Californians Urge Healthy Food and Jobs Focus in Fast Tracked Farm Bill

Oakland, Calif. -- More than 60 public health, nutrition, food, farm and environmental groups representing hundreds of thousands of California citizens are urging Gov. Jerry Brown and the state’s congressional delegation to support healthy food reforms as the Congressional super committee crafts a new five-year farm bill.

Environmental Working Group is a leading sponsor of the advocates letter and petition, along with Center for Science in the Public Interest, Roots of Change, Prevention Institute, California Center for Public Health Advocacy, Pesticide Action Network North America and Food and Water Watch.

“In this difficult budget environment, we must invest our money where it will generate the greatest good,” Kari Hamerschlag, a senior analyst at Environmental Working Group, said. “That means investing in conservation, research, nutrition, local and organic food and fruit and vegetable production and promotion. These programs will save us billions in health care costs, while creating jobs, supporting family farmers and protecting our valuable water and soil resources for future generations of farming.”

“We can find billions of dollars in taxpayer savings by limiting support to the largest most profitable farming operations that do not need our help,” Hamerschlag said.

The letter and petition, delivered on National Food Day, Monday October 24, demonstrate a broad consensus in California, the largest grower of vegetables, fruits, and nuts, that top priority for federal funding should go to local food production, nutrition, research and conservation programs.

The petition has been signed by more than 16,000 California citizens. It urges the California delegation in Washington to stand up for healthy and sustainable food and farming policies. Advocates plan to descend on Congressional offices over the next few weeks to press their case.

The advocates’ letter and petition highlight the importance of protecting healthy food programs and promoting diets rich in fruit and vegetables and healthy beverages as a way to save billions in costly medical care. They assert that “poor diet and inactivity cost California more than $20 billion a year and the nation at least $150 billion annually in medical cost.”

“This petition should clarify for our political leaders that food and farming must move back to the center of our national agenda, “ said Michael Dimock, President of Roots of Change. “Our health, economy and ecosystem demand it. If we don't ensure healthy food, farms, ecosystems to support our nation's people in the next farm bill, Occupy Wall Street could become Occupy Walmart, Cargill and every other “big food” entity.”

"Small investments in conservation and rural development leverage additional private dollars that together deliver huge benefits for farmers, rural communities and consumers," said Pesticide Action Network senior scientist Margaret Reeves. "These programs help farmers keep our air and water clean, and they also help farmers protect pollinator and soil resources that are essential for the continued production and sale of abundant, healthy food."

“California is the country’s number-one agricultural producer—we need to get those fresh fruits and vegetables onto the plates of every man, woman and child in California,” said Juliet Sims, a Program Coordinator at the Prevention Institute. “The farm bill delivers nutrition assistance for low-income people who are really in desperate need, and it will help increase access to healthy foods across the state.”

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