Following midterm elections yesterday, many parts of the country will soon be seeing changes in their government and local laws. Proposed bills regarding food, farms and the environment appeared on many ballots across the country, allowing citizens to take direct action on the issues. Last week, we told you about different initiatives proposed around the country. Today, we have your results on everything food and farm related from the polls.
The Water Bond
A majority of California’s voters at the polls yesterday said yes to Proposition 1, allowing the state to allocate $7.5 billion in bonds to counteract three years of pervasive drought that have devastated local agriculture. After maintaining a comfortable lead in the polls and receiving support from popular incumbent Governor Jerry Brown, it’s no surprise the proposition was approved by 67 percent of voters. Moving forward, Gov. Brown and other officials will be working on using the money to provide long-term solutions during water shortages through state-wide infrastructure improvements, conservation initiatives and restoration efforts.
Sugary Drink Tax: Berkeley and San Francisco
Yesterday, Berkeley became the first city in the United States to pass a tax on sugary-drinks in an attempt to encourage consumers to purchase healthier options. Although 30 similar measures have failed around the United States, and big soda corporations outspent supporters throughout the campaign, the initiative to create a one-cent per ounce tax on sugary beverage sales in Berkeley passed with a nearly two-thirds majority. A similar measure next door in San Francisco that called for a two-cent tax per ounce mandate, however, failed to pass.
Proposition 105: Colorado Mandatory Labeling of GMOs initiative
Voters in Colorado cast their ballots against the mandatory labeling of GMOs by a margin of 67 to 33 percent. The measure, which would have required genetically modified foods to bear labels that read “Produced using genetic engineering,” was an effort to increase transparency and support the consumers’ Right to Know. While three states including Vermont, Connecticut and Maine have passed similar initiatives in the past, the measure has yet to take off in other parts of the country (most likely due to the record amount of money the opposition is putting up to fight these measures).
Amendment 1: Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative
In The Sunshine State, voters turned out in an overwhelming majority of about 75 percent to say yes to Amendment 1, an initiative that allocates about $1 billion per year over the next 20 years to conserve wildlife, working farms, parks and historic sites. Since one-third of Florida’s land is used for agriculture, this money will play an important role in the preservation of important farmland. The measure imposes no new tax on residents.
Maui GMO Farming Ban
In a narrow victory of just 1,000 votes, Maui citizens placed a temporary ban on growing GMO crops. Although corporations spent $8 million in attempts to kill the measure, residents approved it 50 to 48 percent. The ban will require all GMO growers to cease production until the county analyzes their effect on public health and the environment – meaning that Monsanto, who owns or leases a combined total of 3,100 acres in Maui, will have to bring their work to standstill. Due to its warm weather, Hawaii is a key location for year-round growing and a ban on GMO crops here is a big loss for corporations like Monsanto.
Question 2: Maine Agriculture, Natural Resource and Human Health Bond Issue
In Maine, voters cast their ballots in support of funding $8 million for a laboratory to study insect-borne disease and food safety. The measure adds necessary infrastructure improvements to the University of Maine that will assist farmers in treating their animals and discovering blights early to prevent crop loss.
Public Question No. 2: New Jersey Open Space Preservation Funding Amendment
Despite opposition from Governor Chris Christie, New Jersey approved a constitutional amendment that creates a permanent funding source for the state to purchase and preserve open space. While 4 percent of the corporate business tax was already allocated toward broad environmental programs, this amendment mandates that 6 percent be allocated for more specific preservation projects by 2019.
Measure 92: The Oregon Mandatory Labeling of GMOs Initiative
In another GMO mandatory labeling initiative, voters narrowly decided to keep mandatory labels off of their foods. Here, the measure lost by a narrow margin of 51 to 49 percent, making it a far closer race than in Colorado.
Question 7: Clean Water, Open Space and Healthy Communities Bonds
In Rhode Island, residents voted to allocate $53 million toward environmental preservation. Since The Ocean State has lost 80 percent of its farmland in the last 70 years, such funds will work to combat that loss while also protecting other important natural resources.