Former young farmer now great E.D. on all our behalf. Here's her latest from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
In this season of Thanksgiving, we at NSAC are exceedingly thankful for the diverse array of healthy food that sustainable and organic farmers and ranchers produce while being good stewards of the land - and we're thankful for your partnership in increasing the supply and accessibility of these healthy foods!
NSAC's vision is one in which all people have access to farm-fresh foods that contribute to good health and are produced in a way that protects the environment. Unfortunately, as we know too well, many of our neighbors and friends still cannot access or afford sustainable and organic farm products.
As a coalition that is a part of the broader movement for food systems change, we continually ask ourselves how we can increase the supply of and accessibility to fresh, healthy farm products in a way that supports the livelihoods of our nation's family farmers?
Over the last year, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has continued its work creating and improving federal programs that support family farmers, build regional food systems, and increase access to healthy, fresh foods for everyone.
In 2009 NSAC advanced programs including the following that increase the supply of healthy, farm-fresh foods:
Thanks to much pushing and prodding from NSAC and its members, the USDA rolled out the first Organic Initiative in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program in May, resulting in nearly 4,000 applications from farmers and ranchers looking to transition to or add more crop and pasture-land to organic production. More organic products on the market mean competitive prices for consumers.
The newly updated Value-Added Producer Grant Program is accepting applications and thanks to NSAC's work, now includes aggregating or marketing a product as "local" in the program criteria. This competitive grants program for farmers and ranchers helps them to add value to their raw agricultural products, increasing their share of the food dollar while also increasing the supply of "locally-grown" products.
NSAC has also been working closely with Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan on USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative,which promotes these and other programs aimed at rebuilding regional food systems.
In 2009, NSAC advanced programs including the following that increase low-income consumers' access to healthy foods:
NSAC has been leading the legislative campaign to win $50 million in federal funding for Farm to School programs which bring fresh, healthy local foods into public school lunch programs. This campaign is a part of the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization and will continue into 2010.
Because of NSAC's work in the 2008 Farm Bill, the Farmers' Market Promotion Program has considerably more funding to build more farmer-to-consumer direct marketing options. It also has a new set aside for projects using the Electronic Benefit Transfer to assist "food stamp" recipients to access to farmers' markets, CSA's, and roadside stands.
I want to personally thank you for helping to make our agenda for policy reform a reality through your donations to NSAC and our member organizations, your calls to members of Congress, and your comments to USDA!
You understand that not all people have the luxury to "vote with their fork," and that we must speak truth to power with a unified voice. Policies are made by people. To change our food system into one that is fair, economically viable, and environmentally-sustainable, we all must participate in the policy-making process.
All of us at NSAC wish you a bountiful Thanksgiving next week and throughout the year.
Many thanks to you this Thanksgiving!