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Noyes News, July 2008

Noyes Supports California Bill on
Foundation Diversity Disclosure

 

In January, the California State Assembly passed AB 624 requiring foundations in that state with assets of more than $250 million to disclose the race and gender composition of their trustees, staff, and grantees. For the most part, foundations that took a position on the bill were opposed, arguing that the sector can address concerns about diversity through voluntary measures.

In late June, The Sacramento Bee reported that ten of California's largest foundations crafted an agreement with the bill's sponsor, Assemblyman Joe Coto, to initiate by year-end a "multimillion dollar, multiyear investment in minority communities" and to "issue annual reports about their efforts." In response, the bill was dropped.

 

Prior to the withdrawal of Bill 624, the Noyes Foundation Board of Directors issued the following statement of support, which we will continue to disseminate in the hope of broadening the conversation about this important issue.

The Board of Directors of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation supports passage of California Assembly Bill No. 624, known as the Foundation Diversity and Transparency Act. Our decision to weigh in on this legislation is consistent with the Noyes Foundation's years of leadership and advocacy within the philanthropic field on issues surrounding diversity and inclusivity. We recognize that AB 624 is imperfect but it has succeeded in generating a robust and much needed conversation within the foundation community.

 

Our decision in no way ignores or discounts the voluntary efforts to advance diversity undertaken by foundations across the country. We too are among that group. In fact, our efforts go back to 1948 when Charles F. Noyes voluntarily decided that half of the scholarships the Foundation provided were to be awarded to non-white students. And twenty years ago the family, on its own accord, put in motion a diversity plan resulting in a board of directors today that is 41 percent people of color and 71 percent female, and a grantee pool that is 49 percent people of color organizations.

 

Noyes is not alone. A number of foundations have stellar records in recruiting people of color for their boards and staffs and in making grant dollars available to low-income groups and communities of color. Policies and practices have been developed and are available to assist foundations interested in becoming more diverse and inclusive. Unfortunately, not enough foundations are willing.
In our opinion, there is a disinclination to act and no sense of urgency. The Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors' recent report, Philanthropy In A Changing Society, states that "the racial and ethnic diversity of staff and boards of foundations as well as grants and grant dollars targeting minority populations grew with the greatest strides in the 1980s. The momentum since the mid-1990s, however, has been much slower, even as the diversity of the United States and its interdependence with global communities continue to increase at an extraordinary pace."

 

The Foundation Center's Foundation Giving Trends (2008) reports that 2006 funding for ethnic and racial minorities "rose 5.5 percent – well below the 16.4 percent rise in overall grant dollars. As a result, this group's share of grant dollars fell to 7.4 percent [in 2006], down from 8.2 percent in 2005… [while] the number of grants… held steady at just above 10 percent."

 

In our opinion, the philanthropic field is not sufficiently "moving the needle" to advance diversity and inclusiveness. We applaud voluntary efforts and encourage their continuance. But more is needed to get our profession to better reflect the make-up of society. The legislation being proposed is designed to shed light and hold foundations accountable. We have concluded that a course correction is necessary and AB 624 is another tool in this struggle.
We also agreed to annually post on the Noyes Foundation's website the racial, ethnic and gender composition of our board and staff members and professional consultants, and the number of grants and total grant dollars to people of color organizations.

Congratulations

 

Peggy Shepard, executive director and co-founder of West Harlem Environmental Action, and Alexie Torres-Fleming, founder of Youth Ministries for Peace and Justicein the South Bronx, are the 2008 Jane Jacobs Medal recipients. The Rockefeller Foundation-sponsored award recognizes individuals whose creative vision for the urban environment has significantly contributed to the vibrancy and variety of New York City. The medals come with a $100,000 prize.

 

 


Peggy Shepard was selected as the Lifetime Leadership recipient for her work with WE ACT to build community power to improve environmental health, policy and protection in working-class communities of color, and for being at the forefront of the environmental justice movement for more than 20 years.




Alexie Torres-Fleming received the Medal for New Ideas and Activism for her dedication in using education, principles of environmentalism, leadership development, advocacy, community organizing, and the arts to help build a generation of Bronx children who can play an active role in shaping and improving their neighborhood.


