On Thursday April 25th, EAT South’s Mark Bowen was one of four farmers and food advocates that were invited to speak on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC to be a part of a panel on “Policies that Promote Healthy Food and Healthy Economies”. The panel was sponsored by the Congressional Tri-Caucus (Asian, Hispanic, and Black Caucuses) as a part of a new partnership between four food advocacy organizations that collectively call themselves the Food and Agriculture Policy Collaborative, which consists of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), Fair Food Network, Policy Link, and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). Each organization chose a single farmer or food advocate to be a part of the panel. Mr. Bowen was sponsored by NSAC.
Each of the panel participants discussed different topics concerning food policy issues. Though the panelist’s topics may have been different, all topics discussed were intertwined. In other words, all issues addressed by the panelists depend on one another to ensure success and a better food system. Mr. Bowen covered stranded farm bill programs - programs currently unfunded as a result of the extension of the farm bill. The two stranded programs that Mr. Bowen focused on were the Farmer’s Market Promotion Program and the Beginning Farmer Rancher Development Program. Both programs that Mr. Bowen spoke to are programs that have benefited Alabamians. EAT South received a Farmers Market Promotion Program grant through the USDA to build infrastructure at the Downtown farm, which annually serves thousands of children and adults in Montgomery and throughout Alabama. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program funded the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network (or ASAN, which EAT South’s Executive Director Edwin Marty sits on the board of) to create the capacity for local farmers to gain access to local markets and to receive the training they need to become good farmers.
Speaking on the Hill is an important component in creating a food system that EAT South strives to implement. The speakers on this panel are ultimately most effective on a local level. When local food programs and policies are supported by their community and by local and state government, federal laws begin to change. The change begins here in Montgomery, in Alabama, and throughout the south.
To learn more about the panel discussion and to read the testimony Mark Bowen gave on the Hill, visit http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/alabama-farmer-on-healthy-food/.