February 5, 2016
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
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.
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:
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