The most notable talk for me was a discussion regarding agricultural policy and the Farm Bill with my perennial favorite, Russel Libby. He was accompanied by Brian Snyder, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, MOFGA's sister organization in Pennsylvania. The issue of how to affect change in the public policy arena is a blog all of its own. The big take away message is that we need to keep talking about food policy and how it effects us all. The first step is to celebrate and support Maine's 1st Congressional District Representative, Chellie Pingree, in her attempt to push policy reform that favors farmers with diverse operations scaled to Maine's fields and markets, "Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act of 2011", H.R.3286. This bill will aid in developing the playing field for young, new farmers and developing the market for locally produced food for our communities. There are currently 53 co-sponsors. If you live outside of Maine, please consider a call to your Congressman in an effort to get more co-sponsors.
On a state level, keep an eye on Aaron Libby's bill, LR 2516 introduced in the State House, "An Act To Help Promote Farming in Maine by Limiting the Liability of 'Pick Your Own' Farms." With appropriate additions, this bill could serve to be the first level of liability support for farms like ours that encourage community involvement, public interaction, agro-tourism in the form of weddings, class field trips and summer camp. Asking your district representative to co-sponsor this bill will help to ensure it gets to the floor for discussion and ultimately a vote.
If you live in Scarborough, please please please call Heather Sirocki and Amy Volk and encourage them to support LR 2516. With a little urging from their constituents, I believe the voting record of these ladies can change. Heather is credited with voting in favor of NOT eliminating BPA from plastic baby bottles. Whose interests is Heather protecting? Certainly not the youngest, newest residents of Scarborough. (But really, is there a heavily-lobbying baby-bottling plant in our neighborhood that we didn't know about?... that vote seems more encouraged by a lack of input from her constituents and the "party-line" thing than anything nefarious!) Make sure you let them know you want local food and local farmers to be supported in your town. Call Heather and Amy today, and remind them not to eat canned soup during their busy winter congressional session.
If you are anything like me, you empathize with the disenchantment felt by the Occupy Wallstreet unemployed students who have been sold a pack of lies along with a hefty load of student debt. You also probably feel like 'making a difference' politically is only for wealthy corporate interests, like American agribusiness. But, give it a try. The worst that happens is it doesn't work and we're on to living with Politics as Usual.
Blessings on the meal,