Congressional Food Candidate #2 + Talk to your Candidates: Federal food topics

Food Vote 2012: National U.S. Survey
Survey of “community food and farm” leaders and other U.S. residents
Aug. 14 – Nov. 6, 2012
Week #4: Found: Congressional Food Candidate #2 + Talk to your Candidates: Federal food topics

Thanks to Alabama, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, and North Carolina for weighing in. Eighteen states are still unheard from in this survey.


Total # of responses: 147

# of States Responding: 32 + Washington, DC

No responses yet from: Alaska Arkansas Delaware Georgia Kansas Mississippi Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey Oklahoma Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Vermont Wyoming

# of Congressional Food candidates identified and vetted: 2
Earl Blumenauer – Oregon
Tulsi Gabbard – Hawaii

Hawaii candidate, Tulsi Gabbard has been successfully recommended and vetted as the second bona-fide FOOD candidate, running on a FOOD platform. She joins Earl Blumenauer (Oregon) as the two Congressional candidates identified as FOOD candidates so far (out of the 2,000+ candidates running for 435 House of Representative seats). See details of her platform and analysis below.

Definition of a Congressional FOOD candidate (for purposes of this survey):
• U.S. House of Representatives. A person (incumbent or challenger) who is running for one of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives
• Heading or Subheading on website. A candidate who has identified FOOD as an issue or priority and states the priority on their campaign website in the form of a heading or subheading
• Interlocking Issues. A candidate whose campaign language demonstrates that his/her commitment to FOOD refers to a set of interlocking issues that might be called “food and farm economies” or “food and farm networks” or “food and farm systems” — in other words the web of relationships among natural resources, eaters, farmers, food chain workers, and all other influences on our food — which is everything in the universe.
• Community Civic Engagement. A candidate whose understanding of healthy, resilient food and farm systems (that work for every U.S. resident on a daily basis) hinges on community-based decision-making in all areas of the food system, on a daily basis


If you are not quite sure how to talk to your candidates about FOOD or what to recommend for their consideration, below are the responses so far from Food Vote 2012 survey’s section on FEDERAL FOOD POLICIES (existing and proposed). You can use the 10 high-leverage policies identified by the Survey, or you can use the ideas suggested by 16 different respondents.

Far and away, the most favored federal food policy is a “Community Food and Farm Bill” empowering and funding food councils at local, regional, and state levels. Unfortunately, no one has yet written or proposed such a bill in Congress (so far as I know).

Thanks to all survey respondents.

Food Vote 2012: National U.S. Survey

CANDIDATE: Tulsi Gabbard
2nd Congressional District, Hawaii

FOOD PLATFORM: Hawai`i’s New Agriculture—Achieving Food Self-Sufficiency
Far too much of the food we eat has “travelled” thousands of miles to get to our dinner table. That journey consumes expensive and limited energy, and of course negatively impacts the quality of the food. With Hawai`i’s year-round growing season and fertile soil, we have a unique opportunity to become free from this dependency on imported food. Working toward and ultimately achieving food self-sufficiency is an exciting and achievable goal. A “renaissance in agriculture” built around a small farmer lifestyle of living more in harmony with the ‘aina would boost our local economy, improve the quality of what we eat and feed our children, allow Hawai`i to be food self-sufficient, and so much more.

To get this agricultural renaissance off the ground, it is critical that we support our local farmers. Hundreds of small family farms have sprung up all over Hawai`i, often on fallow, abandoned plantation land. These are truly hardworking people, and our community needs to support them, both through farmer-friendly policies and assistance, and through encouraging people to “buy local.” More agricultural land should be made available, and protected from urban development. Farmers should have priority when it comes to access to water sources. Helping small farmers helps all of us, by reducing our dependence on food imports and moving us forward toward a truly sustainable future. (candidate’s emphasis)

ANALYSIS. While Ms. Gabbard’s FOOD platform is not nearly as detailed or fleshed out as Cong. Blumenauer’s Farm and Food Bill of Rights, her platform meets Food Vote 2012’s criteria for a FOOD candidate. In terms of Food Vote 2012’s definition of a FOOD candidate, Ms. Gabbard’s platform is weakest regarding “community-based decision-making”. In fact her platform has no specific provision or recommendation to involve the community in food councils or food policy. But her emphasis on “self-sufficiency” and “community” support of small farmers and buy local suggests that she will quickly recognize that implementation of her food platform will require much community involvement. I trust that her Hawaiian colleagues and constituents will help her learn how to build a community-based food and farm economy, such as the one she describes.


QUESTION #8 from Food Vote 2012 Survey:
The following are federal policies that have been identified as major leverage points for reducing problems in our food system. When talking with Congressional candidates, which policies would you promote (or have you
promoted) as the most likely to eliminate or decrease your food concerns? Check all that apply.

