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Orange County’s State Policymakers Vote on Food & Farming Policies
Annual Report Again Gives California Elected Officials Credit For Incremental Gains, But Sees That Food And Farming Remain An “Indefensibly Low Priority” For Policy Makers
Santa Ana, CA (January 15, 2018) – Two reports to be released on Tuesday, January 16th, by Roots of Change, California Food and Farming Network and the California Food Policy Council (CAFPC) reveal the 2017 food and farm policy votes of California’s 120 elected state legislators, including 12 area legislators. The 2017 California Food and Agriculture Legislation Tracker and the Legislators Scorecard illustrate that despite making modest progress on food and agriculture issues, the Legislature continues to miss critical opportunities to pass the transformative — and often controversial — policies needed to address the public health challenges that are undermining California’s future.
Created by 39 nonprofits advocating for change, these reports represent growing statewide consensus from constituencies representing the diversity of California: rural and urban, conservative and progressive, affluent and low-income. In order for the state to achieve significant policy reform there must exist a strong base of Californians from north to south and east to west, who are determined to push their legislators toward positive change.
Of the twenty priority bills tracked this year by the coalition, Governor Jerry Brown signed twelve of the thirteen that reached his desk. Included in this group were bills that improve access to school meals for low-income kids (SB 138, Senator Mike McGuire); protect undocumented workers at jobs sites (AB 450, Assemblymember David Chiu); and spur greater focus on and investment in California farmers that have faced historic racial discrimination (AB 1348, Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry). Thirty-two assemblymembers and twenty-three senators voted to support coalition priorities 100% of the time, which represents 46% of the Legislature.
“We remain hopeful based on the steady increase in legislators voting with our coalition each year. But we also remain perplexed by the Legislature’s lack of focus on the many fundamental food and farm challenges that impact public health. A good example would be the unwillingness to consider a tax on sugary beverages to fund healthy food access and other prevention strategies to combat diabetes,” said Michael R. Dimock, president of Roots of Change.
Paul Towers, coordinator of the California Food and Farming Network offered, “Large corporations and trade groups continue to provide undue and unfair influence on food and farming legislation. Despite these challenges, some legislators seem emboldened to stand up to powerful interests and advocate for the most vulnerable.”
Peter Ruddock, coordinator of the California Food Policy Council, notes that while legislators did pass bills this year setting guidelines for Sell By Dates on food and requiring that ingredients in cleaning products be listed on packaging, lawmakers remain wary of requiring that manufacturers give consumers all of the information that they require to make truly informed choices.
Two legislators were acknowledged for their leadership over the past year: Senator Mike McGuire led efforts to provide school meals for low-income children (SB 138), and provided critical support for fire-affected farmworkers and farmers, while Assemblymember David Chiu protected undocumented workers, including farmworkers, at job sites (AB 450) and supported better labeling to reduce food waste (AB 954).
“We are excited to see our legislators voting on a number of the bills that are important to expanding food security in our county. Unfortunately, we still see party-line voting from some of our delegation instead of support for the needs and wants of their districts.,” said Christina Hall, Executive Director of Orange County Food Access Coalition and steering committee member of the CA Food Policy Council.
With these reports, the coalition completes its fifth successful year of collaboration on statewide food policy, and celebrates the addition of California Food Farming Network with its forty-plus partner organizations. The enlarged alliance now ties together the vision and goals of 27 regional councils and forty advocacy organizations seeking food system policy change. In addition to tracking votes and the Governor’s actions on key bills, the Legislation Tracker contains an analysis of the legislative session and special section entitled the California Food and Farming Index that presents key facts that set the context and underline the critical need for food system change.
About Orange County Food Access Coalition: The Orange County Food Access Coalition (OCFAC) coordinates local and regional partners in order to find innovative solutions to food insecurity in Orange County. Our partners represent nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, local businesses and community groups that have come together with a common purpose to create a transformed food system. We have designed our programs to focus both on near-term solutions to address the current lack of access to healthy food and to help establish policies and partnerships that will support long-term systemic change throughout the region.
Web: ocfoodaccess.org Facebook: OCFoodAccess Twitter: @OCFoodAccess
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