FOOD SOVEREIGNTY ACTION STEPS
By Soul Fire Farm and Community
Part 1: Policy Actions Steps to End Racism in the Food System
- Real Food for Our People.
- Fully fund SNAP and WIC, eliminating barriers to access. Make EBT/SNAP easier for farmers to use by allowing online payment and automatic deduction. Expand healthy, sustainable, culturally appropriate options within these programs.
- Fund real food access in community institutions like schools, hospitals, day cares, prisons, and senior centers. (CNR)
- Provide capital, credit, tax breaks, and training to worker and community-owned cooperative food enterprises that generate wealth for our people. (HFFI)
- Include agriculture and food systems science in the public school curriculum.
- End marketing of unhealthy food and food brands to children, including in schools. End subsidies for junk food marketing by closing the tax loophole that allows corporate write offs for marketing.
- Treat junk food and beverage companies like tobacco companies: hold companies liable for health impacts, and include visible warning labels, restricted advertising, barriers to purchase, and raise taxes that are re-invested in community.
- Dignity for Farm Workers.
- Equalize all labor and wage laws so that farm and food workers have a living wage, health insurance, overtime, and collective bargaining. (FLSA, NLRA)
- End penal farms, where incarcerated people are enslaved for food production.
- Create supportive pathways for (migrant, seasonal) farmworkers to become land-owning farmers running their own businesses, owner-operators. Create pathways to legalization for all undocumented people, included pathways to citizenship for all those that want it, and end deportations until a comprehensive policy is in place.
- Support smaller and independent producers so that they can pay a living wage to farmworkers.
- Replace the indentured servitude of the H2A visa program with the North American Agricultural Work Visa, and uphold all provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- Community-Based Farmer Training.
- Include urban farmers in the USDA farming census as a unique category and provide technical support to these farmers. (Urban Agriculture Act 2016)
- Provide funding for farmer training programs led by people of color, that address trauma and history, and offer strategies for navigating in racist food system. These programs should take place in the community but be credit-bearing through partnerships with land grant universities.
- Create and host an online portal for new POC farmers to find farms run by POC and get training there.
- Secure and protect land access and non-predatory credit and capital for independent producers, particularly producers of color
- Economic Viability for Farmers.
- Use public funds to pay farmers for preserving and enhancing ecosystem services and guarding the public trust (water purification, carbon sequestration, pollination, genetic diversity). This should be paid for by a tax on industrial agriculture which needs to pay for their externalities – dead zones in aquatic ecosystems, aquifer depletion, killing pollinators. Conventional agricultural should need a “certification” for their practices, rather than have that burden placed on organic farmers. (EQIP, CRP)
- Offer price supports and price parity for farm products to ensure that income from crop sales cover the expenses of producing those crops. Include non-commodity, heritage and cultural crops in these programs.
- End the practice of unfair contracts siphoning earning from farmers to enrich corporations. (Producer Protection Act)
- Equalize and expand access to crop insurance, technical assistance, non-GMO seed, equipment sharing, low interest credit, and technical assistance for independent producers, particularly producers of color. Include free legal and accounting clinics. Fully fund the Office of Advocacy and Outreach at the USDA. (Minority farmer advisory board, FSA targets for minorities, Land Contract Guarantee Programs, and transition incentives program of USDA)
- Increase access to markets for farmers of color through food hubs, processing centers, farmers markets, and farm to institution programs.
- Reduce paperwork burden for federal and state farming grants. Increase government staff support of application process. Make grants accessible to small farmers who are not incorporated. Move application period to winter season. Eliminate matching funds requirements. (USDA 2501)
- Reparations for Stolen Land and Wealth.
- Reparations are necessary in the form of land and wealth redistribution to those who had land and wealth stolen from them – African American, Latinxs, Indigenous people. Establish a commission to study reparations and propose a comprehensive redistribution of wealth and land. (HR 40)
- Enforce a moratorium on foreclosures of Black land – create a national trust or community-based organization that absorbs Black farmland and transfers it within the black community. Implement the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act in all states.
- Create and implement farmer debt forgiveness programs in cases of discrimination. USDA should refinance loans for black farmers.
- End “tied aid” policies that flood international markets with surplus commodities, and undermine smallholder farmers. End corporate land grabbing abroad.
Part 2: Actions for Individuals to End Racism in the Food System
- Encourage your school, business, or other institution to sign on to the Good Food Purchasing Program (Real Food Challenge for colleges and universities.)
- Support existing community work led by those directly impacted by the issues, rather than adopting the “savior complex” where outsiders garner resources and “outreach” to community.
- Put your skills to work supporting a farmer or food business owner of color. Farmers often don’t have enough time to attend to the administrative aspects of their operation, like grant writing, web design, social media, marketing, legal research, and blogging. A partial directory of black-operated farms can be found at this Google doc. Reach out to see if you can help.
- Share the resources of your business or organization. If you have a photocopier, meeting space, grant writer, accountant, lawyer, food, money, or any other good or service – offer that resource to community-led work.
