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Talking to Candidates about FOOD: Vote-getting Campaign Promises

Food Vote 2012: National U.S. Survey
Survey of “community food and farm” leaders and other U.S. residents
Aug. 14 – Nov. 6, 2012
Blog #8: Talking to Candidates about FOOD: Vote-getting Campaign Promises

Thanks to New Jersey for responding. Nine states are still unheard from in this survey (see list below).


Total # of responses: 207
# of States Responding: 41 + Washington, DC
No responses yet from: Delaware Kansas Mississippi Nebraska Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Wyoming
# of Congressional Food candidates identified and vetted: 2
Earl Blumenauer – Oregon
Tulsi Gabbard – Hawaii

B. TALKING TO CANDIDATES: Vote-getting Campaign Promises

To find out if FOOD & farm leaders were making a direct connection between the 2012 election and their FOOD & farm work, the survey asked two 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?

While it may be too late to get candidates to make a FOOD campaign promise (if they haven’t already), the responses received still make good “talking points” on the issues. Voters can start the conversation now — and continue it after the election, with your new or incumbent Congress-person. Here’s some brief analysis of the responses.

YES. 74% of total survey respondents (138) said YES to Question #5.

SPECIFIC PROMISE. 114 gave specific comments about how Congressional candidates could get their vote in this election.

SNAPSHOT ANALYSIS. Most responses indicated an awareness of system issues and the inter-connectedness of component issues. This suggests that candidates (who are generally looking for sound bites and hooks) may need prolonged education on FOOD issues. It also suggests that FOOD and farm advocates need to streamline and harmonize messaging.

The keywords mentioned most frequently are:
Local, community 51 (39 + 12)
Food system 26
GMOs 26

Below is further analysis including the complete list of ALL responses to this question (so far).

Thanks to all respondents.

Food Vote 2012 Survey will be up through Nov. 6, 2012.


TALKING TO CANDIDATES: Vote-getting Campaign Promises

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?

1. TEXT ANALYSIS. Here are the major issues mentioned by respondents.

a. Support, promote, increase, improve, protect, and/or maintain:
Local, community 51 (39 + 12)
Food system 26
Sustainable 21
Family farm, small farm 21 (3 + 18)
Healthy, quality, fresh 21 (15 + 2 + 4)
Food stamps, SNAP, nutrition assistance, WIC 21
Schools 16
Organic 13
Fair, equitable, justice 11 (4 + 4 + 3)
Farmers markets 8
Water 5
Farmland, land 5 (2 + 3)
Processing, value-added 3 (2 + 1)
Labor, worker 1

b. Address, review, revise, regulate, reduce, and/or eliminate:
GMO (label, ban) 26
Subsidies 16
CAFO, factory farm 3 (1 + 2)
Climate change 2

2. VERBATIM RESPONSES. For getting the full flavor of the variety of responses, I have copied all 100+ responses below. I have done no editing or organizing of the responses, except to
— highlight some of the unique issues, unique voices, effective articulations, etc. (red highlighting is mine)
— for quick reading, highlighted responses are in the first section

