Friday, April 23, 2010

NC Sustainable Local Food Advisory Council - Meeting #2, Earth Day 2010

The new NC Sustainable Local Food Advisory Council met for the second time yesterday. Here's a little report on the highlights:

Federal food safety legislation - Several members of the Council have been at work trying to figure out how proposed federal food safety legislation might affect small farmers in NC, and representing that perspective in the national discussion. The general sense is that the federal legislation isn't considering the needs of small farmers nearly enough, and that though the Senate bill is better than the House version, neither are great. The Council members asked for materials they can use to contact their representatives about this issue. More info on this issue and how to take action is available from the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (check out the "Action Alerts" section).

CEFS Farm to Fork Guide - This publication, just released, is the result of a statewide Farm-to-Fork initiative and includes lots of good ideas for the Council about where to start and what topics to tackle. They got a quick summary of the highlights in their meeting, and started discussing its implications. Get the guide from CEFS (right side of the page).

Funding for the NC Ag Development & Farmland Preservation Trust Fund - This Trust Fund is at risk of losing all funding for the 2010-11 fiscal year, and that would be a real shame, because it has been a source of funding for great initiatives in the state, and already in just 2 grant cycles, it has helped many farmers to stay on their land. The Council passed a resolution to submit a joint letter to the NC General Assembly leadership and request that the Trust Fund receive $5 million this year, and also talked about contacting legislators as individuals. More information and how to take action for farmland preservation funding.

Subcommittees of the Council - The Council spent the remainder of the meeting approving a set of guidelines and a structure for subcommittees, which of course they can change later as needed. For now, they'll have three subcommittees. These are not the exact titles, but the topic areas are: Public health, hunger & fighting obesity; land, people & natural resources; economic development & infrastructure. Subcommittees will have to keep minutes, and report back to the whole Council on what they do. I expect that subcommittee members will be posted to the Council's webpage soon. The presentation slides from yesterday's meeting are also posted here.

The general feeling of this meeting was somewhat tedious and bogged down. Discussions and decisions that ought to have been relatively straightforward took a long time to muddle through, and it seemed the main culprit was not so much disagreement, but that "Robert's Rules of Order" weren't working so well for them. I for one really hope that a solution to that problem can be worked out ASAP, because it seems a real shame for a group of such interesting and inspired people to come together, in many cases from very far away, and then to have to spend their precious little time together bumbling through the small stuff.

Future meeting dates have been set for July 22 in Raleigh and September 9 in Asheville. We'll keep on keeping you posted!

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