Two weeks ago, Movement For Black Lives’ Electoral Justice Project introduced the federal BREATHE Act. The organization explains, “We are rising up against all the ways that the criminal-legal system has harmed and failed to protect Black communities. The current moment requires a solution that fundamentally shifts how we envision community-care and invest in our society.”

Last month, I wrote about the pressing need for food systems advocates to advocate for defunding police and prisons. Using their invest/divest framework, M4BL links the two issues in the BREATHE Act, as well as an amazingly comprehensive array of other issues, building a new policy framework that honors Black life and divests from current structures that cause harm. The bill really speaks for itself and I encourage everyone to read it and sign on if you have not already. 

Below, I have pulled out some of the parts that are most relevant to farm, food and ecosystems. Let’s use these policy proposals as a guide in our advocacy and visioning.


In SECTION 2: Investing in New Approaches to Community Safety Utilizing Funding Incentives

Create federal grant programs that incentivize decarceration and subsidize non-punitive, community-led approaches to public safety. . .Funding must be used to fund non-carceral interventions that improve community safety and are selected through a participatory process. Interventions could include: 

  • Park redevelopment, streetlights, and other infrastructure;
  • Funding for community-based organizations that provide voluntary, non-coercive health services and healing supports for communities so that they can recover from exposure to violence, abuse, and/or harmful interactions with police;

SECTION 3: Allocating New Money to Build Healthy, Sustainable & Equitable Communities for All People

  • Establish a grant to promote environmental justice, which:
    • Incentivizes States to make specified equity-focused policy changes, such as: 
      • Creating a clear, time-bound plan for ensuring that all communities have public access to safe, clean water for housing, drinking, and food production;
      • Creating a clear, time-bound plan for ensuring that all communities have access to breathable air within EPA safety limits; and 
      • Creating a clear, time-bound plan for meeting 100% of the State power demand using clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources.
    • Provide resources for programs and investments that include: 
      • Subsidizing community-owned sustainable energy solutions, including projects by community-based nonprofit organizations; 
      • Funding climate resilience in communities so that they can prepare for climate change-fueled disasters (such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires) that are exacerbated by human fossil fuel consumption; and 
      • Funding to support, build, preserve, and restore cultural assets and sacred sites—especially sites and land belonging to the Indigenous community.
    • Establish a competitive grant to promote health and family justice, which: 
      • Incentivizes jurisdictions to make specified equity-focused policy changes, such as: 
        • Ensuring all communities have convenient access to sources of healthy food.
        • Provide resources for programs and investments that include, but are not limited to: 
        • Food cooperatives and urban gardens;
    • Establish a competitive grant to promote economic justice, which: 
      • Incentivizes States to make specified equity-focused policy changes, such as: 
        • Valuing the labor of Black and Brown women by extending employment protections for workers—including domestic workers and farm workers—who are in industries that are not appropriately regulated; 
        • Establishing the right for workers, in public and private sectors, to organize, especially in “On Demand Economy” jobs; and 
        • Establishing a living wage, pegged to inflation, and eliminating the subminimum tipped wage.
    • Make direct federal investments in equity, which include: 
      • Land grant programs in cities experiencing economic decline and/or hyper-vacancies; 
      • A program at the United States Department of Agriculture, which will forgive the debt of Black farmers who were impacted by previous United States Department of Agriculture discrimination;
      •  Tools to promote environmental justice, including an Equity Impact Mapping Initiative & Equity Screen and a Green Infrastructure Program;


SECTION 4: Holding Officials Accountable & Enhancing Self-Determination of Black Communities

  • Require Congress to acknowledge and address the lasting harms that it has caused, specifically through: 
    • Passing H.R.40 (“Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act”)