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Food and farming on agenda in Lansing, Washington

Here’s a roundup of some notable recent or pending actions on food policy in the world of policy-making, politics and research:

Farm Bill
The federal Farm Bill is up for reauthorization in 2007, and many lawmakers hope to produce a completely revamped package. The legislation will have far-reaching consequences, with provisions affecting alternative energy sources, disaster assistance, conservation, nutrition programs and research.
Michigan Food Policy Council
Convened by Governor Jennifer Granholm in 2005, the council brought diverse food-related stakeholders together to develop 20 policy recommendations, covering the agri-food economy, accessing fresh and healthy foods, promoting Michigan foods and cultivating agricultural viability.
Farmland preservation
Funding for the state’s Agricultural Preservation Fund continues to fall far short of local demand, causing frustration as communities put plans in place only to find no funds available. Other proposals to provide tax breaks to farmers through Agricultural Production Areas (HB 4138) or a use-value system (HB 4025) have been introduced but face budget and accountability challenges. The Michigan Environmental Council suggests linking the Ag Production program to proposed Commerce Centers legislation (HB 4105) in a comprehensive urban and rural development strategy.
Legislation weakening the regulation of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) passed the Senate in late June, after many hours of testimony. SBs 501-504 and 447-448 offer—among other problems—an exemption from environmental rules for factory farms certified under the Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP). The committee heard from former officials that the voluntary program is no substitute for a water pollution permit. The bills moved to the House Agriculture Committee, chaired by Rep. Jeff Mayes (D-Bay City).
Local food access
A recent study found that 550,000 people in Detroit live in a “food desert,” isolated from mainstream grocers but surrounded by party stores, gas stations and fast-food restaurants. Due to this food imbalance, the study suggests Detroiters will die younger than their suburban and ex-urban counterparts.

 What you can do
 Go local:
  • Michigan Farmers’ Market Association: www.farmersmarkets.msu.edu
  • Community Supported Agriculture in Michigan: www.csafarms.org
Learn more
  • Michigan Food Policy Council: www.michigan.gov/mfpc
  • Farmland preservation research: www.landpolicy.msu.edu
  • Detroit food desert report: www.marigallagher.com 
Contact decision-makers
  • www.michiganlegislature.org
  • www.senate.gov
  • www.house.gov
-Brad Garmon, Michigan Environmental Council
RELATED TOPICS: food policy, legislation
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