I am looking forward to the elections this fall for several reasons. Not only will we likely have several state labeling initiatives on the ballots but these mid-term elections also hold the promise for great change. On November 4, 2014, all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate will be challenged. According to the Roll Call “Casualty List” the turnover in Congress will be especially acute. As of this writing there are 30 members retiring: 24 in the House and 6 in the Senate, with 10 members resigning: 6 from the House and 4 from Senate. With this sea change upon us, how do we create change in our agriculture and food policy? I say it’s time to vote with our food priorities and begin to hold our future Congress accountable!
Who cares about food policy?
Apparently I am not the only one thinking about this next election and advocating to make our food and agriculture vision a reality. I came upon the Food Policy Action group by chance this spring and soon realized that many of our organic industry leaders were already involved. Ken Cook, from Environmental Working Group, heads up the board of a diverse membership representing many areas of food policy. Their mission is to highlight the importance of food policy and to promote policies that support a wide spectrum of values in our food supply. The goal is to address a myriad of food issues: healthy diets, hunger, food access and affordability, farm workers’ rights, transparent labeling, public health, the risk of food-borne illness, local and regional food systems, sustainable fisheries, the human treatment of farm animals and the environmental impact of farming and food production. Wow! What a list of causes, including so many I hold dear.
Why does Food Policy Matter?
There are few issues more important than the ones concerning the food we eat. Advocating for good food policies and electing leaders who represent our values are the best ways to get to the heart of many issues facing our food system today, including hunger, food safety and sustainable farming.
I personally care about the number of urban and rural children who don’t have access to healthy and nutritious food every day. I think about the inhumane conditions in which animals are factory farmed so we can have inexpensive meat on our tables. I relate with the farmer who risks everything to plant a crop and then is subjected to the whims of market conditions outside of his or her control. The farm laborers who spend countless backbreaking hours harvesting should have safe and fair working conditions. I am concerned about the health of our soil and water as herbicide applications have increased by 527 million pounds between 1996 and 2012. In 2014, more than 30 states will consider GMO labeling bills and ballot initiatives. I want Congressional leaders who will wake up and realize these state initiatives ultimately lead to federal labeling, something that 93% of consumers want.
A tool to take action!
There are so many injustices when it comes to the production of our food that my list could fill several pages. Eating is about as basic a human act as there is, and profit should not be the only consideration. Care for the soil, water, people and animals needs to be in the equation just as much as profits. I want those who represent me in Washington to have that same perspective. That is why “Food Policy Action” is so important this year. This group aims to rate our Congressional leaders on how they vote and perform on food issues. You can simply click on your state from the home page to view your senators and representatives and the score they have received on their food policy performance. If one of your Leaders has a low score, you can click on their name to learn why they received that score. You can even drill down and find out more on each bill they voted on.
It is up to you now
Never before has there been such a tool to evaluate food and agriculture policy. It is by electing the right people and encouraging our leaders to hold the same values we have that change can occur. It is important to communicate with these leaders every step of the way. Make your opinions heard on every issue. Treat your elected officials like they work for you, because they do! Make sure they get direction from you every week and on every issue. Congress is in Washington to serve our citizenry and to put our best interests above profit and greed.
Let’s not waste this year’s opportunity to vote for good food every step of the way!