During the second week of January, Farm Aid joined 95 other organizations in Washington, D.C., for the 2012 Farm Bill Summit, hosted by Farm Aid partner and grantee the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). An impressive array of experts and activists attended the gathering, representing farm, conservation, rural development, public health, food system, faith community and other groups working on farm bill issues or looking to get involved.
The Summit began with a big picture overview of the opportunities and constraints in the upcoming Farm Bill by Ferd Hoefner, NSAC’s Policy Director. This presentation of the history and scope of the Farm Bill, its many programs and their relative spending levels, as well as the context in which the next Farm Bill will be debated set some important grounding for the following 36 hours worth of discussion to rest upon.
In addition to some core Farm Bill titles, such as commodities and conservation, the group explored many cross-cutting topics including local and regional food systems, agriculture of the middle, sustainable livestock, beginning farmers, competition, public health and socially disadvantaged farmers, to name a few. The exchanges were lively and rich, as is often the case when so many passionate people join together in an effort to make social and political change.
Participants were able to strengthen old relationships and build new alliances as we mapped out the beginnings of a strategy for how best to collaborate and move forward together as a community in the months and years to come. There is much hard work in store to protect Farm Bill programs that have the best interest of family farmers and eaters in mind and to improve upon others to get us closer to our vision of a vibrant family-farm centered food system in America, providing good food for all.
We will be sure to keep you informed of ways to get involved to be a part of this vital effort!