Happy New Year! A Brief Report on Our Work
Below are brief recaps for our 2019 work as well as what we see for 2020.
Fostering Many Dialogues
Dialogues are conversations in which people think together to derive more understanding and conviction and they are the center of our Flipping the Table podcast. I have wonderful memories of podcasts with many powerful leaders. If you’ve not begun to listen, please do from this page. I think you will be as inspired and uplifted as I have been. In season II, we feature many entrepreneurs changing our world through their businesses, some key activists at the center of the food movement and writers and thinkers who ignite hope and wonder in me. This Thursday, January 9th look for our first 2020 episode featuring Peter Hoffman, the brilliant chef who brought the farm to table concept to New York City in the early 1990s.
Working with the UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute, with funding from Kat Taylor and Tom Steyer, we are hosting and facilitating ten conversations about rural community resilience with farmers, ranchers, environmental justice advocates and climate scientists. These are rich exchanges that increase knowledge, dispel misconceptions and improve research agendas. When we have completed our statewide series next summer, we will issue a white paper with findings for researchers and policymakers as well as practical information sheets for farmers and ranchers seeking to build soil.
I am excited to announce that we have just received a five-year grant from Cigna, the health care services company, to model community-led resilience planning. We will work with three scientists from our home institution, Public Health Institute, to protect and enhance air and water quality and local food systems in three California communities. I am extremely excited about this because resilience planning around food systems is essential to California’s future. Look for updates on this and all our work by subscribing to our newsletter.
Changing Policy in Sacramento
Although there were fewer policy wins in 2019 than past years, we believe that Governor Newsom is strategically focused on food, farms and rural communities and he supported some very important wins.
Last spring ROC joined CalCAN’s day of advocacy in the State Capitol and helped arrange key meetings with policymakers that shape the budget. With their support and that of Governor Newsom, the groundbreaking Healthy Soils Program received nearly double the funding, up to $28 million from $15 million in 2018. Soil building and carbon capture will accelerate.
Many California farms will be less toxic now that the pesticide chlorpyrifos has been banned. One of my favorite memories of the year was standing in a long line with allies waiting to testify before the Committee in support of former ROC board member, Senator Maria Elena Durazo (Los Angeles) who authored the ban. A few weeks later, Governor Newsom used his executive power to ban chlorpyrifos. This creates pest control challenges for many farmers of crops important to our state. ROC will support all efforts to help our farmers to adopt ecological practices that use smart biologically-based tools to protect crops.
Back in 2015, ROC joined the effort to pass SB 27, which governs use of antimicrobial drugs in livestock operations. After three more years of attending meetings, making calls and signing advocacy letters as a member of the implementation advisory committee to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, ROC is proud to have helped launch the new law. It will reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock, setting the bar for the nation. We will continue to monitor implementation and the resulting data that will reveal the law’s impact.
We were very pleased that with the Governor’s backing, Senator Monning’s Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Act became law, which ROC had supported for years. It resulted from a rare but welcome alliance among water agencies, environmental justice and agricultural groups. Over $1.3 billion dollars are now available to clean up water pollution resulting from agriculture. It was a long time coming, but worth the fight for rural communities, particularly farmworker families.
In another dramatic Capitol day, the Coalition for A Healthy California, that ROC co-lead, finally passed out of the Assembly Health Committee a bill to tax sugary beverages. Although, stopped in the second committee, this critical advance created conditions for dealing with the deep opposition within certain legislative districts. In 2020 we will assist frontline allies in those key districts by working with them to mount robust education campaigns that energize community members to speak up. We expect more power behind the tax by year’s end.
In 2020, we will begin to pursue smart policies related to rural broad band and continue seeking those that support ecological agriculture, healthy food access and giving small farmers a fair shot at the marketplace.
Roots of Change made progress in 2019 and we will make more in 2020 with your continued support and interest. Please become a contributor to our work.