Spurred by last month’s release of the House Farm Bill (H.R. 2)—a resolution seen by many as devastating for small farmers around the country—a group of Northeast farmers and a representative of the Hanover Food Co-op Food Stores flew to Washington, DC to share their views of the House proposal in the halls of Congress.
“The recently proposed House Farm Bill is a disaster for the Northeast,” said Roger Noonan, New Hampshire organic farmer and President of the New England Farmers Union. “Unfortunately, when it is reintroduced, it is likely to include the same drastic cuts to programs that are vital to our farmers and consumers.”
Unless there is a return to the bipartisanship usually seen on agriculture issues, House H.R. 2 could strip away parts of 2014 Farm Bill policy that promote the growth of agriculture and nutrition programs in rural communities nationwide. From substantial cuts to funding for beginning and veteran farmer programs to conservation and nutrition benefits, H.R. 2 is seen by many as a stark pivot toward corporate farms.
A week before the House vote in May, Allan Reetz, Director of Public Relations at Hanover Co-op Food Stores, was asked to join a delegation sponsored by National Farmers Union (NFU). This team from six states met with legislators and senior aides. Their goal was to make it clear to policymakers—including supporters of the House cuts—that farmers and consumers across the country will be severely impacted by the House Farm Bill.
Reetz and Noonan were teamed with Justin Chase, a diversified farmer from Massachusetts; and Mary Castonguay, NEFU board member, Maine organic dairy farmer and Organic Valley member for two days of House and Senate meetings. Farmers and sustainable agriculture advocates from Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania were part of this Northeast delegation.
Programs geared toward increasing local farmers markets and value-added product opportunities lose funding in the bill, while changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will decrease local sourcing and food options for people classified as food-insecure.
The Hanover Co-op and others in the local food movement link 2014 Farm Bill policies to improvement in regional food production and consumption, as well as to food security and commercial vitality.