a. Highlighted “campaign promise” responses
— I would vote against a candidate promising to take away money from nutrition programs
— Transition from the industrialized, globalized, corporatized food system to a system of interconnected, healthy and sustainable regional food systems.
— GMO must be listed on products Food Deserts MUST be eliminated PE classes must be reinstated on a daily basis in schools Schools must provide Locally sourced food
Enforcing the Packers and Stockyards regulations so livestock growers have more than 2 markets to sell to and packers don’t have livestock, and a farm bill that emphasizes conservation and sustainable production practices, and gives incentives for growing fruits and vegetables, more than just commodity crops, and the labeling of GMO food products, and stronger oversight/regulation into who and how patents are being given to crop and food species.
— End farming subsidies for corn and soy, require GMO labeling, efforts to reform (and NOT eliminate) SNAP programs, food education required in schools, more support for sustainable farmers and farmer training
Fair and equitable access to healthful food – with consideration for justice, seasonality, ecological considerations, community sustainability, heritage, biodiversity (within and beyond the ‘boundaries’ of the food system), etc.
— Supporting the amendments to the Farm Bill that support the Local Farm, Food and Jobs Act, which not only strengthens our local food system, but supports our local economy.
— Promise to end subsidies for ethanol and allow a profitable market with hopes of ending subsidies for dairy industry when the dairy farmers can support themselves.
— The candidate is working to support local farms, fighting against subsidized grain, corn and soybeans and not lobbying for GMO.
— A commitment to put food at the center of a candidate’s agenda.
Addressing the relationship between food access, obesity and the sustainability of family farms
Defend the right to produce and eat food as a right as binding as the First Amendment.
— For me, Agriculture and Hunger both are part of the food system. Because that terminology is not yet embraced, I examine how candidates address Agriculture (e.g., do they support small farms?) and Hunger. I also look at if and how they connect these two issue (food production and food access) together (e.g., local food procurement policies for schools, incentives for SNAP participants to purchase at farmers’ markets, etc.)
— To take seriously the threat that catastrophic climate change poses to our food system
— 1. end subsidies of commodity crops especially corn and soy. 2. create a new CCC to hire / train unemployed people to revitalize soil, learn to grow food, and take care of ecosystems. 3. eliminate food system ‘externalities’: costs of downstream pollution, and health effects of ‘cheap’ food.
General food policy, GMOs, labeling, school programs, urban ag, small farm support
— To begin coordinated action on rebuilding a more equitable, sustainable, and locally-based food system.
GMO labeling, 50 year farm bill, end corporate subsidies
— 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.
— 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.
— Food is a human right. A promise by the candidate to implement an integrated set of policies to enable people to enjoy their right to clean, wholesome food. But this would not overshadow all other issues!
— To develop – access to healthy food throughout communities – economies that accurately measure cost of food to consumers AND citizens – food production, consumption, and waste systems that respect the natural environment and human rights
— 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.
Putting more control of the food system and food economy back in local communities for good jobs, good neighbors, and good health.
— 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.
— None of them rank that high. Food would be influential, but not all-overriding.
— Maintaining an open and fair trade market for local farmstead food products Maintaining a 95% content of certified organic ingredients to obtain the certification Support of HR 3647 Cooperative Business Development Act
— 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.
If water is considered a “right” then food should also be a “right”. Humans and animals need quality food for health. I would like to see policy that supports local food production, and for those states like mine, export to other states that have drought or trouble providing local food before shipping food overseas. I am concerned with the livelihoods of small farmers everywhere. The founders of the USA realized that the strength of a nation is in land and agriculture as well as manufacturing. Food pricing should not exclude people in poverty to eating quality food. Other costs, such as rent and housing are out of balance with the cost of food. The cost of health care should not overpower the cost of food.

