In New England, we import the majority of the food we consume. Numerous policy barriers at the local, state, and federal levels affect our region’s capacity to grow and consume more of our own food; process and distribute more of our own meat, poultry, and seafood; and support our signature farmland and those who farm it.
Fortunately, according to the recent 2012 Census of Agriculture, in every New England state the number of farms and the amount of land in farming increased from 2007 to 2012. What’s more, in some of these states, the number of young farmers grew as well. Throughout New England, many new and old farmers alike are working to feed our region while responsibly stewarding our land. But they need sound policy that supports their efforts — policy that can allow New England to capitalize on the opportunity to build a sustainable food system.
Today, we are taking a great step toward realizing this goal. In partnership with American Farmland Trust (AFT) and the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG), we are releasing an extensive report analyzing policies to strengthen our region’s food system. New England Food Policy: Building a Sustainable Food System is a call to action. It provides a critical policy focus to existing work across the region to build a food system in New England that is healthy, economically vibrant, just, environmentally sustainable, and resilient. Download the report now at www.newenglandfoodpolicy.org. For a quick read, you can review the executive summary.
New England Food Policy is the first report of its kind in New England. It provides an unprecedented examination of policy challenges and opportunities in the six New England states. Based on nearly two years of research and analysis, along with interviews of food and farming leaders across the region, this comprehensive report not only identifies policies that are already helping New England grow its capacity to feed itself, but also exposes policy barriers and gaps that are hindering production and consumption of New England-sourced food. With hundreds of key recommendations, the report can serve as a critical guide for citizens, organizations, coalitions, agencies, and policymakers on issues around farming, seafood, and our region’s food system infrastructure. Food system advocates at all levels can use the report to coalesce around crucial policy strategies.
The report examines public policy issues in five areas:
- Land: Reducing loss of farmland to development; protecting it permanently; and expanding access to land for new and young farmers.
- Food Production: Expanding job opportunities for and managing labor costs of farm and food system workers; maximizing the environmental benefits while minimizing the environmental impacts of agriculture; and investing in research, development, and education.
- Food Safety, Processing, Aggregation, and Distribution: enhancing the safety, processing, aggregation, and distribution of produce, dairy, meat and poultry, and seafood.
- Markets: Bolstering New England markets for local food and creating revenue opportunities for farmers, along with opportunities for consumers to buy locally.
- Waste Streams: Reducing environmental impacts from food waste and supporting beneficial reuse of organic matter.
In addition, the report provides unique research into regional approaches for states to work together toward shared food system goals.
Thanks to the efforts of farmers, fishermen, and the organizations that support them, New England is making great strides toward building a more sustainable food system. But we have a long way to go. Innovative public policies are needed to support a resilient local food system. New England Food Policy is intended to foster those policies, supporting the powerful work already underway. Together, we can lead the nation as a region that truly supports the farmers and fishermen who feed us, values and protects farmland, and produces and consumes more of its own food.