In February, 20 or so NJ farmers, anti-hunger advocates, ag activists and enviromentalists gathered to discuss the Farm Bill which is due to be renewed this year. Working to build a coalition that can speak to what NJ needs from this bill, which funds nutrition, farming, rural development and conservation programs. From left: Celebrity Chef and activist Tom Colicchio, Foodshed Alliance’s Kendrya Close, Crafted Hospitality’s Cory Sullivan, Environmental Work Group’s Scott Faber and Windy Brow Farm’s Jake Hunt.

From left: Adrian Hyde, of NOFA-NJ, Jake Hunt of Windy Brow Farm, Kendrya Close of the Foodshed Alliance, Amy Hansen of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Adelle La Tourette of the NJ Anti-Hunger Coalition, and Scott Faber of EWG visited Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ7) in his Westfield, NJ, office.

In December 2017, the staff of the Foodshed Alliance connected with Scott Faber, senior vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group (EWG) to discuss the renewal of Farm Bill scheduled to take place in 2018 and its impacts on New Jersey’s farms, local food system and underserved populations.

The Farm Bill is the primary agriculture and food policy tool of the federal government. The comprehensive omnibus bill is renewed every 5 years or so and deals with agriculture and other programs under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Agriculture. Beginning in 1933, farm bills have included funding commodity programs, trade, rural development, farm credit, conservation, agricultural research, food and nutrition programs, marketing and more. The current farm bill, the Agricultural Act of 2014, funds farm programs through 2018.

The Foodshed Alliance and EWG worked together to reach out to New Jersey stakeholders affected by the Farm Bill, including farmers, agricultural groups, land trusts, conservation groups, social service agencies and anti-hunger advocates. The main purpose of this outreach was to form consensus on what New Jersey advocates wanted to see in the Farm Bill and to formulate a plan to inform NJ legislators of these priorities.

On February 13, approximately 20 stakeholders from the agriculture, conservation and anti-hunger sectors gathered at Duke Farms in Hillsborough to discuss the Farm Bill as well as next steps. Celebrity chef and food activist Tom Colicchio kicked off the meeting by acknowledging how important it is that we all work together to ensure that the final version is a good bill for New Jersey’s citizens

After the meeting, attendees agreed on the following messaging regarding the Farm Bill:

 “The next Farm Bill should support healthier diets, support local farmers, protect our environment, combat hunger, and ensure than affordable food is available to all. To address the food and farm priorities of New Jersey, Congress should enact a Farm Bill which: supports the production of more fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods in New Jersey; increase opportunities for New Jersey farmers to sell healthy food to New Jersey consumers; and, which protects anti-hunger assistance and land conservation program from budget cuts and restrictions. At a time when the cost of health care is rising, Congress should enact a Farm Bill which supports healthier diets by making local, healthy food available to all.”

On April 19, the House Committee on Agriculture approved a draft of the Farm Bill for a House vote which:

  • cut funding for programs that support local farmers;
  • cut funding for conservation programs by $800 million;
  • did not do enough to help organic farmers;
  • created new pesticide safety loopholes that threaten farmers, farm workers, and the environment;
  • restricted anti-hunger assistance.

On April 30, Kendrya Close, executive director of the Foodshed Alliance, Jake Hunt, board president of the Foodshed Alliance, Amy Hansen of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Adelle La Tourette of the NJ Anti-Hunger Coalition, Adrian Hyde of NOFA-NJ, and Scott Faber of EWG visited Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ7) in his Westfield, NJ, office.

On May 9, Close and Hunt joined Hansen, Stephanie Harris and Jeanny Rose of NOFA-NJ in Washington D.C. to meet with the staffs of Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ12), Tom MacArthur (NJ3), Albio Sires (NJ8), Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ11), Leonard Lance (NJ7), Frank LoBiondo (NJ2), Chris Smith (NJ4), and Donald Norcross (NJ1).

On May 18, the House of Representatives failed to pass the proposed Farm Bill. All but one of New Jersey’s federal representatives voted against the bill. (Rep. Tom MacArthur voted for the bill). A big thanks to all of our partners and advocates who helped make that happen.

A second House vote is set for June and the Senate is expected to release its own version of a Farm Bill, also in June.

The Foodshed Alliance and its partners will continue to monitor the progress and keep our supporters informed.