Forward! Food & farm justice. | Pesticide Action Network
Reclaiming the future of food and farming

Forward! Food & farm justice.

Kristin Schafer's picture

Nobody ever said democracy was easy. 

I’ve been so inspired by the incredible organizing across the country, and the network of (mostly young and BIPOC) organizers behind it. People showed up for democracy last week, and initiatives like #ChefForThePolls and #JoyToThePolls made it a celebration — as it should be!

Now, like so many, we’re taking a deep breath and looking toward the year ahead.

Priorities for food & farm justice

Our priorities for the new administration are the priorities we’ve been working toward all along: a healthy food and farm system that’s rooted in justice. We know this takes deep, structural changes, and a fundamental break from the corporate-controlled agriculture that our political and regulatory systems support. 

During the primary season earlier this year we were excited to see many of the candidates address this problem head-on, in ways that hadn’t been talked about before on the national stage. From challenging corporate consolidation in the ag input sector to putting parity pricing on the table, we hope these issues inform the new administration in the months and years ahead.

In the immediate term, this means choosing leaders at agencies like USDA and EPA who are not beholden to industry, and who understand that our current chemical-intensive system of agriculture must change. 

Science, please! 

These new leaders must also be committed to reinserting science into policy decisions. 

And scientists are clearly telling us that the industrial ag model is failing. The fact is that the “GE/pesticide treadmill” of resistance is accelerating, and farmers are forced to scramble for ever more toxic pesticide cocktails to control weeds and pests. 

Pesticide industry lobbyists will push hard for continuation of the policies that benefit their bottom line — they always do. The outgoing administration has had the door open particularly wide to this influence, in some cases brazenly putting industry lobbyists in charge of the agencies tasked with their oversight. 

We challenge the new administration to follow the lead of farmers, farmworkers and communities on the frontlines of agriculture instead — and to center independent science in their decisionmaking.

Farming MUST be a climate solution

Science is also showing us that farming can and must play a key role in urgent efforts to create climate solutions. 

We’re thrilled that addressing climate change is one of the four top priorities of the new administration — along with racial justice (!!), COVID-19 response, and economic recovery. Four short years ago, climate change wasn’t even a talking point in the final debates.

Yes, the best time to address climate change would have been decades ago when scientists began sounding the alarm. But as they say, the second best time is now. From the worst fire season in history here in California, to the unprecedented and crop-destroying derecho storm in Iowa, to yet another a record-setting hurricane season — climate change is here. 

A just transition to agroecological farming that centers soil health will not only make farms more resilient in the face of these shocks, but can also sequester dramatic quantities of carbon from the atmosphere. My colleague Dr. Margaret Reeves pointed out the “win-win” of carbon farming back in 2016:

  Because it involves high levels of on-farm biodiversity, regenerative carbon farming produces lucrative combinations of food, fiber, building materials and biofuel. It also protects water resources, pollinators and wildlife habitat, and improves soil quality and productivity."

Again, let’s follow the science, please.

Staying focused through a bumpy transition

In the end, this election was indeed a repudiation of leadership that stoked and fed off racial injustice, and put corporate interests before public interests every, single, time. 

The weeks ahead will be bumpy as the outgoing administration does all they can to cling to power — an effort directly undermining our democracy in the process. Though weakened, our democratic institutions will hold. 

Meanwhile here at PAN we’ll continue to focus on our priorities, expanding our state policy work and leveraging our global connections — we hope you’ll join us for next week’s video launch with international partners!

At the national level, we’ll be working with partners across the country to press the Biden/Harris administration to support the deep food and farming system changes so urgently needed in the months and years ahead.

Kristin Schafer
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Kristin Schafer's picture

Kristin Schafer is PAN's Executive Director. With training in international policy and social change strategies, Kristin has been at PAN for over 20 years. Before taking on the Executive Director role, she was PAN's program and policy director. She has been lead author on several PAN reports, with a particular emphasis on children's health. She serves on the Policy Committee of the Children's Environmental Health Network. Follow @KristinAtPAN