Grantee Updates

In April, Green Worker Cooperatives held a grand opening celebration of ReBuilders Source, the first worker cooperative reuse center for home improvement in the country. Two years ago, GWC initiated the Green Worker Co-op Academy, an eight-week leadership training program where participants discuss the concepts of worker-ownership and environmental justice. Since completing a feasibility study and business plan, GWC has worked with four of its first Co-op Academy graduates to launch ReBuilders Source. The recycling program, warehoused in the South Bronx, sells used and overstocked building supplies at a discount. ReBuilders Source seeks to turn the annual 13,000 tons of construction waste that ends up at Bronx waste transfer stations into "green collar" jobs for local residents. By the fall, GWC will sponsor another Co-op Academy workshop for South Bronx residents. GWC has recently been featured in the New York Times and on the Sundance Channel.


 

In June, the Miami Chapter of Right To The City, composed of Power U Center for Social Change, Miami Workers Center, Low-Income Families Fighting Together, Miami in Action and Vecinos Unidos, combined their considerable organizing skills and person-power to make sure the nation's mayors, assembled in Miami at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, heard from people affected by their decisions.

We are building our local alliance across racial, ethnic, and language divisions. Building African-American and Latino unity is crucial for building our movement for the right to the city locally. In the Alliance we come together with a common cause, shift power to the majority of city residents away from the moneyed minority of developers and the mayors who are beholden to them. - Denise Perry of Power U

A jazz band from New Orleans led a Funeral March that carried coffins representing forces destructive to people's right to the city, including the sub-prime lending crisis, rising evictions, school arrests and disenfranchisement. A ceremonial burial of the coffins at the Intercontinental Hotel, where the mayors were staying, celebrated the growing movement for justice in U.S. cities. In collaboration with the Miami chapter, the national Right To The City Alliance also organized a People's State of the City Summit and lobbied for cities to divest from Hurricane Katrina profiteers.

 


WV FREE Launches Emergency Contraception Campaign

 

This year West Virginia FREE was selected by Advocates for Youth, a national reproductive health advocacy organization, for its multi-year West Virginia Emergency Contraception Initiative. The goal is to raise awareness about EC among young women and men in three strategic areas of the state, and to improve access through pharmacies, family planning clinics, rape crisis centers and hospital emergency rooms. WVFREE developed a new radio spot to augment this effort.

 

The WV EC Initiative promotes EC as a responsible contraceptive back-up plan, to be used in cases of contraceptive failure, sexual assault or unprotected sex. All campaign materials refer women to the WV FREE website and the 888-NOT-2-LATE hotline, where they can get the address of the nearest EC provider.


New CSA in Fort Green Community Marks Victory

 

Families United for Racial and Economic Equality and Just Food, together with the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project, launched the Fort Greene Community Supported Agriculture Project. The Fort Greene CSA's mission is to create affordability and accessibility for its 70 plus members, build community among residents from all walks of life, and raise awareness of community food security issues. In an area where residents have limited options for purchasing fresh produce and in some cases have no access to supermarkets at all, this is a major victory. The distribution season started at Fort Greene Park with music, cooking demonstrations and composting workshops. The CSA sold half its shares to low-income residents through various affordability programs.


Alaska Community Action on Toxics Works With Community Health Aides to Address Environmental Health and Justice Issues

 

In April, the staff of Alaska Community Action on Toxics presented the workshop, Making the Link: Protecting the Health of Our People from Environmental Exposures, at the conference of Community Health Aides/Practitioners from throughout rural Alaska. Community health aides are the front-line health care providers in villages across Alaska that do not have doctors or nurses. The workshop is part of an Environmental Health Toolkit that includes fact sheets about the health effects of toxic chemicals, maps and a poster for village health clinics. Participants discussed the reproductive harm caused by certain toxic chemicals found in everyday products and in industrial/military sites, and ways to prevent exposures. Community health aides prepared maps of their villages, identified sources of toxics and actions that must be taken to prevent health problems.

 

ACAT sponsored this workshop in honor of former community health aide Annie Alowa, a Yupik Eskimo elder from the village of Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island, who worked tirelessly until her death in 1999 to hold the military accountable for the cleanup of a formerly used defense site at Northeast Cape. She had witnessed cancers, birth defects, miscarriages, and low birth weight babies among families who lived and relied on the lands and waters of Northeast Cape for traditional foods.

