You’ve likely heard the news on Friday that the House Farm Bill was voted down; a casualty of the heated immigration debate. Regardless of the proximate reasons the bill failed, this was a very good thing. As I discussed in my blog last month, the House Farm Bill was very bad news for issues we care deeply about, SNAP/Food Access, Conservation, and education programs for sustainable/regenerative farmers. The Senate has yet to release their draft Farm Bill, but insiders have reported that it is a more favorable bill for the Good Food Movement.
The current Farm Bill expires on September 20 of this year and a replacement bill is unlikely to pass before the deadline. The consequences of expiration are yet fully known. If Congress passes a continuing resolution, the current Farm Bill continues unchanged for the duration of that resolution. If Congress fails to pass a continuing resolution, only programs with budgets over $50 million will continue, gutting dearly ALL of the programs that directly benefit small, diversified, and sustainable farmers (Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Value Added Producer Grant, Food Insecurity and Nutrition Incentive Program, Farmers Market Promotion Program, Local Food Promotion Program, the list goes on…).
Local organizations like The Land Connection, Prairie Rivers Network, and Illinois Stewardship Alliance (to name only a few) have dedicated energy during this Farm Bill cycle to rally the base of the Good Food Movement to advocate for these highly impactful and deeply needed programs. Our work has been challenging because our base is diverse in passions and opinions. In the most recent issue of the Organic Broadcaster, Nick Levendofsky explored the current state of the farming population in the context of the current political climate and concluded that the movement is built of advocates for “small farms, local food, organics, equitable pay, food justice, and environmental sustainability.” These issues are integrally related, but often operate independently and sometimes competitively. The Good Food Movement lacks a central message unifying these disparate but related groups, which makes national level advocacy a difficult venture.
Mr. Levendofsky goes on to build the case that, as 1% of the population, farmers are considered a minority group and will be well served by learning and practicing five basic principles of minority politics:
- Find allies issue-by-issue, not philosophy-by-philosophy.
- Build coalitions.
- Be positive and reasonable, and work within the system.
- Base a case on the facts, not on myth or emotion.
- Adopt a non-partisan strategy.
The Farm Bill process is muddy, full of special interests, back room dealings, and a convoluted process. As the Good Food Movement, we have right on our side but our message(s) are getting lost, viewed as fringe and “dismissible” by the more powerful forces of fiscal conservatism and moneyed industrial ag interests. To be heard, we must raise our numbers by joining together in a strong coalition and unifying our organizing and advocacy approach.
In Illinois, this work is beginning. Local organizations are banding together to raise our collective voices. What we need now is a strong shared policy platform that we all use to govern our decision-making and individual advocacy work. A guiding platform will align and amplify our individual work, leading to greater effectiveness and improved results for the Good Food Movement, and consequentially, society.
Mallory Krieger is the Farmer Training Manager at The Land Connection.