b. Rest of “campaign promise” responses
— Getting junk out of schools
— Tighter environmental standards for industrial agriculture, Reform subsidy system to promote sustainable agricultural practices, Food relief for those in poverty,
— Labeling GMOs, cease some subsidies
— Labeling it, GMO and support for family farming.
— Raising food stamp allocation and subsidizing produce for access .
— Label gmo. Re evaluate farm subsidies
— Am looking at food security issues for Utah. We rank fairly well, but lack good security (as in enough) processing plants to handle our own animals. We export nearly all to other states and are left with small antiquated plants.
— Addressing food insecurity and the obesity epidemic, especially among youth
— Food system reform
— Food and the environment are interconnected. Addressing the corn, soy, wheat subsidies is critical – these all enable the monoculture planting culture of the Midwest, which then requires more irrigation, fossil-fuel based fertilizers and pesticides. These all then contribute to soil erosion and runoff into the Mississippi River, which has resulted in algae blooms and a dead zone for fish and other organisms.
— Make food accessible, affordable, healthy for all
— The need for food policy to create healthy food environments and more food equity.
— support local, sustainable agriculture
— Protect nutrition programs
— Support for Farmers Markets
— work towards a fair and sustainable food system, eliminate subsidies for corn, soybean, etc
— Support Sustainable local food by identifying specific local policies and programs to support local food production and local processing.
— I can not say this “no matter who the candidate or other issues”
— Help small local farmers with USDA assistance, protect water, label GMO’s in the food supply, restrict use of MSG and High Fructose Corn Syrup.
— ending of subsidies to foods that are killing americans. i.e. corn and byproducts. – we need a complete re-haul of the farm bill.
— A promise to maintain and increase as needed the level of federal spending on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP) and state mandates for encouraging nutrition and healthy eating programs. – Support for farmers markets and beginning rural, peri-urban and urban farming initiatives to increase the amount of food consumed within communities that is also sourced from nearby or within communities. – Develop local and regional food distribution infrastructure (food hubs) that increases economic opportunity and creates sustainable jobs.
— a sincere background in helping support small-scale agriculture over industrial-scale agriculture.
— Action addressing healthy food in schools
— regulation/compliance Monte Sano & GMO
— Full disclosure of GMO’s on all food prodcuts Higher relaiable standards for Organic
— GMO labeling
— Eliminating, or drastically reducing, subsidies for “industrial” ag and unsustainable commodity crops such as corn and soy.
— Food and Economic Justice
— Increase in EBT and WIC involvement in the local food movement including as use in Farmers Markets.
— Looking wholistically, and systemically, at a sustainable food system.
— Continuing the improvement of the school food environment, and promoting access to healthy food for all communities.
— Increase in SNAP to levels that would actually end hunger in America.
— Label GMO’s, or better yet, ban them! Get rid of fluoride in my water. Better conditions for animals that are food sources, ie larger cages. Grass fed beef issues- I want it easier for farmers to raise grass fed beef. Organic farms protected from pesticide/ herbicide/ fertilizer pollution. USDA & FDA agencies get more resources. I want my food inspected and organics regulated better. Get the moldy, rotten food out of my child’s lunches at school. More food for the poor, better food stamp programs, expand farmer’s market food programs.
— Any work toward changing our current (broken) food system.
— A promise to overhaul the farm bill by taking a much more critical look at farm subsidies (not simply replacing them with crop insurance) and prioritizing the success of small local organic farms over the giant agribusinesses that has been dominating the market.
— Access to organic local foods! Better foods in the school (organic and locally sourced). Stopping the use of developmentally harmful chemicals in pesticides and herbicides. Mandatory labeling of all foods made with GMOs.
— Approval of the GMO label. It’s hard for me to say only one issue would be the deciding factor. A full food policy could certainly have a major impact.
— Label GMO foods Allow stricter rules and regulations for Organic Foods
— Equal access to healthy foods for all! Reduce disparity among economic status groups when addressing a common need, such as FOOD. Encourage local Farm to Fork programs, not only in schools, but everywhere! Community gardens in every zip code in America – not just every school campus! Adults need good, healthy and fresh food to serve to their children at home. Good luck, and thanks for all the diligent work on this issue!
— Strong support of efforts to cultivate healthy local food systems.
— Don’t know.
— No cuts to food stamps or any other child nutrition program to balance the budget. I want to hear candidates views on the Farm Bill and what they think should be included and not included in the bill.
— furthering funding for local food production furthering funding for better food in school meals
— support small farms
— Maybe something with penalizing companies who use ingredients that no one can pronounce.
— Attention to food security, small farms, local food economic development possibilities
— Increasing non-GMO, organic & locally produced food.
— A promise to eliminate hunger in America. A promise to work with the Food Stamp Program to create strong incentives for beneficiaries to spend their federal benefits locally and on healthy foods. A promise to promote local farms, local farmers, and decrease barriers for the production and sale of cottage industry foods. VERY IMPORTANT – a promise to radically change our School Food program through increased funding and better, easier access to healthy foods. I could go on and on….