 

ACAT launched a statewide reproductive health and justice grassroots effort in Alaska that includes individuals, reproductive rights groups, public health agencies, and tribes who are developing strategies to change policy on local, statewide, national and international levels. ACAT collaborates with 1) tribes in rural Alaska villages to improve conditions for families as they conceive and care for children, 2) groups in Alaska that address health and justice for pregnant women and infants, and 3) organizations throughout the U.S. working toward environmental reproductive justice. ACAT engages successfully with tribes and communities and other nonprofit organizations to bring about environmental justice by effecting policy and social change locally, statewide, nationally, and globally.


As World Food Crisis Deepens, NFFC's Food Sovereignty Message Gains Media Exposure

The National Family Farm Coalition sees cracks in our corporate-driven, free market, cheap grain, export-oriented food system that have been widening for years. Fueled by failed free trade agreements based on the NAFTA and GATT/WTO models, these systemic gaps have been exacerbated by the most devastating floods to hit the Midwest, diesel fuel prices topping $4.00 per gallon, and corn prices close to $8.00 on the futures market. While the public is asking why food prices continue to rise, the recently signed farm bill fails to deliver answers. For years, NFFC has called for a redirection of farm policy to promote food sovereignty in the U.S. and across the globe. As people search to make sense of the current global food crisis, NFFC's message of policy change is gaining traction.

 

Since March 2008, NFFC has earned coverage in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Nation (in late April, amidst the Farm Bill conference negotiations) and a front-page story in USA Today Money. The U.S. News & World Report printed a letter from NFFC in its June 9th edition. CNN did a series on the farm bill, which aired over a two-week period that began with issues facing dairy farmers in Pennsylvania and included interviews with NFFC staff. Radio interviews and NFFC opinion pieces on Alternet and Minuteman Media further drove home the point that policymakers need to create mechanisms for price stability and reserves. An NPR Weekend Edition interview with George Naylor (NFFC's past president and an Iowa corn and soybean farmer) discussed the need for grain reserves as he faced his flooded fields. Dena Hoff represented NFFC and the North American region of Via Campesina at the FAO meeting in Rome in late May. She was a primary spokesperson at Via Campesina press events and was interviewed by KPFA (Pacifica Radio) upon her return.

 

So, what is NFFC's message? The following letter, printed in June and referring to a U.S. News & World Report article, is emblematic:


'Fixing the Food Crisis' [May 19] neglected an essential policy solution used since Joseph counseled the Pharaoh in the Old Testament: stockpiling food for a rainy day. Grain and food reserves have been dismantled in many countries where misguided ideology advised them to rely on foreign imports for their food shortfalls. In the United States, we significantly reduced government stocks and suspended the farmer-owned reserve under the 1996 Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act. Countries weathering the food crisis best are those with grain and rice reserves on hand, like Korea and China, whereas those adhering to free-trade policies have opened up their markets to formerly cheap imports and global speculators. The recently passed Farm Bill represents a missed opportunity to address this vital component of American food security.

 


 

Talk about a "larger than local" impact!

 

 

A Pacific Magazinearticle, headlined CSWAB Leverages Limitations on Open Detonation of Deadly WWII Munitions on Saipan, heralds the Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger contribution to the island's future health and safety.


EPA Region 9 has agreed to prohibit open detonation of chemical, radiological and biological munitions that might be found on Saipan, the largest island and capital of the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a chain of 15 tropical islands in the western Pacific Ocean. The prohibition is the direct result of intervention by concerned community members with the assistance of CSWB, a group working to ensure safe and complete cleanup of the closed military base in its Wisconsin community. With Saipan community input, CSWAB submitted detailed written comments that resulted in permit conditions that will "categorically prohibit" open burning or detonation of munitions wastes containing chemical warfare agents, biological warfare material, radiological hazardous wastes and chemical agent contaminated media. The designated detonation area is located on Marpi Point, a public lands property on Saipan that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. CNMI plans to clear nearby tropical rainforest lands, and grant them to over 500 indigenous individuals and families for new homesteads.

 

The final hazardous waste permit will still allow the CNMI Department of Public Safety to collect and detonate millions of pounds of WWII munitions that threaten the environment and the safety of its residents. Unexploded and abandoned ordnance, including artillery shells, grenades and bullets are found on virtually all of the islands of the CNMI. They are attributed to the U.S. and Japanese battle for Saipan, and the U.S. build-up for the attacks on the Japanese mainland. The permit for Saipan is expected to serve as a model for other islands, including Tinian and Rota.