Listed in order of most votes to least (as of Sept. 19, 2012)
(percentage of total respondents + total # of votes):

“Community Food and Farm Bill” empowering and funding food councils at local, regional, and state levels
81.7% 85
FDA food safety regulations: Adopt two-tiered system (based on business size and efficiencies of locality)
56.7% 59
Federal taxpayer subsidies throughout the food chain (transportation, export-import, irrigation, energy, etc.): Eliminate all (except raw materials price parity for farmers)
51.9% 54
House Committee on Agriculture: Promote more diversity of membership, especially more urban and suburban members
51.9% 54
Corporate and institutional personhood: Eliminate by making corporate charters more project-based
48.1% 50
New Congressional Food Committee(s) (House, Senate, and/or Joint): Promote creation of
43.3% 45
No Child Left Behind: Repeal to enable schools to teach food literacy and food system skills
42.3% 44
Anti-trust laws: Rigorously enforce in a consistent and timely manner
40.4% 42
U.S. tax code: Simplify to eliminate loopholes, inconsistencies, and inequities, rewarding earned income only
34.6% 36
Banking and monetary systems: Regulate commercial banks + create public banks.
32.7% 34
Other (please specify)
15.4% 16

Other: These are all 16 “Other” suggestions (received so far) for policies to promote when talking to Congressional candidates.

Suggestions highlighted in red are ideas that were not included in my list and that I think are interesting leverage opportunities on the federal level — and that candidates might be willing to discuss.

1 Support for beginning farmer programs – Ongoing and mandated support (including subsidies and other incentives) for conservation and other sustainable agriculture practices
2 GMO policy and communication
3 Get rid of check-off programs!
4 SNAP and other Nutrition Title issues in the Farm Bill
5 I think getting taking food and nutrition out of the ag. committees would be difficult to achieve and may be bad for the sustainable agriculture movement, and may make it harder for food advocates to get the votes to support programs like SNAP.
6 publicize the fact that food stamps (SNAP) can be used to purchase seeds and plants for family food production.
7 Reforming federal farm subsidy programs and providing support for local and regional food systems.
8 More funding and more thoughtful work on food assistance and social welfare programs. Funding to help meet market gaps and ensure nutritious, culturally-relevant food access in food desert communities. Tying food issues to economic development, health, and long-term outcomes.
9 Increase subsidies for local food in schools. Loss of farmland to sprawl is a national security issue.
10 I’m not familiar with many of these, so I can’t comment. But government policy has to be based on INDEPENDENT research (not done or funded, including at colleges & universities, by any entity that has a financial stake in the outcome), environmental and safety rregulations must be enforced – not bypassed, and consumers must be informed about their food. Food producers must serve the consumer, not the other way around. Subsidies must go to small farmers, not large corporations.
11 Increased funding for community based food systems Limits on marketing processed and high sugar foods to children
12 Membership in the congressional organic caucus
13 Labor issues, human rights, minimum wage.
14 we don’t need MORE regulation as almost all your choices provide. instead of regulations that hurt small and mid-size farms, get rid of them (the regulations). stop making everything so difficult. and stop subsidizing big commercial farms. and get rid of Monsanto and other chemical companies that force farmers into mono-cropping and using dangerous (to us, the environment and to diversity of species) chemicals. and encourage land uses that permit traditional farming methods instead of catering to urban sprawl and penalizing farmers for burning and other “offensive” natural methods of weed and pest control.
15 preserve premium farm land by protecting it from development.
16 Bill that allows local businesses who purchase local products a tax credit along with credits for organic and sustainable practices (ways to encourage sustainable practices). Similar to the carbon credit, perhaps there should be legislation with ground pollution as well?

No Chinese Menu In the Voting Booth. Streamlining Voter & Candidate Thinking — FOOD is THE issue

Food Vote 2012: National U.S. Survey
Survey of community food and farm system leaders and other U.S. residents
Aug. 14 – Nov. 6, 2012

On a personal level, the act of voting — deciding one’s representative for the next 2 years (or 4 years or 6 years) — is not always satisfying or straightforward. We do not often find candidates whose positions match our own on every issue.

Nor are ballots arranged like a Chinese menu, where we can vote on a different candidate for each issue — one from Column A (e.g., jobs), one from Column B (e.g., international relations), and one from Column C (e.g., education). Nor would it be desirable or logistically feasible to have multiple representatives sharing a single Congressional seat.

This is to highlight the fact that the voting act is by definition a Yes or a No. In binary computer language, a 1 or a Zero. Representative democracy causes us to reduce a complex decision to a momentary “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” and is binding for 2, 4 or 6 years.

Voters and candidates alike have developed strategies to help voters turn a set of multi-faceted, long-term decisions into a simple Yes or No at the moment they enter the voting booth. So how do we make the best decision when we enter the voting booth?

