The election season may be over, but there are still ways that Floridians can make their voices heard in Washington, D.C.
Thursday is the last day for Floridians to sign a petition being held on Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers Inc. website.
According to the Florida Organic Growers website, the petition’s purpose is to get Congress to finish a Farm Bill this year during the post-election lame duck session.
The petition also advocates a Farm Bill that contains more sustainable policies.
According to the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry website, the Farm Bill is a bundle of legislation that sets policies for national agriculture, nutrition, conservation and forestry policy.
The previous Farm Bill, which was also known as the Food, Conservation and Energy Act, was passed in 2008. The bill officially expired on Sept. 30.
Marty Mesh, the executive director of Florida Organic Growers, said the petition is a call to the public and farmers to get congress’s attention.
“We’re encouraging people to show congress that they care,” he said.
Mesh said just a small portion of the Farm Bill could go a long way toward helping thousands of small scale organic farmers.
Mesh said that with the previous Farm Bill not being renewed and with no guarantee of the new bill set to take its place by the end of the year there are many important programs that could lose vital funding and may not be able to continue.
Some of these programs include the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program and the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program. Some of these programs benefit the University of Florida through grants and other means of support.
Florida Organic Growers is one of 50 partner organizations nation-wide that have come together with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to advocate for a more sustainable Farm Bill through the petition.
Sarah Hackney, the grassroots director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition said the organization’s purpose is to work in Washington, D.C., to get the best policies possible for sustainable agriculture.
“Part of our role is that farmers get a voice,” she said.
Hackney said the purpose of the petition is to let Congress know that the Farm Bill is a priority to U.S. citizens.
Hackney said the new 2012 Farm Bill, also known as the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act, was passed in the Senate early this summer, but the bill then stalled in the House.
“The work is mostly done, it’s just the final piece that needs to happen,” she said.
According to the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry’s website, some changes made to the new Farm Bill include the streamlining and consolidating of certain programs. A full summary of the bill can be read on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry’s website.
Hackney said when the old Farm Bill expired it caused some organizations to lose authority for funding. If the bill is not reinstated soon these organizations could lose a year of funding.
Hackney said the Farm Bill does not just concern farmers, but also anyone who eats.
“This bill really sets the stage for what you get in grocery stores,” she said.
Hackney said the fundamental purpose of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s involvement is to make the playing field even for family farms, and not have the bill focus on just mega farms.
Hackney said that 80 percent of the Farm Bill covers food stamps. She also said the Farm Bill covers other policies such as conservation. One example she gave was the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. The Farm Bill has policies included within it that work to reduce agriculture-based runoff that is responsible for the creation of the dead zone.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition will also be holding a national day of action on Nov. 15. Hackney said the organization will be encouraging supporters to call their local congressmen to tell them directly to support the 2012 Farm Bill.
There are some farmers in North Florida who have mixed feelings about the Farm Bill.
Lee Windham, who co-owns the 4 Arrows Ranch in Citra, Fla., said she wishes the Farm Bill would contain more family farm considerations.
“I know it’s mainly catered to the big boys,” she said, referring to major farming corporations like Monsanto.
When asked if she would support something like the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s petition or day of action, she said, “Absolutely.”