August 14, 2014
Last week, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) held our bi-annual meeting in Big Sky, Montana. Representatives of NSAC member organizations convened to review coalition priorities, plan for next steps, and reconnect and engage with fellow members. The meeting was hosted by three NSAC member organizations located in Montana: Alternative Energy Resources Organization, National Center for Appropriate Technology, and National Farm to School Network.
Strategic Planning for the Future of the Coalition
This meeting marked the beginning of NSAC’s strategic planning work for the next several years. For two days before the start of the meeting, NSAC staff and Organizational Council (OC) met and laid the groundwork for NSAC’s next strategic planning document. In addition, the staff and OC were joined by four other long-term members and advocates for sustainable agriculture to help shape the future of NSAC’s strategic plan and future work.
In order to ensure that NSAC’s strategic planning document is both transparent and inclusive, the framework was then shared with the membership during the general meeting, where members were able to engage and comment on different aspects of the framework. While always challenging work, NSAC looks forward to continuing our strategic planning to better serve both the coalition and a sustainable food and farming future.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization and Committee Breakouts
In a member-wide plenary session, NSAC policy staff presented background and several policy options that aim to support local farmers and provide healthy, nutritious food to schools for the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act (CNR). This important piece of legislation sets the parameters for and funds most federal child nutrition programs and is expected to be taken up and debated by Congress in 2015.
During the 2010 CNR debate, NSAC and its partners helped to establish first-time funding for the USDA Farm to School Program — now a successful and very competitive grant program that is helping schools across the country source more food from local farmers. As 2015 approaches, NSAC and our members will be working closely together to ensure that the legislation works for local farmers, schools, and communities.
NSAC’s issue committees met separately in breakout sessions over the course of two days to discuss upcoming priorities and campaigns and give commitments on behalf of their organizations over the next six months. This year will see renewed efforts across our coalition’s campaign priorities for conservation, rural development, research, and food safety.
Flying D Ranch
In between committee breakouts and plenary sessions, NSAC staff and members took time out to tour the Flying D Ranch. Located on over 100,000 acres between Big Sky and Bozeman, MT, Flying D Ranch is owned by Turner Enterprises and raises about 6,000 head of grass-fed bison. NSAC members were able to discuss the challenges of raising bison opposed to conventional beef with the ranch manager, including issues on maintaining the genetic diversity of the herd, dealing with predators — such as two wolf packs, black bears, and mountain lions — and finding local meat processors and markets for their products.
NSAC meetings give our members a chance to reconnect as well as begin to plan strategic responses to upcoming federal policy issues impacting sustainable agriculture. This fall will bring about several significant campaigns including comments periods for revised Food Safety Modernization Act regulations; renewals and sign-ups for the Conservation Stewardship Program; and the start of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act campaign. These efforts will occur in addition to our coalition’s ongoing work with USDA and Congress on implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill and annual agricultural appropriations process.
It’s going to be a busy year, but NSAC and our member organizations across the country stand ready to continue our work towards a sustainable food and farm future!
Categories: General Interest