By Nina F. Ichikawa, BFI Policy Director
We are not the first ones here on campus to delve into this notoriously difficult piece of legislation. Notably, the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society released a major report on the history of the Farm Bill, and Berkeley Law graduate and visiting assistant professor Andrea Freeman wrote about the 2014 Farm Bill, using the framing of “food oppression” to understand how different titles of the Farm Bill interact with each other.
But we knew there was still tremendous interest in bringing together scholars, farmers, advocates, government officials, and engaged citizens to unpack and understand the Farm Bill. So in March, we took off to our nation’s capitol with 11 Berkeley students in tow.
BFI Heads to DC
We started our Washington, DC tour with a briefing at the US House of Representatives on “Sustainable Agriculture Research in the Next Farm Bill.” As California’s original land grant university, Berkeley has a vital interest in the research title of the Farm Bill, and in all federal support for agricultural research, extension and education. We invited colleagues from three other universities to share their experiences with federal research funding, with a particular emphasis on environmental, economic, and social sustainability.
The next day, over 130 speakers and participants convened on the American University (AU) campus for an all-day research symposium. Our co-conspirator for the symposium was AU Assistant Professor Garrett Graddy-Lovelace, a specialist in agricultural trade policy and the leader of a graduate student practicum on the Farm Bill. Our aim was to analyze and demystify the Farm Bill, with sessions highlighting existing Farm Bill titles while incorporating new voices and underrepresented communities in food and agriculture systems. We were honored to welcome Congresswoman Chellie Pingree as well as former Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan for keynote addresses. On the whole, the events were upbeat, enthusiastic, thoughtful, and interdisciplinary, with lots of good ideas for the future. Watch the full video here.
Continued Learning on Campus
Since coming back to Berkeley, everyone has been busy. Graduate students from the Goldman School of Public Policy and the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management co-hosted a report-back for students and faculty, and MPH student Kristal Caballero shared her reflections on the events here.
We are constantly impressed with the drive we see in UC Berkeley students to apply their individual experiences and talents to create meaningful change in our food systems. This poem, written by MPH student Katelynd E. Todd in response to the opportunity to join us in DC, exemplifies this passion and leadership:
Words continuously pledged to my future as a child:
“Oh, the places you will go…”
But no one said how hard it was when you start out at the bottom
And have so much extra to learn and to grow.
When I first entered a college classroom I knew I was interested in public health
But I couldn’t even tell you ten vegetables –
Was it the fault of my parents or someone else?
If it wasn’t at the corner store or Walmart, I didn’t know it was on a shelf.
Could it be the people up in Washington, voting and writing bills?
Could they be the reason I wasn’t offered healthy food over medical pills?
Could it have been calculated to treat me, rather than to prevent?
At what role does policy play? –And to what extent?
I wasn’t given fresh markets or preventative care
I was taught to stay busy in a fast life – go through a drive-through
There were ways my health could repair.
In class, I learned quite quickly the importance of starting as a child
That the government had its hands on my future, and this bill could reconcile
the future for others: their options and protection against money-hungry companies
That people could come first and live long, lives full of quality.
One day I’ll be an epidemiologist and work to fight obesity.
I’ll hopefully conduct research to decrease the numbers of heart disease.
And then I’ll look up at my grandfather and tell him “Others won’t have to suffer, like you.
You’ve inspired me to fight food-related diseases and work on policy that will do
Great things across the country – giving farmers subsidies for more than corn and
Developing additive legislation that will keep food healthy – not bland.”
I will one day run for Senate and explain how research works in D.C.
I will one day write bills based off of what I learn at this symposium
Give me a chance, and grow with me!