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Advocacy in Action! TGA at the Capitol

Cap Spring 2024

The legislative session is in full swing and the last couple of weeks have been very eventful as we’ve participated in three lobby days where our LEAFF bill (HF4471/SF4738) was named a legislative priority. First up was the Metro Food Justice Network (MFJN) Day on the Hill, where we engaged with fellow community members dedicated to advancing racial equity by reshaping our food system. Next up was the Land Stewardship Project’s (LSP) Family Farm Breakfast Lobby Day. TGA staff joined more than 300 LSP members where we engaged with legislators, advocating about issues ranging from nitrate pollution in Southeastern Minnesota to increasing the impact and equity of state investments in soil health. This week, we took part in Hunger Day on the Hill, organized by Hunger Solutions, which recently joined forces with The Food Group, to advance policies to end hunger and improve economic well-being for low-income individuals and families. 

MFJN and Jay Xiong

The common thread that ties each of those lobby days together is that emerging farmers play an important role in how our communities are fed and what kinds of food they can access. At The Good Acre, our advocacy work focuses on expanding market access opportunities for emerging farmers in Minnesota. Our LEAFF program exemplifies this by paving a pathway to sustained market access opportunities for emerging farmers. Through LEAFF, we purchase produce from program participants and donate it to hunger-relief partners serving the Twin Cities and beyond. Central to LEAFF is its mission to prepare farmers for wholesale markets with the ultimate aim of securing contracts for opportunities beyond the hunger relief sector. These opportunities include K-12 farm-to-school programs, higher education food service, local food retailers, healthcare facilities, and more. We provide the technical assistance farmers need every step of the way, so that farmers in the program have the skills they need to succeed in a world that is increasingly making do with the food resources that come from within state borders rather than outside of them.

Funwi Josh and David

Our LEAFF bill would bolster our LEAFF program with an additional $500,000 in funding for fiscal year 2024 which starts July 1. This boost could facilitate the inclusion of more farmers in the program (we only had enough funding to accept 63 out of 150 applicants this year) and support us in establishing pilot LEAFF sites statewide. Notably, funding for the LEAFF program has been included in the Governor’s budget recommendations for the past two legislative sessions. However, navigating the hurdles of securing a hearing in both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees with a bill that has a price tag has been a serious challenge, especially being that 2024 is not a budget year.

LSP 2024

Since we began to lend our energy and our voices toward food system advocacy, it is evident that Minnesota’s agricultural budget is quite simply insufficient. It currently accounts for less than 0.5% of the total state budget despite Minnesota being one of the largest agricultural states in the country, and the recent news that Minnesota is bucking a national trend by having more farmers than we had in 2017, according to the latest Ag Census. While we continue to explore the reasons behind this, it’s imperative to emphasize to our democratic and urban legislators that agriculture is not solely a rural concern but a fundamental pillar that can support a resilient future for all Minnesotans.

If there’s one message we want to impart from our increasing involvement in policy advocacy, it’s this: every voice matters. While engaging with legislators may seem daunting, remember that we at The Good Acre, along with our community of farm partners, wholesale buyers, and CSA members, are experts in this work of supporting local food systems by creating market opportunities for farmers with our food purchasing dollars! If you’re feeling a bit apprehensive, know that you’re not alone. If we can do it, so can you! Take the time to learn more about LEAFF, stay informed about the priorities of our agricultural policy partners, and reflect on what drives your commitment to eating local. You’ll find that knowing your why is all you need to make an ask of your Representatives and Senators! 

What can you do?

Rep Vang Her

  • Find out who represents you! Call or email your state Representatives and Senators and ask them to support or sign on as a co-authror for our LEAFF bill or simply ask them to advocate for higher budget targets for agriculture!
  • Contact the Governor’s Office! This is important for that big picture ag budget. Remind our Democratic governor that the “F” in DFL stands for FARMER! 
  • Support local food. Of course, we think joining our CSA is pretty great option because it is a fabulous way to support the work we are doing to provide more markets for emerging farmers. However, our CSA is just one way you can put your money where your values lay. There are tons of other great CSAs out there, look them up here. You can also shop at your local co-op grocer, support your local farmer’s market, or volunteer with a local food shelf! However you can join us in our fight for a better food system, we’re glad to have you as part of our community!

Have questions? Want to learn more about how to get involved? Reach out to our Director of Communications and Government Affairs at [email protected]

MFJN Day

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