five-week summer recess, after failing to send a conference a comprehensive farm bill and neglecting to move forward on agricultural appropriations bills in the House or the Senate before leaving town, NSAC took the opportunity to recommit to the priorities set at its winter meeting.
Chief among those priorities are protecting initiatives that support rural economic and community development, conservation, 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, as well as preserving through the conference process the wins made in Congress as the House and Senate have made halting progress on a new farm bill and agricultural appropriations bill.