The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act was introduced by Representative Chellie Pingree and Senator Sherrod Brown this month. This act is suggestions for legislation that would tweak parts of the Farm Bill to address the needs of those of us who market our farm products within 250 miles of our farms.
On November 3rd, I rode Amtrak to DC and met the staff from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. NSAC had gathered an impressive group of farmers and advocates from around the country to speak to their representatives. With Steve Etka from the National Organic Coalition, Aisha Amuda and Kathy Mulvey from the Community Food Security Coalition, Daniel Bowman Simon from SNAP Gardens and Josephine Chu Master of Arts Candidate in Global Environmental Policy at American University, I met with two New York State Congressmen.
Chris Gibson is the Congressman from my district; in fact, he’s from Kinderhook where we lived for two years. He is also a new member of the Agriculture Committee, which meant that he was a high priority for this fly-in. He was quite receptive, chatting with us about his support for farms in his district, his concerns about GMOs and his focus on solar power. Rep. Gibson is politically conservative, but he listened to our concerns and seemed interested how the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act could benefit his constituents. This was a surprising moment for me—it felt as if by making our voices hear we actually might be able to change the direction of government.
Our second meeting was with Rep. Bill Owens who is on the Agriculture Committee as well. None of us were from Owen’s district, which includes lots of the Adirondacks and northern New York. I’d say that the meeting felt a bit chilly, but I would add that I was impressed that both of these Congressmen met with us themselves. Yes, staffers were present, too, but they both took time out of their days to meet with us face-to-face. Owens signed onto the bill in the days following this meeting. Perhaps he was expecting to co-sponsor prior to our meeting or maybe we had an impact!
I took the train back to Albany that day and was back at my house just 34 hours after leaving. We’re pretty busy around here and I don’t spend much time thinking or reading about the Farm Bill. I have always found the minutiae of the Farm Bill’s 1500 or so pages overwhelming. However, in learning a bit about this act, I felt that almost all of the changes mentioned addressed parts of the Farm Bill that apply directly to our farm or farmers we know. I was happy to have overcome my doubts about speaking to the politicians who represent me and I hope to see more support for this Act in the following weeks, especially as the Farm Bill process is more confusing than ever with this year’s Super Committee process.