— Dedication to supporting sustainable agriculture. Make industrial agriculture pay the true cost of production.
— A promise to support a just and equitable food system for all Americans
Improving healthy FOOD access for all constituents through multiple mechanisms (reducing barriers for farmers to sell locally/small scale, reversing ratio of healthy:unhealthy food costs through taxes or through policies that make it easier to sell fresh f&v, etc.).
— Support for local affordable accessible healthy food initiatives. No cuts to low income families to food benefits and help for vegetable and other diverse small farmers.
— Shift some of the financial support from commodity crops to local food crops
— Support of Farm Bill, TEFAP and Food Bank funding, changes in Nutrition programs especially child nutrition
— addressing food deserts from within the community
— More fresh food in schools. Conserve farmland. Support food entrepreneurs. End commodity subsidies.
— High quality food as a basic right. Money for local, sustainable food production, including a new resilient food system.
— A commitment to funding federal child nutrition programs like summer meals and afterschool meals as well as NOT cutting SNAP and other crucial emergency food and nutrition aid to states. Also a campaign promise to invest in longterm, sustainable solutions to our crumbling food system such as cooking/gardening/nutrition education for kids, urban agriculture, organics, more support in the Farm Bill for ‘specialized crops’ (aka fruits and vegetables), Also a stronger commitment to fair wages and work conditions for farm laborers and other food industry workers.
— Promise to require labeling of GMOS foods, to require independent testing of GMOs BEFORE they are planted or raised in significant quantity or marketed to consumers, to support local and organic farmers and to require financial restitution when GMOs contaminate non-GMO fields.
— Support for small, sustainable, family farms, and an end, or a great reduction of subsidies to factory farms.
— At the very least, but entirely doable, would be the promise to support labeling of GMO foods. At best, promise to amend the constitution to support only sustainable agriculture in keeping with traditional Hawaiian values, and limit farming of land to entities other than large corporations. (In other words, force the big biotech companies to stop using Hawaii as ground zero for conducting gmo field research and seed production.)
— Stronger stance on clean, safe, affordable food. Assistance for Americans suffering hunger, joblessness, or disability which limits ability to get good food. Aid to organic/sustainable farmers to ensure accessibility to food for all.
— GMO food labeling Support for organic farms equal to that of commodity farmers
— It’s not just what the FOOD campaign is and what policy a candidate will endorse or implement, to me a deciding factor is regulation and development. How does the candidate forsee the future of food in Chicago? How will the change happen and what factors will allow for developmental shifts in our local food systems to sustain? New jobs and better food systems are rooted in education. Education is the root to all development.
— protection and development of local food shed, farm to consumer direct trade protections and environmental protections to protect water supplies, GMO labeling requirements, FDA power rollback, USDA gov’t price supports and controls
— Labeling GMOs and curbing the control big Ag and chemical companies such as, Monsanto, Bayer, Conagra, ADM, Syngenta and others have over our food supply.
— Empowering communities to grow and sell food.
— Food systems, local agriculture, GMO,
— Strengthen our natural food system and support to our local small producers
— Food stamps
— working towards abolishing the drastic cuts being made to programs like SNAP (food stamps)
— Stances to label genetically engineered foods and regulating factory farms. More broadly, someone who speaks out on the corporate control of our food system.
— Regulating CAFO, Overhauling the SNAP program, SNAP matching funds for fresh food, any policies that strengthen my local food system.
— It would never exist regardless of other issues.
— Farm bill support for local food and organic “specialty crops”
— Stopping GMO, reducing chemicals, localized food systems, support of the small family farm,
— Making people aware of eating fruits and vegetables and locally grown food, Also, to make people aware of what goes into their food that are high calories. Better food programs in the schools. We should not pay for bad nutrition in our schools. We need to educate the school cafeteria staff and the children.
— Focus on getting food to the people that need it, increased schools participating in healthy meals. Not cutting the SNAP budget
— Preserving SNAP and related hunger mitigation funding. Defunding junk crop subsidies and ethanol and supporting local small veggie farmers with training, infrastructure and legislation. Distribution is an ongoing challenge and as fuel prices increase so does the need for a collective solution. People need to reclaim basic kitchen skills and actually, everyone should be participating in their own food sovereignty by growing some, any of their own food. This needs to be an articulated goal and supported with opportunities to re-skill. The food pyramid should be completely abolished in it’s current iteration and replaced with healthier guidelines to reduce high glycemic content in the American diet.
— More benefits to small farmers & local food campaigns, no backing down to major agribusiness lobbyists – it’s not so much about promises to me as it is about the candidate simply recognizing the issues of the movement and showing that s/he is knowledgeable and aware of them and the strength of the movement working to fix the problems.
— Will act to preserve premium farmland and stop development that will rob the state of its farmland.
— Farm Bill Conservation programs decrease commodity subsidies Eliminating food deserts – rural and urban
— GM food labeling, support for farmers and finding ways for local communities to be self-sustainable. In Hawaii 85% of our food is imported so water and land issues would also be a concern.