In late January, MFT staff Shannon Grimes and Amanda Beal traveled to UC Davis in California to attend the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) winter meeting, the main focus of which was to decide on policy priorities to guide NSAC’s work for the coming year. NSAC is an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities. They have become one of our primary sources of federal policy news and analysis. As a new NSAC member organization in 2015, this was an excellent opportunity for MFT staff to better understand some of the issues that NSAC and their coalition members have been working on and the process they use to determine priority issues.
Over 50 member organizations convened at UC Davis and the result was a few very long days of discussion about how to best influence federal farm and food policies to advance sustainable agriculture practices.
Prior to the winter meeting, Shannon and Amanda had been participating in NSAC’s Marketing, Food Systems and Rural Development and Conservation, Energy and Environment Policy Issue Group discussions, committees that oversee specific policy areas, programs, and opportunities. Over the past year, in addition to advancing work in priority areas identified in 2015, these workgroups developed recommended priorities for 2016. As a NSAC member, MFT also participated in a survey toward the end of 2015, weighing in on priorities of particular importance for our organization in all Policy Issue Group areas (including Research, Education and Extension, Farming Opportunities and Fair Competition, and Food System Integrity, as well as the Grassroots Council and the Diversity Committee).
In addition to policy setting discussions, NSAC also worked with their California members to arrange farm tours. Participants had the opportunity to visit either Collins Farm in Davis or Otow Orchards in Granite Bay, both family-owned farms with innovative and interesting histories. Amanda and Shannon visited Otow Orchards, hearing about the challenges of Japanese-American farming and comparing a persimmon orchard to our apples in Maine.
Overall, the depth and breadth of knowledge displayed at the winter meeting on issues like conservation tools usage, nutrient management, nutrition incentives, farm viability, policy and appropriations processes (to name just a few) informs our own policy strategies our ongoing work in Maine, and how our work can impact the broader vision of sustainable agriculture. To learn about the specific NSAC priorities chosen for 2016, see NSAC’s latest Blog Update: http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/nsac-2016-priorities/
Fortunately, the NSAC summer meeting is scheduled to take place in Orono, Maine, which will present a great opportunity to highlight Maine farms and the high quality food we produce here, and to put a spotlight on issues of importance to farms in our region of the country. Until then, Shannon and Amanda will continue to engage in NSAC discussions on behalf of MFT and welcome any questions about the priority setting process or NSAC’s selected 2016 priorities at: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.