The Wind Blows on Forever...

 

 

Photo courtesy of Vivian Stockman

 

Neighbors concerned about living near mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mines are banding together with Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and Coal River Mountain Watch to push wind farming instead of more mining in southern West Virginia. Supporters say a wind farm atop Raleigh County's Coal River Mountain offers better economic, social and environmental benefits than more surface mines. In early June, they asked the Raleigh County Commission to support a wind farm. A 2006 study supported by CRMW and OVEC found the mountain could accommodate 220 wind turbines capable of generating two megawatts apiece, said CRMW's Rory McIlmoil. According to McIlmoil, that's enough to power more than 150,000 homes or 90,000 total customers, including residential, commercial and industrial users. West Virginia currently has two wind farms in the northern part of the state.

 

Once the coal is gone, there will be no more jobs available, the water will be contaminated, many of the residents will have moved out or been bought out,'' he said. The forest, another source of potential jobs and revenue, will be gone for decades to come, as will the possibility of producing clean wind energy on the scale that is currently available. The Commission president directed supporters to the local economic development authority.

 

 

...but how polluted will that wind be?

 

North Carolina, which has none of the mountaintop removal mining that is devastating the Appalachian region, is taking steps to be a good neighbor because it is second only to Georgia in the amount of MTR-mined coal it burns - with 61 percent of the state's power coming from coal, most of it from nearby West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia. North Carolina State Rep. Pricey Harrison introduced legislation in the state House that would ban the burning of coal obtained through MTR mining. If it passes, North Carolina would become the first state in the nation with such a law.

 

Harrison, who was one of the sponsors of a new law requiring the first renewable portfolio standard in the Southeast, said she expects it will be quite a while before legislation like this could pass. The portfolio standard legislation took two years, and there isn't likely to be any movement on the MTR bill until January 2009 at the earliest, she says. Still, Harrison hopes her legislation will inspire others.

 

Meanwhile, four months after approving a controversial coal-burning power plant in the Blue Ridge foothills, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources said that Duke Power's Cliffside plant must meet the most stringent pollution controls available. The agency said that maximum pollution controls are required by the federal Clean Air Act. The federal law had been in dispute and was not applied in January when the state issued an air-quality permit for Duke to build Cliffside. The decision was hailed as a victory by environmental groups, including North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, which have been trying to kill the Cliffside project for more than a year. Monday's ruling requires maximum controls for more than 50 hazardous pollutants. Of greatest concern is mercury, which settles in waterways, contaminates fish and ultimately causes birth defects in humans. More than 50 coal-fired power plants have been canceled or delayed in the past year, but Duke Power has steadfastly promoted Cliffside as a technological marvel that will improve air quality.


 

Western States Center's Community Strategic Training Initiative will be held on the first weekend in August at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. CSTI provides training and networking for leaders, staff and volunteers of organizations working to address racial justice, civil rights, immigration, gender justice, women's leadership, electoral organizing, and other critical struggles facing their communities. Workshops on fundraising, using the media, organizational management and more salient topics will be offered.


Sustainable South Bronx Wins Green Roof NYC Legislative Victory

 

Sustainable South Bronx declared a major victory in the NY State legislature with the passage of a $4.50 per square foot green roof tax abatement. New York property owners can deduct 25 percent of the cost of a green roof from their tax bills. "This tax abatement is an economic stimulus that will create more living wage green-collar jobs that really are pathways out of poverty," said Rob Crauderueff, Policy Director at SSBx and Policy Committee Chair of Storm Water Infrastructure Matters. He goes on to say, "....the legislation that passed in Albany today is the culmination of an incredibly collaborative effort between groups as disparate as the very local Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice to national groups like the NRDC." The bill was sponsored in the NY State Assembly by Ruben Diaz, Jr.

 

There are many environmental benefits to green roofs, but the tax abatement makes economic sense because horticultural infrastructure saves money. Green, vegetated roofs keep storm water out of our sewer system - saving energy and operational costs while keeping toxics out of our rivers. They also cool the city, whereas traditional tar roofs heat the city. The plants clean the air too, and because the green part protects the waterproof layer from the elements, green roofs dramatically extend the life span of a roof.


