2015 25.3 Policy Update

State Policy
It long last, the Washington State Legislature has agreed on a state operating budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, beginning July 1, 2015. The new budget maintains current funding levels for some of our top priority programs. The Small Farm & Direct Marketing and the Farm to School Programs are funded at a combined $125,000 per year. Tilth Producers is disappointed this funding was not increased, but relieved it was not cut further. The Farmers Market Nutrition Programs have retained the additional funding added last session and will continue to serve more families and farms as a result. Funding was also retained for the Small Farm Internship Program and for the Farming Education pilot which offers school farming programs for at-risk youth, although the latter was not expanded as hoped. In better news, the new Healthy Kids – Healthy Schools grant program received $5 million in funding to provide school garden, kitchen, playground, and water equipment

Federal Policy
Several pieces of good news on the federal policy front: two great new bills introduced that would support beginning farmers and farm-to-school programs, and a display of support for organics by a new congressman in Central Washington. Student Debt Forgiveness for Farmers The Young Farmer Success Act of 2015 (H.R. 2590) has been introduced in the House by Representative Chris Gibson (R- NY) and Representative Joe Courtney (D-CT). This bill would add farming to the list of careers in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. This would mean for those that enroll in the program that after ten years of full-time farming and income-adjusted student loan payments, farmers’ student debt would be forgiven. Ask your representative to cosponsor this bill!

Farm to School Act of 2015
Cosponsors are also needed for the Farm to School Act of 2015 (S. 569 and H.R. 1061). This “marker bill” spells out all the ways the reauthorized Child Nutrition Act can support farm-to-school efforts. Urge your senators and representative to cosponsor this bill, too!

Rep. Newhouse Joins House Organic Caucus
Tilth Producers is proud to announce that freshman Representative Dan Newhouse (representing central Washington’s Fourth District) has joined the House Organic Caucus. The Organic Caucus is a bipartisan group of representatives who value organic agriculture and who share information about opportunities to support organic policy. “I am proud to join the House Organic Caucus,” said Congressman Newhouse. “Organic producers and the foods they supply are an important ever-growing sector of our agricultural community. Washington state has the second most diverse organic market in the country, growing everything from organic apples to potatoes to livestock. I am pleased to join the conversation on issues facing our organic producers and the consumers of organic products.”

Washington Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, and Adam Smith also serve on the Organic Caucus. Congratulations to Representative Newhouse for stepping up for organic farmers in Washington and nationwide.

Many thanks to our Policy Intern Lana Jacobus for her hard work this past year. Lana researched and wrote many articles for Tilth Producers’ policy blog, helped send action alerts, produced a video on climate policy and agriculture, and supported our 2014 Policy Party and 2015 Good Food and Farming Lobby Day. Lana graduated from the University of Washington this spring with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. With her quickness to learn and cheerful attitude, we know Lana will continue to do great things.

Ariana Taylor-Stanley is Policy Coordinator for Tilth Producers of Washington as well as Coordinator for the Northwest Farm Bill Action [email protected].

Tags: Direct Marketing Program, Farm-to-School Program, Farmers Market Nutrition Program, Farming Education Pilot, Policy, Small Farm Internship Program, Small Farms Program, Student Debt Forgiveness for Farmers, Young Farmer Success Act