Soapbox

How the federal farm bill could impact Sacramento’s farm-to-fork future

Sandy Nemec of Carmichael, right, buys a bag of cherries with CalFresh coupons at the farmers’ market at Cesar Chavez Park in Sacramento in May 2017.
Sandy Nemec of Carmichael, right, buys a bag of cherries with CalFresh coupons at the farmers’ market at Cesar Chavez Park in Sacramento in May 2017. Sacramento Bee file

Sacramento’s “farm-to-fork” slogan isn’t just about mouth-watering meals at restaurants or carrots stacked high at farmers’ markets.

It’s also about policies that have made it possible for the Central Valley to become the leading producer of specialty crops – and could give an opportunity for everyone, regardless of race or class, to eat healthy food.

 
Opinion

The five-year farm bill is now being negotiated in Congress. It affects access to healthy food, assistance for minority farmers, support for ecological practices and much more. But many of the safeguards that ensure our neighbors go to bed nourished and our farmers can thrive are at risk.

A House bill proposed drastic cuts that would leave thousands of people, mostly children, hungry, derail decades of conservation work and halt progress of local food markets.

The bill the Senate passed last week gives hope for a better fate for our food and farms. It keeps current funding for food aid for poor families, permanently supports farmers of color and strengthens organic agriculture funding.

While the Senate version is an improvement on the House bill, there is still room for improvement. A conference committee will start trying to agree on a final bill after the July Fourth recess.

The outcome directly impacts Sacramento. More than 90,000 households receive CalFresh benefits, and many nonprofits have received grants through the farm bill. For example, Alchemist CDC receives funding to encourage use of CalFresh at farmers’ markets, making sure that families get fresh fruits and vegetables and improving local farmers’ bottom lines.

When so much is at stake for our communities, consumers can’t ignore the roots beneath the picture-ready carrots at the market, or the roots of policy and the federal farm bill.

Beth Smoker is president of Alchemist CDC and policy consultant at Pesticide Action Network and can be contacted at beth.smoker@panna.org. Brenda Ruiz is president of the Sacramento Food Policy Council and can be contacted at president@sacfoodpolicy.org.

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