National Meeting of State Ag Commissioners Comes to the Northeast

by Tracy Lerman, NESAWG Executive Director

It’s a farm bill year, and all eyes are focused on federal policy, but In the northeast we have a unique opportunity to impact state policy too.

While the farm bill matters a great deal, state agriculture departments also make critical decisions about the future of the farm and food system. In addition to administering the funding for key federal Farm Bill programs (such as Specialty Crop Block Grants), they oversee a raft of programs and regulations that have wide ranging impacts on farming, food production, food access and other related issues. These include but are not limited to local food system development, land use, soil and water conservation, and market development to name a few. State Agriculture Commissioners can also be influential champions for farm and food interests to Members of Congress and other federal decision-makers.

That’s why you may want to pay attention to the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), and even consider attending one of their meetings. Each year, NASDA gathers together leaders from all 50 states in national and regional meetings to discuss policy positions and learn about emerging ag initiatives and issues.

For the past five years, sustainable agriculture leaders from our region have attended NASDA’s regional and policy meetings as well as the annual national conference, thanks to support from funders who see the value for their NGO partners to connect with state agriculture decision-makers. This ongoing participation is helping to clarify both areas of agreement and differences in perspective. The more our community interacts with state agriculture commissioners and their staff, the more we can demonstrate the power of our movement toward a healthier, more equitable and sustainable farm and food future as a counterpoint to the industrial, commodity-driven vision most often presented to NASDA members.

This year, NASDA is coming to the Northeast, and we have two opportunities to raise the profile of the sustainable food systems movement in our region.  In June 2018, the Northeast regional meeting (NEASDA) will take place in Newport, RI, and in September, NASDA will come to Hartford, CT.

NESAWG is convening stakeholders from across our region to participate in a collaborative effort to cultivate our state agriculture commissioners as champions of our issues. We want to tell the story of sustainable food systems in the Northeast to these powerful audiences and strengthen the sustainable agriculture movement at the same time, and we want you to join us! What are the food systems initiatives to showcase in your community? What are some of the challenges? If you have a story to share, or want to learn how to get involved, please contact us at [email protected].