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State ag department leaders adopt racial justice and food security policies

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At the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture’s 2021 Winter Policy Conference, the organization embraced several new initiatives to address racial justice and diversity, hunger and food security, and food and agriculture worker protections. All of the new endeavors fit with NASDA’s approach to grow and enhance American agriculture through policy, partnerships, and public engagement.

NASDA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit association which represents the elected and appointed commissioners, secretaries and directors of the departments of agriculture in all 50 states and four U.S. territories. Here are the policy updates:

Racial equity

This new action item asserts that NASDA members will support and foster community partnerships to expand outreach to socially disadvantaged and BIPOC farmers and ranchers, enhance nutrition education, and promote urban agriculture as part of its commitment to promoting diversity, inclusion, and racial equity in agriculture.

NASDA said it will actively pursue partnerships and other occasions to promote opportunities that uplift minorities in agriculture.

“As the authorities on agriculture and food security in the states, NASDA members serve as natural partners to build opportunities for minorities in agriculture with both federal and local governments,” NASDA CEO Dr. Barb Glenn said. “We’re proud to continue our work to ensure all people have equal opportunity to become farmers, pursue careers in agriculture and live healthy lives.”

NASDA’s racial justice statement declares that listening and learning are fundamental elements to developing equitable solutions that elevate underserved communities.

Hunger

This new policy amendment asserts that NASDA is committed to addressing hunger and food insecurity with the goal of ending hunger in our nation.

“We are making a promise to continue upholding our duty to grow and enhance American agriculture to nourish people and communities,” NASDA President Dr. Ryan Quarles said. “State departments of agriculture and our farm families have a special role to play in feeding a hungry nation. With this policy, NASDA members will pursue eliminating food insecurity with renewed determination, recognizing the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened challenges to food access.”

The policy amendment also explains NASDA’s unique ability to solve these challenges, highlighting that state agriculture departments house many feeding and nutrition assistance programs while also serving as representatives of the producer community.

Food workers

The new policies in this space are aimed at improving essential worker safety and investing in local and regional food. These policies are a step to innovate the U.S. food system in response to supply chain vulnerabilities revealed by COVID-19.

While the new policies propose a variety of methods to make these improvements, each specifies that small-and medium-size food businesses are critical, and the people who operate them are at the center of a flourishing, resilient food system.

NASDA’s new processing policy calls for federal policies that will support new and expand local and regional processing facilities.

“While our current system has reached efficiency heights only dreamed of by previous generations, today’s market unintentionally creates challenges for small and local food producers, processors and distributors,” Glenn said. “Significant investments are needed to protect the diversity of our production facilities and their market access.”

In addition, NASDA members support expanding federal meat and poultry processing facility grants to state inspected meat processing facilities. Modernizing state processing facilities protects consumers from price shocks, reduces distress to producers caused by unexpected herd culling and increases local economic activity.

NASDA members fervently support interagency efforts to secure resources such as PPE and COVID-19 vaccines for agricultural and food worker protection to maintain a continual food supply.

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