What makes good food policy?
The 2012 Farm Bill, which will largely determine our nation’s food and agriculture policy, addresses important issues including supplemental nutrition assistance programs, farm, trade, conservation, rural development, research, and food safety programs. A lot is at stake.
I hope our legislators pay careful attention to the four principles recently put forth by the City of Seattle, in conjunction with the Seattle Local Food Action Initiative. The Seattle Farm Bill Principles were compiled and signed by a group of 11 stakeholders, including city government members, public health officials, farm owners and food purveyors. They were brought to the table because “the nation needs a comprehensive, health-focused food system that addresses the goals of hunger and disease reduction, local and family farm viability, food affordability and accessibility, environmental protection, land use planning, regional resilience, and social justice,” according to the Seattle Farm Bill Principles website.
- Health-Centered Food System
The driving principle of the Farm Bill must be the relationship of food and ecologically sound agriculture to public health. Food that promotes health includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, dairy, and lean protein. Improving the health of the nation's residents must be a priority in developing policies, programs and funding.
- Sustainable Agricultural Practices
Promote farming systems and agricultural techniques that prioritize protection of the environment so that the soil, air, and water can continue producing food long into the future. Integral to both domestic and global agricultural policies should be agricultural techniques and farming practices that enhance environmental quality, build soil and soil fertility, protect natural resources and ecosystem diversity, improve food safety, and increase the quality of life of communities, farmers and farm workers.
- Community and Regional Prosperity and Resilience
Enhance food security by strengthening the viability of small and mid-scale farms, and increasing appropriately scaled processing facilities, distribution networks, and direct marketing. Develop strategies that foster resiliency, local innovation, interdependence, and community development in both rural and urban economies. Opportunities that create fair wage jobs are key to a strong economy.
- Equitable Access to Healthy Food
Identify opportunities and reduce barriers by developing policies and programs that increase the availability of and improve the proximity of healthy, affordable, and culturally-relevant food to urban, suburban, and rural populations. Protect the nation’s core programs that fight food insecurity and hunger while promoting vibrant, sustainable agriculture.
- Social Justice and Equity
The policies reflected in the Farm Bill impact the lives and livelihoods of many people, both in the U.S. as well as abroad. Develop policies, programs, and strategies that support social justice, worker’s rights, equal opportunity, and promote community self-reliance.
- Systems Approach to Policymaking
It is essential to reduce compartmentalization of policies and programs, and to approach policy decisions by assessing their impact on all aspects of the food system including production, processing, distribution, marketing, consumption, and waste management. Consider the interrelated effects of policies and align expected outcomes to meet the goal of a comprehensive health-focused food system.