The food movement rising: targeting the Farm Bill
One of the big issues in food advocacy is how to develop coalitions broad and strong enough to demand—and achieve—real change. Thousands of organiations are working on food issues, local, regional, and national. But for the most part, each works on its own thing, with its own leadership and staff, competing with all the others for limited funding.
This is why the work that the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is doing to organize support for Farm Bill change is so important and so exciting—the cheeriest food news possible.
Here’s the headline: Nonprofit Groups Award $2.2 Million to Equip Frontline and BIPOC-led Organizations to Engage in Food and Farm Bill Debates: With 15 Organizations Collaborating to Select 28 Grantees Across the Country, the Effort is Among Largest Participatory Grantmaking in Food and Farming to Date.
As Congress continues to negotiate the next food and farm bill, a group of organizations with expertise in agriculture, labor, climate change, food security, and nutrition have announced a first of its kind effort to uplift the voices of food and farmworkers, marginalized farmers, and frontline communities in the farm bill process. Through a participatory grantmaking process, the groups awarded $2.235 million in grants to support 28 grassroots groups. The grants will support capacity building, organizing and advocacy efforts around the food and farm bill.
I had not heard about this and wrote Dr. Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment Program at UCS, the group behind this initiative.
This got started (publicly, at least) with this note last summer to Biden (we continue to work with his team at EEOP, with whom we have regular meetings.) In that opening salvo you’ll see the broad categories on which our initial 170 members were able to agree. An example of how we’ve put this to use are our wedging labor issues into the farm bill debate, which as you know has steadfastly been resisted until now on grounds of jurisdiction. The pandemic’s meat processing horrors gave us traction. Just before the recess, we started to press collectively for the coherent set of reforms embodied in over 30 marker bills that would update the farm bill to more accurately reflect 21st century priorities. The farm bill extension is giving us extra time to work on this.
The history of farmer coalitions goes back a couple of hundred years in the United States to agrarian and grange movements. But real farmers (as opposed to corporate) have been too small and too dispersed to gain enough political power to change the system.
The UCS project wants to work with farmers who have a real stake in federal policy and want to do something about it.
This is ambitious. But UCS is going about this in an especially thoughtful way, which makes me think it has a change of succeeding where other attempts could not.
This effort deserves enthusiastic applause and support.
I will be watching what UCS and its grantees do with great interest. Stay tuned.