We environmentalists have been pretty downbeat about the 2007 legislative session. Even with Democrats in power, there was no action on local control over the siting of CAFOs and little progress on other issues related to water and air quality.
Some good news arrived in my in-box today, however. I had not realized that on the last day of the session, the legislature had approved and funded the Farm to School program, which will make locally-produced, nutritious food available in more Iowa schools while increasing the market for farmers using sustainable methods.
Stephanie Weisenbach, program coordinator for 1000 Friends of Iowa (website under reconstruction), fills us in on the details:
Senate File 452, introduced by Senator Joe Bolkcom from Iowa City, was stalled out for many weeks at the legislature but ended up being amended onto other legislation at the end of the session last week.
Policy language creating the program and establishing a Farm to School Council was added to the “standings bill,” SF 601, the last bill of the session. An $80,000 appropriation to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) was added to Agriculture and Natural Resources budget bill, Senate File 551. IDALS will administer the program with two full-time staff.
The Farm to School program was established to encourage and promote the purchase of locally and regionally produced or processed food in order to improve child nutrition and strengthen local and regional farm economies. A seven-member Farm to School Council will seek to establish partnerships with public agencies and non-profit organizations to foster communication between farmers and schools, and will seek financial or in-kind contributions to support the program.
The Farm to School Program is a wonderful starting point that will address many of 1000 Friends of Iowa’s concerns about how we use our land in Iowa and pass the benefits of that knowledge on to our most precious resource…future generations.
Although I know quite a few people in the sustainable agriculture community, I wasn’t following this bill closely. Last I heard, it wasn’t going anywhere. Weisenbach lets us know who helped the most at the statehouse:
Big thanks should go to Senator Joe Bolkcom from Iowa City and Senator Robert Dvorsky from Coralville for getting the policy language in the standings bill. Representative Mark Kuhn from Charles City advanced the $80,000 appropriation and Senator Staci Appel from Carlisle was a persistent supporter during key times in the legislative process.
To thank these legislators, you can e-mail them at:
firstname.lastname AT legis.state.ia.us
I’m posting the relevant language from the bill after the jump, but I want to call particular attention to one point.
The bill establishes a farm to school council with seven members, one of whom has to be an “Iowa organic meat producer.”
Sounds like the Farm Bureau isn’t going to be able to sabotage this program by putting a CAFO operator on that council!
Also sounds like we’ve got a better chance of getting organic meat products in Iowa schools.
I’m still fairly disappointed in the legislative session overall, but this is a great step for farmers, kids, local economies and the environment.
Wonks who like to read legislative text, you’ll find the relevant portions after the jump.