Noyes In Action

What the Staff's Been Saying and Doing

 

The Noyes Foundation made a big splash at the Council on Foundations Summit held outside of Washington, DC, in May. Leslie Lowe, Noyes Board Chair, joined the presidents of the California Endowment, the Council on Foundations, and the Kellogg and San Francisco foundations in a session entitled, A Leadership Exchange on Diversity in Philanthropy: Moving the Needle. Leslie also was a presenter at a mini-summit Philanthropy and the Economy (GREEN). She and Charles Piller, a reporter from the Los Angeles Times, spoke about foundations and socially responsible investing. Other presenters during the day-long event included former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and former Congressman Newt Gingrich.

 

 

Ann Wiener, a Noyes Board member and the granddaughter of Charles F. Noyes, participated in a breakfast plenary, Diversity: Leadership or Legislation? In addition to Ann, the other panelists were Congressman Xavier Becerra (CA), Robert Ross of the California Endowment, Adam Myerson of the Philanthropy Roundtable and I. King Jordan of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. During the session, Ann announced the Noyes Foundation's support for the California legislation requiring the largest foundations in the state to report on their diversity. To view this session click on breakfast plenary and select Wednesday's videos.

 

Noyes President Vic De Luca also was active at the COF Summit. He designed and moderated a session entitled, What's Ethics Got to Do with It? The presenters included Marcus Owens, an attorney who formerly headed up the IRS Tax Exempt Division, and the executive directors of the Triad Foundation and National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.


Edna Iriarte, New York City Program Officer, spoke at a June program entitled, Meet the Grantmakers: Focus on the Environment, which was sponsored by the Foundation Center and the New York Regional Association for Grantmakers.

Wilma Montañez, Reproductive Rights Program Officer, spoke at the July 1st, New York Fundraising Summit, sponsored by the Center for NonProfit Success. Other panelists were from the Avon, Daphne and Grant foundations. Wilma also continued her participation on the Planning Committee for the 2008 annual meeting of the Funders Network on Population, Reproductive Health and Rights.

Millie Buchanan, Toxics/Environmental Justice Program Officer, facilitated a June conference called, Support for Movement Building, sponsored by the Funders' Network on Trade and Globalization. Sixty funders joined the call, which focused on current shifts in the global economy and grassroots organizing in response. It also highlighted the 'Fort Mason' process, a new collaboration between funders and movement activists to increase support for movement funding.

Kolu Zigbi, Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Program Officer, participated in an April funders panel at the Baum Forum, a conference held at Teachers College in NYC. The question addressed was "Should non-profits consider funders as collaborators?" Other panelists included representatives from the city and state departments of health, City Harvest and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Kolu also organized and moderated an April conference call for the Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders entitled, Accelerating Networked Action: Thinking About and Funding Groups Allied for Change. The presenters, Paul Vandeveter of Community Partners and author of Networks That Work, Kathy Ruhf of the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group and Stacie Cleary of the Ecological Farming Association, explored networks as a venue and mechanism for achieving synergy toward systemic social change.


At the June annual conference of the Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders, Kolu designed and moderated a session entitled, More Than New Faces: Lessons from the Hmong Community in Diversifying Agriculture and Local Food Systems. Panelists included representatives from two Noyes grantees: National Hmong-American Farmers Association and the Farmers Legal Action Group.


Juveria Abdullah is a summer intern at the Noyes Foundation. She is a member of Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, an internship program designed to give young people of color an opportunity to learn about philanthropy. This is the eighth year the Noyes Foundation has hosted an intern. Juveria attends Columbia University with a joint major in economics and philosophy. She has been working on various projects since starting at Noyes in late June. Juveria is currently interviewing representatives from many of the networks that characterize the sustainable agriculture and food system sector, and will be producing a report to help funders better understand the landscape, functions and capacity-building needs of these networks.


Bruce Kahn, Noyes Board member. joined Deutsche Asset Management's Climate Change Investment Research Group as Senior Investment Analyst. Bruce will advise portfolio managers and product developers on the thematic trends of climate change in both traditional and alternative investments.


Related News

 

Diversity Gains in Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008
Set the Stage for a More Powerful Movement for Change in
Future Farm Bill Debates

by Lorette Picciano, Executive Director
Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural

 

After being passed, vetoed and overridden twice, the much discussed and anticipated Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 was finally enacted into law. While much of what was written and said about the bill in the media is decidedly negative, the new farm bill and the process behind it merits a deeper look.


House Agriculture Committee chair announces the reaching of a conference

agreement with House and Senate bipartisan leaders.

