On Tuesday, February 15, a group of civic leaders in Seattle and Washington released “The Seattle Farm Bill Principles”.   Our goal is to get urban communities involved in the reauthorization of the Farm Bill, expected to be taken up by Congress in 2012.  We initiated this as part of the Seattle Local Food Action Initiative.vegetables

The founding co-signers include civic leaders in Seattle and Washington farmers who believe it is important to create a healthy food system, strengthen the connections between our urban, suburban and rural communities, and support sustainable agriculture.

  • Richard Conlin, President, Seattle City Council
  • Denis Hayes, President Bullitt Foundation, National Coordinator of the first Earth Day
  • James Kelly, CEO, Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle
  • Dr. David Fleming, Director, Public Health Seattle-King County
  • Mary Embleton, Executive Director, Cascade Harvest Coalition
  • Trudy Bialic, Public Affairs Director, PCC Natural Markets
  • Fred Fleming and Karl Kupers, Co-founders of Shepherd’s Grain
  • Reverend Dr. Robert L. Jeffrey, Executive Director, Clean Greens
  • Siri Erickson-Brown, Co-owner, Local Roots Farm
  • Dr. David R. Montgomery, MacArthur Fellow and author, DIRT: The Erosion of Civilizations
  • Andrew Stout, CEO-Founder, Full Circle Farm

(Affiliations for identification purposes only)

We created this campaign because Seattle, along with other municipalities, faces multiple health, social, and environmental problems connected to food. In 2007, up to 11% of adults in Seattle ran out of food. In 2008, the incidence of obesity in King County adults was 21% and that of overweight adults was 54%. In 2006, the annual attributable cost of diabetes was estimated at $1.025 million. Overweight and obesity are significant risk factors for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. Supporting public health and protecting our environment are essential to the viability and livability of our city and hence our economy.

Improving nutrition and reducing hunger are not only moral concerns, but are critical for decreasing social vulnerability, for increasing the capacity of children to learn, and for improving economic opportunity. In Seattle 42% of public school students are enrolled to receive free or reduced meals. In the last two years many of our food banks reported an increase of clientele of 50% or more. The current quality of food is insufficient to meet health needs. We cannot be complacent about poor diet and lack of access to fresh, high quality, healthy food.

Farms in the 12 Puget Sound counties had sales of $1.1 billion in 2007. Yet, farmland, farms, and farmers are at risk because of policy barriers and inadequate infrastructure and the region is still losing farmland.  There is a demonstrated need for regionally-appropriate technology and infrastructure that can address market barriers and create food industry jobs.

People increasingly understand that food is connected not only to health, but the environment, climate change, and the economy. Access to healthy food is increased when local and regional food production, processing, distribution and retail work together to build strong markets for healthy foods. There is a growing awareness that our urban and rural communities are mutually interdependent and that the regional food economy can create stable jobs within our communities.

Maintaining and improving the security of a diverse food supply is essential to local emergency preparedness and regional self-reliance. New coordination across city, county, state, and federal agencies, as well as between government, civil society, and businesses is needed to allow communities greater flexibility to plan and take action for strong and diverse food systems in every region.

The current food system has led to an unsustainable reliance on chemical inputs and cheap oil for production and distribution and the paradox of simultaneous increases in both obesity and chronic hunger. The current food system externalizes a host of environmental problems.  Sustainable agricultural practices need to be more broadly supported and applied and reliance on oil must be reduced.

The policies, programs, and funding included in the 2012 Farm Bill will affect how successful

Seattle can be in achieving our goal of improving our local food system and in doing so, advance the City’s interrelated Comprehensive Plan goals of environmental sustainability, economic development, public health, race and social justice, and emergency preparedness. Local government has an important role to play in creating a healthy food system, but federal policies and actions significantly impact Seattle’s ability to fully realize these goals.

The Seattle Farm Bill Principles:

1.      Health-centered Food System

The driving principle of the Farm Bill must be the relationship of food and ecologically sound agriculture to public health. Food that promotes health includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, dairy, and lean protein. Improving the health of the nation’s residents must be a priority in developing policies, programs, and funding.

2.      Sustainable Agricultural Practices

Promote farming systems and agricultural techniques that prioritize the protection of the environment so that the soil, air, and water will be able to continue producing food long into the future. Integral to both domestic and global agricultural policies should be agricultural techniques and farming practices that enhance environmental quality, build soil and soil fertility, protect natural resources and ecosystem diversity, improve food safety, and increase the quality of life of communities, farmers and farm workers.

3.      Community and Regional Prosperity and Resilience

Enhance food security by strengthening the viability of small and mid-scale farms, and increasing appropriately scaled processing facilities, distribution networks, and direct marketing. Develop strategies that foster resiliency, local innovation, interdependence, and community development in both rural and urban economies. Opportunities that create fair wage jobs are key to a strong economy.

4.      Equitable Access to Healthy Food

Identify opportunities and reduce barriers by developing policies and programs that increase the availability of and improve the proximity of healthy, affordable, and culturally-relevant food to urban, suburban, and rural populations. Protect the nation’s core programs that fight food insecurity and hunger while promoting vibrant, sustainable agriculture.

5.      Social Justice and Equity

The policies reflected in the Farm Bill impact the lives and livelihoods of many people, both in the U.S. as well as abroad. Develop policies, programs, and strategies that support social justice, worker’s rights, equal opportunity, and promote community self-reliance.

  1. 6.       Systems Approach to Policymaking

It is essential to reduce compartmentalization of policies and programs, and to approach policy decisions by assessing their impact on all aspects of the food system including production, processing, distribution, marketing, consumption, and waste management. Consider the interrelated effects of policies and align expected outcomes to meet the goal of a comprehensive health focused food system.

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