January 15, 2010
At the annual meeting of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) in Santa Fe this week, USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Edward Avalos told the gathered delegates of his desire for USDA to listen to and serve the needs of small and mid-sized farms, including through buy local campaigns, value-added agricultural development, and collaborative food safety group training.
Under Secretary Edward Avalos addresses NSAC members
Under Secretary Avalos also spoke to advancing USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative to foster sustainable, local and regional food systems and to issuing strong livestock market competition rules to give family farms and ranches fair and equitable prices and market access.
In response to questions from NSAC delegates, Avalos indicated he would have the agency look into advancing sustainable livestock meat label claim standards, making organic data collection a regular part of the baseline activities and budget at the Agricultural Marketing Service, and ensuring that the Farmers Market Promotion Program funds the full range of direct marketing options for farmers.
At the meeting, NSAC delegates from 60 member organizations voted to approve its 2010 federal policy priorities, including directed work on the Conservation Stewardship Program, beginning and minority farmer programs, sustainability research within the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, and rural development programs to create jobs and strengthen emerging local and regional food systems.
NSAC Winter Meeting session in Santa Fe, NM
In addition, NSAC members agreed to continue efforts to win a fully funded Farm to School initiative within the upcoming reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, to ensure that pending food safety legislation does not put small and mid-sized farms at a disadvantage nor place unnecessary barriers on local and regional food systems, and to help pass strong climate change legislation that highlights sustainable and organic climate-friendly farming systems.
The delegates reiterated their dismay over the recent decision by the White House and USDA to renege on the President’s campaign promise to close farm subsidy loopholes and called for it to be overturned. Despite that disastrous Obama Administration decision for crop agriculture, members were heartened by the Under Secretary’s promise that another set of Farm Bill rules — for fair competition and contract agriculture reform in livestock and poultry markets — would be strong reform measures. Those rules are expected to be released in February for public comment.