 

The final tab for the five-year farm bill is $6-8 billion over the $280 million "baseline," assigned in the Congressional budget to reflect the cost of current programs. The bill increased spending on:

  • Nutrition programs by $10.36 billion;
  • Assistance to food banks by $1.25 billion
  • Conservation programs by more than $7 billion; and
  • The specialty crop sector by around $2 billion.

 

 

In addition, a new disaster fund was created, funds for energy increased, and smaller, yet significant, gains were made for socially-disadvantaged and beginning farmers and ranchers.

 

(Right) Rudy Arredondo, National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association, congratulates Joe Baca, House Agriculture Nutrition Committee chair, on significant increases in benefits for nutrition programs and socially disadvantaged producers and farmworkers.

 

 

After months of consideration and negotiation, advocacy groups within the social justice, sustainable agriculture, and food and nutrition sectors who worked on the bill did indeed stand up to support passage of the final package and an override of the President's veto.

The Farm and Food Policy Diversity Initiative, coordinated by the Rural Coalition, was formed in summer 2006 to ensure that organizations serving people of color in the food system had the opportunity to link their own knowledge, experience and initiatives into a comprehensive agenda of food and agriculture policy proposals. The Initiative supported the efforts of its partners — each with many years of experience — to strengthen and diversify the content of the farm bill. Through their work, the initiative strengthened bridges between diverse groups toward the goal of securing access to the same opportunities that have benefited other producers.

 

With support from the Jessie Smith Noyes and W.K. Kellogg foundations and Oxfam America, members of the Diversity Initiative worked with Congress and the Administration to assure the 2008 Farm Bill addressed the many structural inequities American Indian, African American, Latino and Asian-Pacific American producers and farmworkers have long faced. The numerous and substantive provisions included in the 2008 Food, Conservation and Energy Act will help counteract lasting patterns of past discrimination, and affirm the importance of investing in socially disadvantaged producers and farmworkers.

 

This work stands in contrast to recent farm bill debates. In 1996, almost no hearings or public mark-ups were held, and very few alternatives were considered or debated. That farm bill passed the House floor as an amendment to the budget bill and made radical changes in farm programs, most notably the separation of farm payments from production limitations. Called Freedom to Farm in reference to the free-market policy it embraced, it came to be known by many as the "Freedom to Fail" farm bill. It assumed that producers would adapt to the marketplace and would eventually no longer need subsidies. In 2001, the farm bill was due to come to the House floor the week of September 10. Few hearings had been held, and those that were held mainly focused on the views of major commodity organizations and how to meet the restrictions of the World Trade Organization.

 

The 1996 and 2002 farm bills set baselines and basic programmatic parameters for the 2008 bill. By July 2007, after months of hearings and subcommittee work in the House, it was clear that the agriculture committees could not secure passage of major changes to commodity programs. At the same time, there were reductions and reallocations in the commodity title, and some increases in allocations to programs in other titles. After the Senate bill passed in December, it took until early May before a budget compromise on the bill was reached. Over 1,000 groups signed on to a letter initiated by the National Farmers Union, and more than 100 groups signed a letter initiated by the Farm and Food Policy Diversity Initiative (coordinated by the Rural Coalition), both favoring passage of the bill. A Presidential veto was overridden in June with strong bipartisan support. Opponents attributed passage solely to committee action to include "sweeteners" designed to secure support, despite opposition to the bill's commodity policies.

 

The reality is more nuanced. The final bill is 676 pages long. Large commodity agriculture retained significant, but not increased benefits. Notably, specialty crops were allocated new programs and funding. For groups representing socially disadvantaged producers, support rested on significant efforts by the committees to address needs raised. The difference from previous bills was stark. In 1990, the groups were able to secure one small section of policy, establishing the 2501 Outreach and Technical Assistance Program. In 1996, little new was added. In 2002, significant effort was expended to add a few additional sections of policy, including the creation of an Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, and the institution of transparency and accountability requirements to track the involvement of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in farm programs.

 

 

Members of the Farm and Food Policy Diversity Initiative meet on June 6th with

USDA Chief of Staff Dale Moore and other USDA leaders immediately following passage of the farm bill.