FOOD streamlines a voter’s thought process. This is the question that in 2005 propelled this voter (at the age of 54) to start working on “local food systems” and “food policy”. Focusing on FOOD streamlined my thinking about every other issue, both in my personal life and my community life.

My co-founding members of the Evanston Food Council saw that all of our other community work was connected to the FOOD system. Our need to eat, every day, for survival and life-affirming pleasure, is the most time-consuming, resource-consuming, and most attention-consuming need that humans (and other life forms) have. FOOD is the organizing principle of our economy, society, and civilization. More than any other human activity, our need to eat (and to feed those in our care) organizes our daily lives.

Like many others around the country, many of us in Evanston, Illinois had been working on many different aspects of community resiliency for many years — living wages, health care, natural resource conservation, housing, education, family support, jobs, etc., etc. — both on a programmatic level and on policy levels. And like many others around the country, founders of the Evanston Food Council saw that on a policy level, solving for FOOD was solving for almost every other issue that we had been working on throughout our lives.

We saw a way to streamline our thinking. Some of us started to help our legislative representatives (and candidates) streamline theirs.

Has FOOD streamlined candidates’ thinking? Seven years later (and knowing that many of my colleagues had been working on FOOD issues at least twice that long), I wanted to find out if this streamlining thought process had affected the political process — specifically, in the races for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. This is why I created the Food Vote 2012 survey, to find Congressional candidates who understand that FOOD underpins every other aspect of human life.

More specifically, I am seeking candidates who are actively running on a FOOD platform because I believe that they will be likely to promote FOOD justice, FOOD sovereignty, community FOOD and farm systems, FOOD system sustainability and resiliency, and FOOD peace with all humans and non-humans.

Has FOOD streamlined the thinking of all food system practitioners? Along the way, I am also seeking the community food and farm advocates and practitioners who understand their work in this leveraged manner. So, my survey asked the following questions:

QUESTION #5. Are your FOOD concerns so strong that a candidate’s FOOD-related campaign promise might be the deciding factor when you cast your vote on November 6?

QUESTION #6. If yes, what FOOD campaign promise would earn your vote on November 6, no matter who the candidate or what the other issues?

Some detailed analysis of the answers received so far is included below,

Thanks again to those who responded in such detail and with such passion.

You can still participate in the survey, through election day — November 6, 2012:

Food Vote 2012: National U.S. Survey



Total # of responses: 122

# of States Responding: 27 + Washington, DC

No responses yet from: Alabama Alaska Arkansas Delaware Georgia Kansas Kentucky Maine Michigan Mississippi Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey North Carolina Oklahoma Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Vermont Wyoming

# of Congressional Food candidates identified and vetted: 1
(Cong. Earl Blumenauer – Oregon)



QUESTION #5. Are your FOOD concerns so strong that a candidate’s FOOD-related campaign promise might be the deciding factor when you cast your vote on November 6?

Yes 74%
No 26%

QUESTION #6. If yes, what FOOD campaign promise would earn your vote on November 6, no matter who the candidate or what the other issues?

68 people answered this question. In Survey Monkey’s “text analysis” these are the top six words (phrases) that were mentioned:

Farm 20
Food System 17
GMOs 15
Healthy 10
School 10
Communities 10

COMMENTS RECEIVED. Here are some of the representative and unique comments sent in by respondents. (Highlighting is mine.)

Massachusetts. “I would be very likely to vote for a candidate who would work to support food systems in a real and effective way. Who would advocate for changes in institutional policy that would create systemic change on multiple levels i.e. promoting farm to school in a way that would create new markets for farmers, expand opportunities for food service to prepare wholesome food, and create educational opportunities to engage children on healthy food issues.”

New York. “Putting more control of the food system and food economy back in local communities for good jobs, good neighbors, and good health.”

Illinois. “The support of small farms engaged in food production, beginning and minority farmers, and local food – including value added products, with not only legislation but also funding tied to such support. In addition I feel it is essential to make available resources to augment consumer education, as well as the education of farmers forming a partnership to assist in their success.”

New York. “Virtually any mention of building community-based food systems that included strengthening regional food systems, supporting a stable base of small and mid-sized farms that use sustainable practices, increasing access to healthy food choices, supporting food and ag-related businesses that create jobs in our communities and promoting local, state and federal policies that support those things, would probably get my vote.”

Washington. “GMO labeling, 50 year farm bill, end corporate subsidies.”

Maryland. “They would push for a carbon tax, which would help mitigate climate chaos, which represents the greatest peril to our future food security. They would not allow food assistance programs to be cut, but would also work to make them obsolete by helping communities create more food self-reliance.”

Minnesota. “Something about making food a topic of community and political discussion and debate. Knowledge of food justice issues and acknowledgement of the global implications and inter-relatedness. A debate about “green” energy and the problematic conflicts of using food, corn, as fuel, ethanol. This is already affecting people and the meat industry by raising the price of corn.”