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On a warm, mostly sunny day perfect for planting garlic and other fall crops, repairing barns, or harvesting root vegetables, the Real Food Consumer Coalition, with support from leaders from other advocacy organizations, farmers, artisans, and local food advocates from around the country gathered on Capitol Hill to educate lawmakers on what Congress can do to give Americans greater food choice.
Farmers and advocates from varied backgrounds and persuasions representing many areas of the country joined in this effort to support the bi-partisan PRIME Act and the citizen's petition to the FDA to expand exemptions for interstate transport of raw dairy products.
Constituents held meetings during the day with legislators who represent them. These meetings allowed legislators and their staffers to begin understanding the holistic approach through which advocates view a food system renaissance.
The meetings revealed which legislators currently support greater access to direct food access and who would like additional information.
Towards late afternoon--as the meetings wound down in the offices--chefs, farmers, and volunteers gathered in the Dirksen Senate building to present the Real Food Consumer Coalition's annual "Taste of Small Farm America" reception. The chefs used their culinary creativity as their voices through an experiential tasting. The delectable dishes showcased the diversity of products, flavors, and beauty available to us through a direct relationship with our local farmers and fishers. Farmers and chefs stood behind the tables serving guests as they dished up stories of the farms and products that made these delights possible.
The greatest pathway to understanding is sharing stories over a great meal.
During the reception, Liz Reitzig, founder of the Real Food Consumer Coalition, introduced the reception with gratitude for the farmers, chefs and other participants. We heard remarks from renowned FDA attorney, Jonathan Emord. He spoke about the importance of Congress using their power to rein in bureaucracies and the FDA’s draconian enforcement practices.
Following Emord, Congressman Massie (R-KY), whose grassfed beef was featured in the Kentucky sliders at the reception, spoke about the PRIME Act and how that was an important piece of legislation for American farmers and consumers to have food choice and economic freedom.
Congressman Smucker (R-PA), concluded with remarks about his efforts for many years to champion the rights of small farmers, most recently through his strong support for easing restrictions and enforcement on fresh dairy products going across state lines through RFCC’s Citizen Petition. The citizen’s petition, as it stands, requests an exemption in enforcement for dairy farmers providing labels on unpasteurized dairy products. This exemption, once the FDA accepts the petition, would give farmers the freedom to sell their products if they choose to include the labeling.
Together, the speakers represented the passion and common sense of farmers and consumers having greater access to engage directly.
After a full day of meetings, it was a treat to finish our discussions over the great tastes of America's small farms as brought to us by some of the regions best chefs. Indeed, the heart of small farmers is what makes this day culminate in a feast for the eyes and the soul. Just as small farms are the heart of America, so too do they bring this purpose and passion to our lawmakers to give a heartbeat to the message.
Coming together for a day of action with like-minded people, gives us all hope and inspiration. It is motivating to know that our cumulative actions can add up to a profound day of education, connection and advocacy. While we reflect on a successful day bringing our message to our lawmakers, it is still in the quieter moments, in our daily choices that we create the biggest impact of all: our every day choice in food has the potential to change the world the way we wish to see it, sooner than we can imagine. While these focused advocacy days are vitally important to continue moving our food system in the right direction, we must never lose sight that, when it comes to food, indeed, every day is a day of action.
We will be following up in the near future with another advocacy day from the comfort of our homes and business offices via phone meetings.
Join us. Make your voice heard for the freedom to access the foods of your choice from the producers of your choice!