At its February 10 meeting, the Regional Food Policy Council (RFPC) agreed to the recommendations of its Steering Committee for an action agenda for 2012. The RFPC, which is entering its second year, worked during its first year to define its mission and scope of work and to understand the way in which the food system operates and the range of players involved in it. While we continue to learn more about this very complex area, RFPC members are eager to start carrying out our mission to “develop just and integrated policy and action recommendations that promote health, sustain and strengthen the local and regional food system, and engage and partner with agriculture, business, communities and governments in the four-county region.”
The RFPC agreed to work on the following three major areas:
- Creating a Policy Landscape Map and developing and working on policy recommendations on specific issues. We are beginning to understand the food system and how it operates. The next step is to identify the policies that shape that system and to determine how those policies are set, whether by governmental action or by the private sector. We can then focus on critical policy changes that the RFPC can work on in 2012. Having a clear understanding of the policy landscape will give us the information necessary to identify the most important points of leverage.
- Focusing attention on issues around agriculture and land use. The RFPC has identified the preservation of agricultural land and the livelihood of farmers as critical issues in building a stronger food system. Among the areas under consideration are:
- Developing food and agricultural policy recommendations for Comprehensive Plans;
- Developing a policy framework that will balance the needs of farmers and regulations regarding building in the flood plain, protecting critical areas, the encroachment of development, and infrastructure needs for farm pads, packing, processing, and farmworker housing;
- Protecting land and water resources needed for sustained food production;
- Encouraging the retention of farmers and the education of people who plan to become farmers;
- Linking farming and agricultural land conservation to broader public benefits such as water quality, habitat protection, open space value and food security;
- Creating specific programs that would support these initiatives, such as targeted funding supports for farmers, farm business plans, and flood and surface water management.
- Developing an outreach and education program about the Regional Food Policy Council and the current conditions in the regional food system, and working with members of the RFPC to carry these messages to policy makers around the region.
The RFPC Steering Committee will take develop a more specific plan of action based on these areas, and the RFPC will review and adopt this at our March 9 meeting.