Boosting Local Food Systems
With an increased demand for fresh food and recognition of the broader benefits from local agriculture, communities are stepping up efforts to strengthen the interdependent components that go into local food systems. Effective approaches to develop and support the various “pieces of the local food puzzle” include Dane County, Wisconsin’s food council; Missoula, Montana’s farm to school program; the development of an infrastructure for local producers in Woodbury County, Iowa; and protection of agricultural land in Marin County, California. A boost for local food systems could come from Congress by way of a more balanced 2007 Farm Bill.
You Are What You Eat: Getting Local
We’ve known it all along: What we eat directly affects our health. But what most people don’t know is that the farm bill influences what we eat. Right now, U.S. farm policy heavily subsidizes commodity crops while providing little support for fruit and vegetable production. Worse yet, the farm bill has under- funded most programs that make it easier for Americans to eat fresh,
local and healthy food. AFT found out what “regular folks on the street” really know about the food we eat, where we get it and the farm bill. Listen to AFT’s “You Are What You Eat: Getting Local” audio Farmcast today!
The Farm Bill Final Stretch
Summer is over, Congress is back in session and it is back to business with the farm bill. As we approach the final stretch, your efforts to raise awareness in your community about the importance of the farm bill are doubly important. The more voices that call on Congress to fund our priorities, the better our chances for a balanced farm bill that reflects the needs of all Americans. Use our blogging images and messages to spread the word on the Web, and get ready for more action alerts starting in September once the Senate begins their mark-ups. Get active and sign up for AFT's action network today!
Agenda Item: Planning for Agriculture
More than 70 percent of the land in Champaign County, Illinois, located approximately 150 miles south of Chicago, is considered “prime farmland.” In a place where farming is so important to the livelihood of the area, one would think that planning for agriculture is prominent on most county meeting agendas. Wrong.
“Most cities and counties plan for development, but in order to sustain the success of agriculture, communities must engage in a long range visioning/planning process to determine what the current, as well as the desired future role of agriculture is,” says Hal Barnhart, Champaign county farmer and co-chair of the Champaign County Farm Bureau Land Use Committee. In Champaign, municipalities currently plan for development and growth; as a result, agriculture is viewed as a land use that has always existed, and it is assumed that agriculture always will exist—as a land use that needs no planning. However, AFT’s Anita Zurbrugg recently spoke in Champaign County about the importance of planning for agriculture, presenting current trends of farmland loss in the region. If a county wants to plan for agriculture, Zurbrugg emphasized that traditional farmland preservation [PDF] is only one tool. The business of agriculture [PDF] and the farmers involved must also be a part of the equation. After Zurbrugg’s presentation, the outlook for Champaign is hopeful: the county has begun work on a Land Resource Management Plan and talk is spreading about the future role of farmland, farmers and agriculture.
Donate Now and Double Your Impact
A dedicated AFT supporter has issued a remarkable $250,000 challenge grant to help AFT bring this year’s farm and food policy work to fruition. This means that your donation today will be matched dollar for dollar—and will go twice as far to support AFT’s efforts to protect farmland, promote policies for environmental stewardship, and improve the availability of fresh, healthy and locally grown food. Your support now through October 22 (our challenge deadline) is especially important to AFT as we start our final push for a new direction in farm and food policy.
Around the Country
The USDA has made more than $35 million more available for the Conservation Security Program (CSP) to complete payments on FY 2007 contracts and prepare for future sign-ups to the program.
In Massachusetts, the Patrick Administration announced its intent to spend $50 million on state land conservation programs in FY 2008, a 65 percent increase in the average annual spending over the previous four years.
Opposition has grown against the building of the Prairie Parkway, a proposed north-south connector road between Interstate 80 and Interstate 88 that would cut through prime farmland in Illinois.
Save the date! The 7th annual New Partners for Smart Growth (NPSG) conference, “Building Safe, Healthy, Livable Communities,” will be held February 7-9, 2008 in Washington, D.C.