 

In 2008, a full bill containing new diversity policies was introduced in the House of Representatives. Regular meetings between advocates and Agriculture Committee members and staff were respectful and produced results, including an entire subtitle of 11 pages in the Miscellaneous Title of the Farm Bill, and a total of almost 30 sections throughout the bill containing improvements to promote equitable access to programs and to address farmworker needs.

 

 

  • Seventy-five million was provided over five years in mandatory funds for the Socially Disadvantaged Farmers & Ranchers Program;

  • Creation of a farmworker office was mandated;

  • Offices serving socially disadvantaged, beginning and small farmers were reorganized and consolidated;

  • The administration was instructed to settle outstanding civil rights claims, including class action lawsuits by American Indian, Latino and women producers;

  • At least $100 million was allocated to settle claims that were never considered under the historic Pigford consent decree for African American producers;

  • Set-asides in some conservation and other programs allocated a percentage of overall funds to limited resource and socially disadvantaged producers every year.

In all, the new farm bill will make close to $1 billion in benefits
accessible to socially disadvantaged producers and farmworkers.

 

 

The conservation program set asides can significantly benefit socially disadvantaged farmers. In the EQIP program alone, this new policy is worth nearly $400 million. Altogether, the new farm bill will require that somewhere close to $1 billion in benefits be accessible to socially disadvantaged producers and farmworkers. The 2008 Farm Bill is significant because it assures that USDA benefits will actually reach producers for whom the USDA doors have long been closed. Finally, American Indian, African American, Latino, Asian American and other small-scale producers have the real opportunity to secure the same conservation, credit and other benefits long provided to other producers.

 

More work to build unity on alternatives to commodity programs and on accessibility to specialty crop and disaster programs remains. As a result of the 2008 Farm Bill, however, the sector of producers represented by the Diversity Initiative will become more engaged in all farm programs. It will then finally be in their interest to add their voices even more strongly to subsequent Farm Policy debates.


 


For more detailed summaries of farm bill provisions, see Rural Coalition and Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Court Cites Supreme Court Ruling In Coal Plant Decision

 

 

A Georgia Superior Court judge has thrown out an air pollution permit for a new coal-fired power plant because the permit did not set limits on carbon dioxide emissions. It was the first time a court decision had linked carbon dioxide to an air pollution permit.

 

In the ruling released June 30, the judge relied on a Supreme Court decision last year that carbon dioxide could be regulated as a pollutant. Carbon dioxide, which is colorless, odorless and not directly harmful to animals or plants, is not now regulated, and the Bush administration has signaled that it would not issue such regulations before the president leaves office. But the judge ruled that federal air pollution control laws required pollution permits to cover all pollutants that could be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

 

While industry officials said the case's broader impact is still to be determined, coal opponents were celebrating what they believe is the decision's national impact. "In a case that is being watched across the country, Judge Moore has sent a message that it is not acceptable for the state to put profits over public health," said Justine Thompson, Executive Director of GreenLaw, which filed the suit challenging the plant on behalf of the Sierra Club and the Friends of the Chattahoochee, a Georgia organization. "This ruling goes a long way toward protecting the right of Georgians to breathe clean air."

 

"In one swift decision, it changes the debate around global warming regulation in the United States because it now means that every coal plant has to consider its CO2 impacts," said Bruce Nilles, director of the Sierra Club's national coal campaign.


Help Wanted

 

Maureen O'Connell, director of Save Our Cumberland Mountains for 15 years, is moving on and SOCM is looking for a new director.

 

 

SOCM, founded in 1972 and initially rooted in coalfield counties in East Tennessee, has grown into a state-wide Tennessee organization with close to 2,500 members. The organization focuses on multi-issue community organizing and addresses issues of social, environmental and economic justice. Grassroots membership-based and member run, SOCM chapters organize around local issues and work together through statewide committees on campaigns that address broader issues as well. Over the years SOCM members have organized successful campaigns to address mineral extraction, voting rights, toxics and solid waste, mineral taxation, temporary workers, forestry and aerial spraying issues, and other local and statewide issues in order to have a say in what affects their lives. In coalition SOCM has partnered with other groups working for state tax reform, adequate health care and other economic justice issues. Applications are being accepted until July 31, 2008 or until the position is filled. For more information, call Maureen O'Connell, 865-426-9455.

 

Environmental Health Coalition in San Diego, California, has a job opening for a "passionate, smart, articulate, and value-driven Fund Development and Communications Director." The job announcement and more information about the organization are available on its website.