On September 4th, I (Ariana Taylor-Stanley, Tilth Producers Policy Intern) joined fellow organizers from the Northwest Farm Bill Action Group (NWFBAG) in hosting U.S. Congressman Adam Smith for a tour of Marra Farm in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood. Congressman Smith serves Washington’s 9th District, which will include part of south Seattle (including South Park) after redistricting next year. We met with him to share our priorities for the Farm Bill and learn from him about his priorities and predictions for the Farm Bill process.
Congressman Smith impressed us with an account of his history of support for sustainable agriculture issues in previous Farm Bill processes, and admitted that he has never voted for a Farm Bill due to concerns around these issues. He expressed support for the Senate’s draft Farm Bill, but echoed common concerns around the House’s ability to pass a bill before the current one expires later this month. If the House does one thing this month, he told us, it will be the Farm Bill. But he was uncertain that they would accomplish even that. (And we now know that the Farm Bill will not come to a vote before the 2008 bill expires on September 30th.)
We encouraged the Congressman to support five key priorities when (and if) the Farm Bill comes before the House. We illustrated each priority with a stop at a relevant site on the farm. Here’s what we saw and talked about:
- Subsidy reform: We stopped by a blueberry bush and used the blueberries v. blueberry poptarts comparison from the NWFBAG Farm Bill 101 presentation to talk address the importance of reforming agricultural subsidies
- Organic and sustainable agriculture: A glance at some floating row cover helped illustrate some of the sustainable practices which Farm Bill programs such as the Organic Cost Share Program and conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program support
- Local food systems: Marra Farm’s new hoop house, which enables immigrant farmers to produce hot weather crops from their countries of origin here in Seattle, demonstrated one technique for growing local food systems. We asked the Congressman to support Farm Bill programs like Value Added Producer Grants and the Farmers Market Promotion Program, which help local producers access markets
- Beginning farmers and ranchers: Walking past Marra Farm’s market garden, we discussed the need for training new American farmers and asked Congressman Smith to make sure the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program receives full funding
- Food access: Our last stop was the children’s garden, where we discussed the importance of Farm Bill nutrition programs (such as SNAP Ed, which funds classes for elementary students at nearby Concord Elementary in that garden) and which have already taken huge budget cuts
View the complete platform here.
Thank you to Congressman Smith and his fantastic assistant, Linda Danforth, for joining us! We look forward to working more with you on sustainable agriculture policy in the future.