Farm to School Program slips in under the wire

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.

Thanks to Stephanie Weisenbach and 1000 Friends of Iowa for sending the policy language about the Iowa Farm to School Program:

The Policy Language about the Iowa Farm to School program is below:

Sec. 85.  NEW SECTION.  190A.1  FARM=TO=SCHOOL PROGRAM.

  41 16  A farm=to=school program is established to encourage and

  41 17 promote the purchase of locally and regionally produced or

  41 18 processed food in order to improve child nutrition and

  41 19 strengthen local and regional farm economies.

  41 20  Sec. 86.  NEW SECTION.  190A.2  FARM=TO=SCHOOL COUNCIL.

  41 21  1.  A farm=to=school council is established and made up of

  41 22 seven members representing the following associations or state

  41 23 departments:

  41 24  a.  One member representing the Iowa school nutrition

  41 25 association.

  41 26  b.  One member representing the Iowa association for

  41 27 health, physical education, recreation and dance with

  41 28 expertise in health.

  41 29  c.  One Iowa fruit or vegetable producer.

  41 30  d.  One Iowa organic meat producer.

  41 31  e.  The director of the Leopold center or the director’s

  41 32 designee.

  41 33  f.  The director of the department of agriculture and land

  41 34 stewardship or the director’s designee.

  41 35  g.  The director of the department of education or the

  42  1 director’s designee.

  42  2  2.  The members listed under subsection 1, paragraphs “a”

  42  3 through “d”, shall be selected by the governor without senate

  42  4 confirmation and shall serve at the pleasure of the governor.

  42  5  Sec. 87.  NEW SECTION.  190A.3  GOALS AND STRATEGIES.

  42  6  1.  The program seeks to link elementary and secondary

  42  7 public and nonpublic schools in this state with Iowa farms to

  42  8 provide schools with fresh and minimally processed food for

  42  9 inclusion in school meals and snacks, encourages children to

  42 10 develop healthy eating habits, and provide Iowa farmers access

  42 11 to consumer markets.

  42 12  2.  The farm=to=school program may include activities that

  42 13 provide students with hands=on learning opportunities, such as

  42 14 farm visits, cooking demonstrations, and school gardening and

  42 15 composting programs.

  42 16  3.  The farm=to=school council shall seek to establish

  42 17 partnerships with public agencies and nonprofit organizations

  42 18 to implement a structure to facilitate communication between

  42 19 farmers and schools.

  42 20  4.  The farm=to=school council shall actively seek

  42 21 financial or in=kind contributions from organizations or

  42 22 persons to support the program.

  42 23  Sec. 88.  NEW SECTION.  190A.4  AGENCY COOPERATION.

  42 24  The department of agriculture and land stewardship and the

  42 25 department of education shall provide information regarding

  42 26 the Iowa farm=to=school program in an electronic format on the

  42 27 department’s internet website.

  • This is fantastic news

    I have led Girl Scout troops on farm visits, and they always have a great time.  This program will help small local producers grow, by creating new markets in our school districts.

      Joe Bolkcom has been a local foods supporter for many years now.

    • farm visits are great for kids

      I have friends who farm and welcome school groups or Boy Scout/Girl Scout visits. It is so educational for the kids, and apparently if they visit farms or vegetable gardens regularly they are more likely to eat vegetables themselves.

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