Every five years, the government passes an almost-trillion-dollar piece of legislation that profoundly impacts food and farm policy. For decades, big agribusiness has dominated the process, with its interests taking precedence over public health and the environment.
Today, to reclaim the debate, the Environmental Working Group and Food Policy Action Education Fund are launching the Plate of the Union campaign. It aims to awaken a new audience of American consumers to become activists for policies that make food safer, make healthy food more accessible and make food production better for our environment.
The new initiative will deploy grassroots and online tools and tactics to raise awareness about farm and food policies, and show why now—more than ever—consumers must rise up and demand their right to healthy food.
"The decisions made in Washington shape how we grow our food, what we eat and who has to go to bed hungry," said Ken Cook, president of EWG and board chair of Food Policy Action. "But if consumers don’t rise up and demand change, big agribusiness—not us eaters—will continue to make the rules.
"How our food is produced directly impacts our diets, our health and our environment. That should be cause for concern—and engagement—from every American," he said.
Tom Colicchio, Food Policy Action Education Fund cofounder, food advocate and chef, said food policy affects every issue facing our country, from national security to health, the economy, climate and more.
"Everyone eats, and everyone should have a say in what they eat and where it comes from," said Colicchio. "But for too long, our voices have been drowned out by profit-focused agribusiness. We plan to change that. Congress should be on notice: From now on, when it comes to food policy, eaters will have a central seat at the main table."
The Plate of the Union campaign will focus on four main imperatives:
- Stop taxpayer subsidies going to Big Ag polluters. Instead, invest in healthier farms. Billions of taxpayer dollars flow every year to huge agribusinesses that heavily pollute drinking water with synthetic fertilizers, manure and pesticides. Lax federal policies perpetuate the farm pollution problem and contribute to the overuse of antibiotics on livestock. We should only reward farms that take concrete, measurable steps to protect the environment.
- Protect and improve vital anti-hunger programs. More than 44 million Americans, including millions of children, rely on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. However, this vital program is always under fire by some members of Congress. SNAP funding should be increased, not cut, so that millions of hungry families can eat without running out of benefits halfway through the month.
- Increase federal investments in organic agriculture. Although consumer demand for organic food far outstrips domestic supply, less than 1 percent of the nation’s farmland is dedicated to organic farming. Elected officials must do more to help American farmers transition to organic agriculture.
- Expand federal programs to revitalize land and reduce food waste. Roughly 40 percent of food in the U.S. goes to waste each year. Plate of the Union will promote smart food policies aimed at reducing the nation’s shocking waste and support urban agriculture to revitalize wasted space that could help produce healthy food and economic opportunities for cities and local communities.
This year, Congress will start the debate over a new federal farm bill, which will set the nation’s agriculture policy for five years. That means we have one year to activate consumers and make our voices heard, as President Trump will likely sign the law in 2018.
To build support for changes in our food policy that reflect the values of consumers instead of big agribusiness, it is important that our elected leaders hear from us early and often. Plate of the Union is here to help.
Source: EWG and Food Policy Action Education Fund press release