OP-ED from the Los Angeles Times
By Dan Imhoff and Michael Dimock
In 1933, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the very first farm bill, formally called the Agricultural Adjustment Act, he told the nation that “an unprecedented condition calls for the trial of new means to rescue agriculture.” That legislation, passed as the country struggled to emerge from the Depression, was visionary in the way it employed agricultural policy to address significant national issues, including rural poverty and hunger.
It may not seem obvious while standing in the aisles of a modern grocery store, but the country today faces another food and farming crisis. Forty-six million people — that is, 1 out of 7 Americans — signed up for food stamps in 2012. Despite some of the highest commodity prices in history, the nation’s rural regions are falling deeper into poverty. In 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 17.8% of those living in rural counties fell under the poverty line. Unemployment in Fresno County, the nation’s top agricultural producing county, stood at 17.4% in March of this year. Industrial agriculture has become a leading cause of soil and water pollution. In California, for example, fertilizer and manure pollution have so contaminated the Salinas and lower San Joaquin valleys that the groundwater will be undrinkable for the next 30 to 50 years.
After 80 years, the time has come to rescue agriculture from the farm bill — and to improve the health of Americans in the bargain.
Click here to read full article.
On June 4, AGree released a Review of U.S. Nutrition Assistance Policy: Programs and Issues, the fifth in a series of public policy background papers on the U.S. food and agriculture system. This piece was written by Stephanie Mercier, a former chief economist for the Senate Agriculture Committee. The Review of U.S. Nutrition Policy provides an overview of the domestic nutrition programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program) and highlights program origins, characteristics, impacts of the programs, and current policy issues being debated.
AGree has also published background papers on the following:
AGree is an interdisciplinary initiative to drive positive change in the food and agriculture system. They are focused on strategies to address the four following challenges:
• Meet future demand for food
• Conserve and enhance water, soil, and habitat
• Improve nutrition and public health; and
• Strengthen farms, workers, and communities.
Healthy Farms, Healthy People Coalition was recently invited to speak on a panel during the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Food and Community Conference in Asheville, North Carolina. The Coalition was represented by Gabrielle Serra, who was joined with colleagues representing other new and emerging coalitions working to improve the food system, including Deb Atwood, the Executive Director of AGree.
The Healthy Farms, Healthy People Coalition looks forward to working with our partners, including other coalitions, such as AGree, to help drive positive solutions to improve the U.S. food and agriculture system to promote health, social justice, and economic development.
By Holly Calhoun
Wednesday May 9, the USDA announced $4 million in funding to increase the number of farmers’ markets accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps. The funding could increase revenues for farmers, improve fresh food access, and stimulate local economies by providing technology to farmers’ markets to allow SNAP customers to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables directly from the farmers who grow them. Lack of technology has been a major barrier for farmers’ markets to accept SNAP since the shift from paper food stamps to Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. The USDA has long provided EBT terminals to brick and mortar stores. Farmers’ markets (many of which lack electricity and phone lines) require wireless terminals. Currently less than 25 percent of farmers’ markets are authorized to accept SNAP.
The Healthy Farms, Healthy People Coalition launched in November 2011 with the goal of boosting the agriculture sector and improving the health of the nation by forming cross-sectoral partnerships. The Coalition worked together with 40 public health, agriculture, and anti-hunger organizations to deliver a letter on November 18 urging the USDA to fund EBT technology in farmers’ markets. The Coalition commends the USDA’s leadership and is excited to see an early success in working with key partners across sectors for the mutual benefit of farmers and human health.
Enabling farmers’ markets to accept EBT increases revenue in direct to consumer sales for farmers and allows low-income shoppers who are at disproportionately high risk for preventable chronic disease to eat a healthier diet. The Healthy Farms, Healthy People Coalition applauds the USDA for providing funds that directly support the economic viability of farmers and health of communities. The Coalition thanks all 40 organizations that worked together for this important gain. The Coalition looks to build and grow these collaborations in a continued effort to better support America’s farmers and the health of the nation.
Read the full letter to the USDA with the list of signatories by clicking here.
To learn more, we encourage you to read the blog posts by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and the Farmers’ Market Coalition (FMC).
Click here for the official announcement from the USDA and here for a blog post from Under Secretary Kevin Concannon.
by Kate Fitzgerald
In November, more than one in seven Americans – 46 million people – bought their food with SNAP dollars through the federal nutrition program formerly known as food stamps.
In this economic recession, discussions that concentrate on the human pain represented by high SNAP caseloads are wholly appropriate. But high SNAP participation also represents billions of dollars of food purchases every year. These dollars could do more than just meet immediate needs. SNAP could be a powerful lever to improve the food system permanently and create jobs and economic opportunity at the same time. The SNAP program can be a powerful tool to push the market to serve our struggling neighbors better, and the 2012 Farm Bill will be a prime opportunity to make that happen.
SNAP sales of $72 billion accounted for 12 percent of the nation’s grocery sales in fiscal year 2011 (October 1, 2010 – September 30, 2011). Congress appropriated $80 billion for the program this year, fully expecting it to grow. Targeting these food dollars to programs that link farmers with consumers makes sense both for individual health and community economic growth.
Click here to read the full article.