Press Release

As Farm Bill Approaches, Farm Sanctuary Hosts “Roundtable Review of U.S. Food Systems” on Capitol Hill

Rountable participants

Press Release

As Farm Bill Approaches, Farm Sanctuary Hosts “Roundtable Review of U.S. Food Systems” on Capitol Hill

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Media Contact: Meredith Turner-Smith, [email protected]

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Event advanced agenda to build universal nutritional security and sustainable farmer opportunity across U.S. food systems

WASHINGTON D.C. – (Feb 1, 2023) – Farm Sanctuary hosted a “Roundtable Review of U.S. Food Systems” on Capitol Hill, sponsored by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), with additional in-person remarks from Rep. Kim Schrier (D-WA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and advocates from key national and community-based organizations, including Farm Action, The Center for Biological Diversity, The Eva Clayton Rural Food Institute, and Corbin Hill Food Project.

Together, roundtable participants explored two shared priorities for U.S. food systems: universal nutritional security and sustainable farmer opportunity. With the recent success of the 2022 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health and rapid approach of the 2023 Farm Bill, the roundtable advanced critical and timely conversations to advance food-system-wide justice and sustainability priorities. Roundtable participants highlighted their experiences and policy approaches to build community-driven progress across U.S. food systems.

According to Farm Sanctuary Sr. Director of Advocacy, Aaron Rimmler-Cohen, “The federal government invests tremendous resources in U.S. food systems. Unfortunately, these investments too often prioritize production over shared purpose, resulting in immense harm to animals, people, and the planet. Plants and plant-based foods can serve as important means to accomplish shared ends, like universal nutritional security and sustainable farmer opportunity. We have to shift federal investments. To do this equitably means listening to and supporting the community-based organizations that have been fighting for just and sustainable food system transformation, often for decades.”

USDA shared how they are working to strengthen intersections between climate change, food systems, and nutrition security and leveraging the recent, historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. Dr. Sheila Fleischhacker, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and National Science Liaison for Nutrition and Food Safety, shared how the extramural funding agency of USDA is working to address knowledge gaps and opportunities, spur innovation and accelerate change, empower individuals including youth and communities, and support synergies across diverse priorities including diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.

The following are excerpts from roundtable participants:

“Thank you to Farm Sanctuary for bringing us together for this important discussion today as we enter the 2023 Farm Bill cycle … In September, the Biden-Harris Administration hosted the first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in over 53 years. It brought together agencies from across the federal government, nonprofits, industry, and people with lived experiences to finally draw up a plan to end hunger and reduce diet related disease by 2030. My top priority in the upcoming Farm Bill is to better align our anti-hunger programs with the National Strategy. This includes expanding the successful Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentives Program (GusNIP), which doubles the purchasing power of SNAP for fresh fruits and vegetables, especially at farmers markets…But ending hunger is bigger than any one piece of legislation. Some of the recommendations coming out of the conference will need to be addressed in other legislative vehicles.”Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)

“As we enter a Farm Bill year, it is a good time to be thinking about how we can work together to make our food system better. This means incentivizing sustainable farming practices, using nutrition programs to nourish, not just feed, and supporting family farms. To that end, one of my top priorities is bringing farmers to the table for our policy conversations here in D.C. so that we are getting their direct input on what is happening on the ground and how best to improve market opportunities for small and medium farmers and producers.”Rep. Kim Schrier (D-WA)

“I’m proud to continue my work on the Justice for Black Farmers Act, which I look forward to reintroducing this Congress. The legislation would enact policies to protect the 50,000 remaining Black farmers from losing their land, and provide land grants to create a new generation of Black farmers,” said Congresswoman Alma Adams, a member of the House Agriculture Committee. “Additionally, the Justice For Black Farmers Act provides substantial resources for 1890 Land-Grant Institutions to help Black farmers get up and running and includes funding for all HBCUs to expand their agriculture research and courses of study. This legislation corrects a grave injustice and empowers Black farmers to be agricultural leaders well into the future.”Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC), who could not attend in person due to travel restrictions

“We know that we need policies to shift resources to better support our rural communities, and particularly to support the communities who have borne the most harm from today’s food system failures … [We] understand the loss of farmers, especially black farmers, and land loss…I encourage Congressional leadership to re-evaluate each of its current food system investments – from research, to nutrition and food service, to rural development, credit, and insurance – to shift support to advance shared priorities. Nutritional security and sustainable farmer opportunity are essential outcomes for a healthy food system. We still have much work to do, but I’m grateful for settings like this to share our story and approach.”Earline Middleton, the Eva Clayton Rural Food Institute

“Corbin Hill Food Project’s mission is to supply food to those who need it most. For over a decade, the organization’s innovative strategy utilizes existing community assets to bring farm fresh produce to underserved communities in New York City … At a federal level, BIPOC organizations, farmers, food producers, truckers, aggregators, and distributors need long-term investment and trust to do the work of our community, build infrastructure, and acquire assets to support community ownership and food sovereignty.”Rebecca Valdez, Corbin Hill Food Project

“Corporate monopolies have gained enormous influence over government policies, producing a food and farm system that drives farmers out of business and from their land, leaves Americans without access to healthy food, abuses animals, destroys the natural environment, and even threatens our national security. By shifting our agriculture policies to support local and regional food systems, the 2023 Farm Bill could transform our food system into one that is fair, inclusive, and competitive.”Joe Van Wye, Farm Action

“It is up to Congress to re-balance the scales in the Farm Bill by opposing any new measures that increase direct or indirect subsidies to polluting industries and taking action to codify support for initiatives that advance a healthy, sustainable food system. Universal school meal programs help equalize access to healthy, sustainable food and improve student nutrition and educational outcomes, especially for students experiencing food insecurity. What food we produce is just as important as how we produce it, and school meals would not only influence child nutrition, but also establish national meal standards and provide direction in our food system and our food economy.”Mark Rifkin, the Center for Biological Diversity

Summarizing the impact of the event and next steps, Farm Sanctuary Sr. Manager of U.S. Government Affairs, Alexandra Bookis, said, “We can work together, across movements, organizing from common ground to shift public resources to advance systems-wide justice, compassion, and sustainability. We are thrilled to share, in the coming months, roadmaps that help to synthesize events like these and outreach to more than 2000 farmer, worker, environment, health, justice, and animal-centered organizations, as well as policymakers and academics from across the country.”


About Farm Sanctuary
Founded in 1986, Farm Sanctuary fights the disastrous effects of animal agriculture on animals, the environment, social justice, and public health through rescue, education, and advocacy. The organization provides lifelong care for animals rescued from abuse at Sanctuary locations in New York and California; fosters just and compassionate vegan living; and advocates for legal and policy reforms.

Group photo of roundtable participants

Photo (left to right): Mark Rifkin, Center for Biological Diversity; Dr. Sheila Fleischhacker, National Institute of Food and Agriculture; Christina Williams-DeBrew, Green Rural Redevelopment Organization; Rebecca Valdez, Corbin Hill Food Project; Alex Bookis, Farm Sanctuary; Aaron Rimmler-Cohen, Farm Sanctuary; Ismail Samad, Corbin Hill Food Project; Earline Middleton, Eva Clayton Rural Food Institute; Gene Baur, Farm Sanctuary