Culinary Delights, Environment, Organic Policy and Regulations, Social Implications in Agriculture, What is Organic

Peeling Back the Onion: What this Election means for Food and Agriculture

yellow-onionEarly November in California signals the end and the beginning of many things. This year as the election looms, I cut and chop the last dry farm tomatoes from Molino Creek Farm. Each slice marks the conclusion of these ruby orbs of delight. I make caponata to extend the last vestiges of summer flavor in my kitchen. As I peel back the onion, I muse on its ability to make me weep and the way it will transform into a sweet caramelized crescendo.

This election has been much like an onion with its multitude of sharp layers, sometimes bitter, yet holding sweet potential for food and agriculture. Let’s peel back the layers this November to see where we can make progress in Food and Ag policy.    

The first electoral seam that must be uncovered is your party affiliation. Aligning with the party that represents your vision of moving forward is important. The way each party prioritizes their agricultural policies for the next four years will have a broad-reaching impact on the environment, our children and our health. To help you with this first layer, it’s worth rereading my blog What Both Parties Ag Platforms Tell Us about the Future.

We must not only elect the next commander in chief but also the next slate of Senators and Representatives who will lead us into the next generation of food and farming. Who are our good food leaders? Shed this mysterious layer by checking out the National Food Policy Scorecard.

Led by Ken Cook and Chef Tom Colicchio, Food Policy Action, has created a revealing interactive tool to help you understand how your Congressional members have performed (or under-performed) on food-related policy issues. Simply enter your zip code to see if your legislator voted to keep your food safe, healthy and affordable.

Husking away another thoughtful layer, I realize forging alliances on both sides of the Congressional aisle is critical for food policy. Our next Congress will be faced with many legislative opportunities that will impact organic and the good food movement. They will take on the herculean task of writing and passing the 2018 Farm Bill. This Farm Bill has the opportunity to build on past policy achievements and create new opportunities for organic farmers and rural communities. It is by far the single most impactful piece of legislation affecting our food and agricultural future.

When I realize that all 435 House seats are up for reelection and some of our champions like Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA-20) and Congressman Reid Ribble (R-WI-8) are retiring, I think now is the appropriate time to get involved with the Organic Political Action Campaign. It’s the only political action campaign that helps policy makers on both sides of the aisle understand and support the fastest growing sector in American agriculture – Organic!

When you consider all the outrageous prattling and scandalous chatter that has shaped this year’s campaign, the food and agricultural discussion has, for the most part, been absent. The final core of the electoral onion that we must serve forth is raising these discussions and getting involved in the political process.

What is the most important thing – the most basic human condition – our need, want and desire? Good, nutritious, healthy food. Why isn’t it a more vociferous component of how we choose our leaders?

It is time that we all show up at the table, remembering that policy gains are made in small steps, not in altruistic lines drawn in the sand.

Consider the onion with its mysterious multilayered intricacies. It has evolved over the years with a defense system that once bitten into or cut  releases a powerful chemical irritant that sends us into an eye-watering swoon. So too each election year brings with it a multifaceted barrage of messages that can bring tears to the eyes of those who dare to cleft into its

Elections are like onions, sometimes they make you weep, but the end result can be oh so delicious if we throw in the right ingredients and apply ourselves to the recipe at hand.

To good food then! I’ll see you at the voting booth next Tuesday.


11 thoughts on “Peeling Back the Onion: What this Election means for Food and Agriculture”

  1. After looking at the National Food Policy Scorecard I find many undeserving Congress members with high scores.
    Here is a truer picture of your Congress members:
    View these GMO scorecards to see how your elected officials measure up: 

    House of Representatives – alphabetical (PDF)
    House of Representatives – by state (PDF)
    Senate – alphabetical (PDF)
    Senate – by state (PDF)
    GMO Voting Scorecard Press Release

    Let’s also keep the Organic label from considering to include gene editing techniques in Organic. Here’s a letter I sent to Obama and the USDA In reference to the NOSB
    … My letter, …
    Dear President Obama and Secretary Vilsack,
    The Organic label is more than just a label to many Americans. It is a way for those wanting to avoid pesticides, synthetics and GMOs in their food to do so by eating organic. Therefore, it is important that the integrity of organic standards be maintained and protected.