- Create good jobs. Hire people who might otherwise be overlooked in the capitalist economy – people of color, formerly incarcerated people, those without documents, elders, those with disabilities. Offer jobs with training built in, a living wage, health care, and job security.
- White people should consider strongly working with other white people, especially those who voted for “45,” to raise consciousness and build support for these issues – rather than “organizing” people of color.
- Uplift Black and Brown expertise, both ancestral and current. People of color exist and thrive beyond the oppression narrative. Instead of imaging that the best practices in food, farming, and movement building are ahistorical – find our how people of color created and improved upon them, and celebrate those individuals. Invite Black and Brown experts to teach in your organization/community, and not just about racial issues. Offer fair compensation for their knowledge rather than expecting to “pick their brain” for free.
- Read the HEAL Food Alliance and Movement for Black Lives Policy Platforms, which offer pathways for land reparations and a just food system. Take a moment to appreciate the brilliance of the text and then host a discussion group at your congregation or workplace with the goal of having these organizations endorse and implement these platforms.
- Encourage your local farmers, supermarkets, and the food related not-for-profits you are involved with to join the Domestic Fair Trade Association and to seek Food Justice Certification through the Agricultural Justice Project. Both groups uphold high standards for fair treatment of workers and care of the environment.
- Catalyze your community to raise funds to help your local farmer provide affordable produce to the most vulnerable—refugees, incarcerated people, and those living in food deserts. Organizations such as the Corbin Hill Food Project and D-Town Farm have models for doing this, using sliding scale pay systems, doorstep delivery, and farmers’ markets near neighborhood schools.
- Get educated. You can learn more about structural racism in Rewriting Racial Rules: Building an Inclusive American Economy and in The U.S. Farm Bill: Corporate Power and Structural Racialization in the United States Food System.
- Read “Part 1” above and use your sphere of influence over politicians, corporations, and other community-members to advance those aims.
- Donate to organizations like; Land Loss Prevention Project; Cosecha; Federation of Southern Cooperatives/LAF; Southern African American Organic Network; Tuskegee University and 1890 land-grant Institutions; Black Family Land Trust; HEAL Food Alliance; National Black Food and Justice Alliance; Black Urban Growers; Black Land Loss Prevention Project; Restaurant Opportunities Center; La Via Campesina; Food Chain Workers Alliance; Familias Unidas por la Justicia; CATA – The Farmworkers Support Committee; Farmworker Association of Florida; Centro Campesino; Lideres Campesinas.
Part 3: Actions for Foundations to End Racism in the Food System
- Streamline Applications and Reporting: Donors, organize in your giving community and create a common application and common reporting format. Set up one online portal where we can put all of our information one time. Donors can work together to figure out how to make sure frontlines organizations are funded. This will increase the amount of time frontlines groups have to do the work on the ground.
- Respect: Donors, please hold your privilege consciously. Much of the wealth being distributed was accumulated on the backs of exploited people, often the ancestors and relatives of these grassroots organizations. It is an honor for donors to get to be in relationship with frontlines organizers. Please do not pressure organizers to spend social time with funders, please respect personal boundaries, and do not use patronizing language, e.g. “boy or girl” referring to organizers.
- Calendaring: Their is a current trend for donors to be in relationship with grassroots organizers and to move beyond “transactional” relationships into something more meaningful. While this is laudable, it also means that organizers are expected to spend more and more time with donors. In many cases, this becomes a full time job and little time is left for the mission work. Please request, not demand, time from organizers, giving months of advance notice. Please be conscious of non-Christian holidays and pre-existing community commitments in your scheduling.
- Incentivize Sanity: Donors, please work to change culture where grantmakers demand “over-promising” and constant “innovation.” Celebrate depth over breadth. Fund reflection. Invest in metrics that get at transformation beyond what we can quantify.
- “Partnering:” Larger nonprofits should apply for the big government and other challenging grants and write emerging organizations into the grants transferring wealth to frontlines, take little for themselves, transfer most. Large nonprofits and government should donate administrative resources – grantwriter, accountant, bookkeeper, database subscription, data entry, blog writer, web development, videography, graphic design, etc. so frontlines communities can “do the work” and not get bogged down with administration.
- Geographic and Class Equity: Prioritize funding for the Deep South, focused on organizations led by the communities they serve. Look beyond “academic speak” when reviewing applications, prioritizing instead people’s deep lived experience in movement work. Provide video/audio application processes instead of exclusively written applications.
- Racial Equity: Work together with the grantmaking community to conduct a racial justice assessment of where donors are currently investing and what kind of disparities exist and strategies for correcting those inequities. Provide translation services to applicants.
- Funding What Counts: Grantmakers, please fund general operating expenses, “overhead,” salaries, insurance, as well as the tangibles – seeds, greenhouse plastic, and shovels. It takes both people making a living wage and farm infrastructure. Enough with the deference toward “projects”, “innovation” and “direct costs.” Look around to see who is doing the real work and fund those people, letting us decide exactly how to allocate resources. All grants should be multi-year and renewable. Consider a donor advised fund which would be managed or directed by farmer groups to rotate loans and credit- tangible resources our folks need. Please see “Part 1” for the systemic change that needs to be funded.