For Immediate Release: June 5, 2015
Tracy Lerman, NESAWG | 650-867-0389
Reana Kovalcik, NSAC | 202-547-5754
Sustainable Agriculture Working Groups Partner Up on Capitol Hill
NESAWG and NSAC join forces on the Hill to advocate for sustainable agriculture
Washington, DC, March 17, 2016 – This week, Amy Little, Policy Director at the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) joined the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) in Washington, DC, to raise awareness among Northeastern legislators about the importance of funding sustainable agriculture programs and policies in the fiscal year 2017 federal budget. This trip marked the end of a month-long series of fly-ins organized by NSAC, where farmers, ranchers, and “ag-vocates” descended upon the nation’s capital to speak with their legislators about important food and agriculture issues.
“In our view, there are no better advocates for these critical U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs than the farmers who use and benefit from them,” said NSAC Policy Director, Ferd Hoefner. “Each year, as Congress prepares to develop its annual funding bills, we bring farmers and ranchers from NSAC member organizations to Washington to speak with their congressional delegations about what matters most to them. This year we are honored to host a great group of farmers and program leaders from across the country who can testify first-hand as to the importance of these programs.”
Little knows well how important conservation, research, training, and financial programs are for farmers in the Northeast. At NESAWG, she works on food and agriculture issues across 12 states and helps support a network of over 500 participating organizations. NESAWG is a network of practitioners from all aspects of food system who have come together to address the food needs of the northeast.
“Policy is a big part of what we do,” says Little, “We also work to share best practices and do peer to peer education and food system planning. We provide resources to people in local communities throughout the northeast so that they can work together and learn from each other.”
With support from NSAC, Little traveled from her home in New York' Hudson Valley to the capital to speak with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Representatives Nita Lowey (NY-17) and Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) about key conservation, agricultural, and farmer support programs including: the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), Food Safety Outreach, Education, Training, and Technical Assistance competitive grants program (FSOP), the Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (also known as the “Section 2501” program), and Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG).
“Funding for programs like these is especially important for the Northeast region because we have so many small, diversified farms. We need these programs to help farmers remain economically viable.”
For the first time during this administration, the President’s budget request included no cuts to farm bill mandatory funding for private lands conservation programs, including CSP and EQIP, and it also included several much-needed increases for other sustainable agriculture programs. NSAC and NESAWG have joined together to ask that Congressional appropriators support the President’s proposed budget by not requesting any cuts to conservation programs, and by honoring his request for the following program increases: $5 million for food safety training (FSOP), $10 million to support minority, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmers (Section 2501), and $5.3 million for sustainable agriculture research (SARE).
“These programs help support the sustainability of agriculture throughout the Northeast,” said Little. “Funding for programs like these is especially important for our region because we have so many small, diversified farms. We need these programs to help farmers remain economically viable.”
In Vermont alone NESAWG has recorded over 200 SARE projects, which are helping farmers to reduce input costs, increase profits, and protect their natural resources at the same time. SARE is the only USDA competitive grants research program with a clear and consistent focus on sustainability and farmer-driven research. The Obama Administration’s request for an increase in funding for this program, from $24.7 million to $30 million, represents an acknowledgement of the importance of cutting-edge research that is easily accessible, regionally appropriate, and farmer-tested.
“I’m glad that the Representative’s offices that we visited this week had such a good understanding of the importance of these programs to the farms of the northeast,” said Little. “If we want to have a food system that is going to feed us and remain viable, we must address the needs of these small, diversified farmers by funding the programs that support their work.”
About the Northeast Sustainable Working Group (NESAWG)
NESAWG is a 12-state network of over 500 participating organizations. Together, we unite farm and food system practitioners and allies to build a sustainable, just and economically vibrant region. Our region includes Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Washington D.C. Learn more: http://nesawg.org
About the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Learn more: http://sustainableagriculture.net