Let's continue our ongoing Food Party! book group read of Food Fight, Citizens Guide to the Next Food and Farm Bill (Dan Imhoff). Discussions are happening now in Congress with a fall deadline to pass an updated version of the Farm Bill.
Last post we were learning that concerns about land conservation and protection first appeared in the 1985 Farm Bill. Fast forward to 2000, and a ground swell of environmental interest emerges from the public, with hopes to influence Farm Bill 2002. Official organic standards were just being developed for the country, and I am sure some of you were part of the public outcry against sewage sludge, GMO‘s, and nuclear radiation becoming acceptable organic practices. A broad coalition of organic trade associations, nonprofit groups and companies joined with individuals in a country-wide effort generating 300,000+ public comments, and blocking these egregious additions. I worked for Michigan-based Eden Foods in 2000 and we were very involved in the campaign, a big win for The People and a quickly growing organic movement.
In 2008, the country falls into recession and the Farm Bill falls back into food insecurity. Obesity is on the rise; one third of US adults and 17% of children are now considered clinically obese, a number which has continued to increase dramatically. (chapter 10). 49.9% of American adults and nearly 20% of our children are considered obese as of 2022.
- courtesy of CDC
Congress responds by awarding $10 billion to boost vegetable and fruit consumption in the Farm Bill. It marks the first time fruits, nuts and vegetables, termed specialty crops, finally get some attention; good and bad. Imhoff reports that nearly “$1 billion was dedicated to research and marketing programs (of produce), including a dubious California media campaign to convince the public about the safety of pesticides applied to fruit and vegetables.”(pg. 73) Additional solutions sent Farm Bill funding toward increased vegetables and fruits in school meals and after-school snack programs, and setting up farmers markets to receive SNAP dollars. If we are serious about fighting obesity in this country, we must designate more money to vegetables and fruits in the Farm Bill.
The good news is agricultural research remains one of the few areas left in Congress where bipartisan legislation lives on. A January 2023 blog post from Organic Farming and Research Foundation (OFRF) of Santa Cruz lays out three priorities for organic research that might be possible in the 2023 Farm Bill:
1. Increase the organic research funding at the Agricultural Research Service to represent its market share, producing environmentally and economically sound management systems for all producers.
2. Continue to support and develop investments made by the National Institute for Food and Agriculture in organic agriculture research.
3. Fully fund and expand the Organic Market and Data Initiative.
Many lessons have been learned from these continuously hard-sought negotiations by the environmental, organic and food systems change movement. The People will have to stand up to Congress for better food in the Farm Bill because ag systems are old and entrenched with who's zooming who in the favored states. Farm Bill subsidies don't care about our health, sorry for us. Food Fight offers 3 ways you and I can better influence Farm Bills of the future. (pg. 78) Let's do it!
1. Assess Capacity
How much time do you or your organization have to devote to the farm bill? Who can you collaborate with?
2. Determine Congressional Allies
Do you know anyone on the Agriculture Appropriations committees? Can you connect with their staff people?
3. Create Media Strategy
How will you get the word out about your work, and continue to build a coalition?
Next week we’ll pick up with Chapter 11, Who Gets the Money?
Speaking of noble food systems change, a shout out to the Culinary Institute of America for hosting its 5th year of Global Plant Forward, a three-day immersion welcoming 300+ chefs, food service operators, and experts in food, flavor development, cooking, agriculture and food production, media, and food system transformation from around the world. Coming to Copia in Napa, April 18-20th, the summit will host wall-to-wall cooking demos, hands-on cooking sessions, and facilitate culinary strategy discussions, such as how plant-forward cuisine is being implemented country-wide into institutional food systems such as cafeterias and hospitals. The overall theme of the conference is deliciousness!
Drawing on inspiration from Menus of Change, a joint initiative of the CIA and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Department of Nutrition, the CIA is where plant-friendly systems change begins. We’ve Food Partied! from this inspiring gathering before and honored to return in April to report on this year’s effort. For more information, and to learn whether this conference is for you and your food systems business, please click here.
To follow the conference and the eye candy meals brought to you by the staff an students of the CIA, I'll be posting on Instagram. Last year we went LIVE on Facebook during the hands-on meal prep sessions. Organized chaos - what a blast! 30 teams cooking lunch for 200 people in a huge kitchen.
2022: Plant-Forward Future with the Culinary Institute of America
2022: Plant Forward Futures with the Culinary Institute of America (Part 2)
- Multigrain Crepe with 9 Delicacies
Global Plant Forward Culinary Summit
April 18-20, 2023
The CIA at Copia
- photos by LSIC unless noted