    I am deeply concerned by the changes that are taking place within the National Organic Program by diminshing the independence of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) from the USDA. The USDA must continue to recognize the importance of the NOSB and allow them to do their jobs as guaranteed by the Organic Food Production Act.

    Additionally, the changes that are proposed to the process for exempting otherwise prohibited substances (such as synthetics) to the organic program threaten to harm the trust in and integrity of the National Organic Program.

    The rule enacted in 2005 determined that ingredient exceptions were made for a five-year period, in order to allow time for the development of natural and organic alternatives. These exceptions were required by law to “sunset”, unless retained by a two-thirds majority vote of the NOSB, allowing for public input and review.

    The new proposal permitting exceptions to remain on the list unless voted by two-thirds to be removed is a deviation from the original intent of the law and must be rejected.

    If these changes to the Organic standards are allowed to stand, trust in the Organic Program will be at risk.

    Thank you for your consideration,


    1. “The Organic label is more than just a label to many Americans. It is a way for those wanting to avoid…”

      I was with you until “avoid.” “Avoid” doesn’t do it for me. I’m just not afraid of food, and I think it’s sad that so many people are.

      How about “promote?” “Encourage?” “Support?” Something positive, like, “promote sustainable agriculture.” That, I could get behind.

      1. Scott Thomas Miller I agree. The USDA and Obama should support sustainable agriculture and not any of the GMO practices including gene editing which the NOSB is considering.

  2. BBC World Service just informed me that Big Ag interests have contributed $1.8m to Clinton but only $1.1 to Trump. Tricky basis for making any fully considered voting decision, huh? I still can’t quite understand why you didn’t throw full weight behind explicitly anti-GM Bernie, when you had opportunity and he was doin so credibly well against his oh-so-suspect nut prevailing opponent. You had opportunity to redeem integrity of North America’s whole organic movement, rather than settle for compromise with such an utterly dodgy choice of candidates. I also can’t understand why neither of your emergent presidents-in-waiting has anything to say at all about North Dakota oil pipeline/ native American suppression outrages, which are so shaming USA in the eyes of the watching world, with no debunkers in sight to contradict what we are actually seeing online. Organic alignment with Environmental Justice interests in that very important and potentially decisive showdown would do way much more towards positive PR for Organic America movements than than cheeky eroticism describing global vegetable cuisine, despite its implicitly hefty carbon footprint while literal hunger and malnourishment stalks so many people on this planet. Why not promote the benefits of Organic as a realistic approach to feeding everybody on the planet enough to stay healthily alive? If the problem is actually access to water, then name it as such, and maybe help rally corporate associates to address that mega vital infrastructure concern? A few cents premium on Organic fruit and veg and other products towards addressing global hunger would certainly motivate me to pay extra compared with Walmart prices! Nobody wants higher costs of organic food to reflect costs of lobbyists and politicians resolving details of deals for nationally branded organic standards when the most sustainable future for the organic industry as a whole is surely local production to locally agreed standards. If standards are not all the same, I’ll personally choose products whose producers most shun biocides, child labour and exploited workers. I also want flushing toilets and running water both at work and at home for the folk who grow my bananas, tea and chocolate.. mangoes, and whatever. My sustainable organic utopia does not include coast to coast trucking of products which could be produced more locally, nor hefty carbon emissions from shipping or air freight to deliver stuff for me to eat which comes from areas of the world where folk are meanwhile going hungry. Check out sourcing of your Quinoi and lentils! I understand there’s a Green Party candidate who might just express what you think and feel, more effectively than the official Democrat or Republican nominees. If all leaders of the American Organic movement have considered merits of Jill Stein’s policies, but opted against instinct to vote instead for the lesser of two imminent evils, that’ll likely be part of the problem facing the global Organic Movement for at least the next 4 years.
    Ticketyboo? I think not!

    1. Dear Terence,
      The breadth of your comments are as always astounding and welcomed. There really is so much political work to be done and you cannot change the world nor the political process all at once. Steady small steps will get us just and clean food and agriculture. We are all taking those steps to get us to our goal.
      We shall see what tomorrow brings. Tickety-boo I hope. Melody

  3. Really cool article. I read your posts all the time and you
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  4. Awesome post. I read your posts pretty regularly and you always do a
    good job explaining the whatever topic you’re writing
    about. Btw, I shared this on Facebook and my followers loved it.
    Keep up the great work!

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