by Suellyn Shupe
Several of our Food Policy Council Network Members attended the Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) annual conference in February, called GERMINATE - REGENERATE - AGITATE. Anna Haas, Liz Sites, and I were among the 1000 or so attendees who germinated new ideas to support regeneration within Ohio's food system, and set about agitating for a better "harvest" for all.
The learning included nearly 60 workshop presentations, plus Community Conversations in the form of moderated panels or roundtables. The workshops were organized into tracks, allowing one to tailor their experience to their interests or needs.
An additional full day of Farm School included hands-on participation in ones' choice of: Holistic Planned Grazing, No Till Vegetable Culture, Organic Transition Planting, Our Future Our Farm Bill, or Fair Labor Practices for Farmers.
The agitation was aimed primarily at Food and Farm Policy as it relates to the upcoming amendment and reauthorization of the Farm Bill by the federal legislature, which is due to happen in 2023. Several of our members spent some time within the policy track.
FDR's administration first introduced the Farm Bill as a response to the nation's Dust Bowl climate crisis, and the legislative package is traditionally updated every five years. The Bill is one of the largest omnibus bills that we taxpayers support, as it now includes not only farm subsidies and crop insurance, but many of the federal nutrition programs, such as SNAP and WIC, that distribute billions of dollars to people in need of food assistance.
OEFFA's focus on policy this year was largely devoted to bringing attention to their Farm Bill platform through which they hope to pass some amendments to the current bill. OEFFA supports amendments that would direct benefits away from industrial agriculture companies and toward small and midsize farms that use organic or regenerative practices to respond to the soil and water aspects of the climate crisis. In addition, OEFFA advocates for policies that would support local and regional processing and distribution hubs and make it easier for local suppliers of fresh foods, like farm markets and local groceries, to make SNAP benefits available to their customers.
Senator Sherrod Brown represents Ohio on the Senate Agriculture Committee. He and his legislative staff have worked closely with OEFFA for the past two years as the platform was developed, and Sen. Brown will submit a marker bill soon to hold space for the committee to discuss when writing the legislation.
The House Ag Committee has two Ohio Representatives: Rep. Shontel Brown (D, OH District 11) and Rep. Max Miller (R, OH District 7).
If you would like to support such legislation, contact these three Congressmembers or make your own District Representative aware of your interest in these policies.
Check out OEFFA's Farm Bill platform, which has been guided by some of our Food Policy Council Network Members to align with our region's food goals.
Suellyn Shupe has been a community advocate for sustainable agriculture and food systems in the Cincinnati area for 20+ years. Currently, she serves on OEFFA's Food/Farm Policy working group related to their Farm Bill campaign, and she recently contributed to the Green Cincinnati Plan's food focus area work.