Dear neighbors of San Diego County, You may have noticed the headlines about a new wrinkle in the Farm Bill Reauthorization Process today. Namely Representative Cantor’s suggestion that Congress split agriculture related legislation from food assistance programs (SNAP). Many policy analysts are scratching their heads and debating what would be the real impact of separating these two major policy areas. As a recently arrived promoter of equity in policy across all of the titles in the Farm Bill, however, I hear another underlying question. Would splitting the bill alter the natural alliances between those who work to provide a safety net for the hungry and those whose primary focus is on providing a safety net for small family farmers, farmworkers, the environment and healthy regional food systems?
I believe those of us who first took interest in the Farm Bill by way of local involvement in San Diego’s urban agriculture, healthy food access, food justice, ethical consumer and sustainable farming movement(s) over the past decade may be particularly well-situated to shed light on this burgeoning question. In fact, I think we could ask one another the following:
Looking back over the past, say, five years, where would our regional food system — eaters, producers, land, water, the economy — be today without the combined resources of SNAP, SNAP-ed programs like farm-to-school, conservation programs and research related to water, soil, bees, safe pest control, and all of the other forms of technical assistance, federal, state, county, private, direct and matching funds related to public health emphases on obesity, diet and the built environment, such as community transformation grants, Healthy Places, Healthy Works, etc.?
While there are many layers to this policy/governance onion (see NSAC’s analysis here), I think we can avoid the rhetorical quagmire that can distance us from what seems an abstract process involving legislators in DC. Rather, here at home, together, we could use our individual experiences and perspectives to do some quick collective analysis.
Do you think separating anti-hunger programs from agriculture and eliminating most of the programs that bridge these issue areas would make our regional and national food systems healthier?
My short answer is, I don’t, but I’d love to hear some other perspectives. PLEASE POST YOUR COMMENTS, whether you agree or wholly disagree with the position I am taking on this process, and thanks in advance!