Every time we eat, we vote with our forks; weighing in on the type of food and agriculture we desire and supporting (or not!) the family farmers at the base of our food system through our food choices.
Far less frequently, we have the opportunity to actually vote on the policies that shape our food system. This Tuesday, faithful Farm Aid readers, many of you will have that chance when important food and farm issues appear on your ballots.
From GMO labeling to farmland conservation and much more, states are asking their citizens to weigh in. We would love to hear your opinions in a comment. What do you think about these food and farm issues up for a vote next week? Did we miss any ballot measures related to food and farming?
Find your state below to see what food or agriculture topic will appear on your ballot.
Don't forget to vote on November 4th!
Residents of The Golden State can vote on up to 2 food and farm issues this year – a statewide water bond and a soda tax for the City of San Francisco. Read on to learn more in preparation of you vote on Tuesday!
Proposition 1: Water Bond. Funding For Water Quality, Supply, Treatment and Storage Projects
Home to 38 million residents and a $44-billion agriculture sector, California requires ample access to a clean water supply. After three consecutive years of severe drought, state legislators have placed Proposition 1 on the ballot.
If passed, Prop 1 would authorize $7.12 billion in bonds to improve the state's water systems through infrastructure projects, restoration efforts, flood management, and conservation initiatives. Two Farm Aid partners, the California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN) and Community Alliance for Family Farmers (CAFF), worked to include $100 million for on-farm water use efficiency projects in the bill, an important improvement from previous water bonds that could achieve significant water savings while keeping farmers on the land. These groups also fought for funds to support an historic package of groundwater regulations (SB 1168, SB 1319, and AB 1739) designed to combat groundwater overdraft and contamination.
Prop 1 represents a hard-fought compromise that has been endorsed by the state Republican and Democratic parties and the Governor. Still, it is not without its controversy and the merits of the bond are debated among agricultural, environmental, sporting groups and other interests. Many see Prop 1 as a first step in addressing the state's growing water needs and preventing future droughts.
Proposition E: City of San Francisco Sugary Drink Tax
Residents of San Francisco and Berkeley can also vote on Prop E, an initiative to create a 2-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks that would pay for "nutrition, physical activity, and health programs in public schools, parks, and elsewhere." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 35.7 percent of the adult U.S. population is obese and studies have linked drinking sugary beverages like soda during childhood to obesity problems later in life.
Proposition 105: Colorado Mandatory Labeling of GMOs Initiative
We endorse this ballot measure and encourage a yes vote!
Efforts for required labeling and bans of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been a growing issue in American politics at the state and local level. More than a million people signed a petition to the Food and Drug Administration asking it to label GMOs, which was the most signatures of any petition in the agency's history. As of May 14, 2014, there were 84 bills in 29 states regarding the labeling of GMOs.
Colorado is the latest state to put mandatory GMO labeling on the ballot, heating up tensions between farmers, advocacy groups and consumer groups (Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Conservation Colorado, Consumers Union) and agribusiness firms and food manufactures (Monsanto, Coca-Cola). Prop 105 would enact the Colorado Right to Know Act, intended to bring transparency to consumers and respect their right to know. If passed by voters, the Colorado law would join those in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine and require all foods except for those intended for immediate consumption, alcohol and animal food to bear labels that read "Produced with Genetic Engineering."
Amendment 1: Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative
The measure, upon voter approval, would dedicate 33 percent of net revenue from an existing excise tax to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (established in 1963), in order to acquire and improve conservation easements, wildlife management areas, wetlands, forests, fish and wildlife habitats, beaches and shores, recreational trails and parks, urban open space, rural landscapes, working farms and ranches, historical and geological sites, lands protecting water and drinking water resources and lands in the Everglades Agricultural Areas and the Everglades Protection Area. About one-third of Florida's land is in agriculture, so this measure could significantly increased funds to preserve farmland.
Question 2: Maine Agriculture, Natural Resource and Human Health Bond Issue
This initiative would allocate $8 million to create a new animal, plant and insect laboratory dedicated to the study of ticks, mosquitos, invasive species and more with the goal to better detect insect-borne diseases and promote food safety testing. The new lab would allow Maine to add much-needed infrastructure to the University of Maine to better monitor pests and also test agricultural products, assisting farmers in treating animals or discovering blight before major crop losses. Question 2 is supported by long-time Farm Aid partner Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA).
Public Question No. 2: New Jersey Open Space Preservation Funding Amendment
Upon approval, Question 2 would amend the state Constitution to dedicate 6 percent of corporate business tax revenues to open space, farmland and historic preservation, from 2016 to 2045. The ballot measure has received broad bi-partisan support within the legislature, as well as endorsements from numerous local environmental and energy organizations. Opposition comes from Governor Chris Christie and a handful of Republican members of the General Assembly.
Measure 92: The Oregon Mandatory Labeling of GMOs Initiative
We endorse this ballot measure and encourage a yes vote!
Oregon's Measure 92 would require retailers to label applicable raw and packaged products as "Produced with Genetic Engineering" or "Partially Producers with Genetic Engineering" in order to market them within Oregon. It aims to increase transparency and provide consumers with as much information as possible when making their food selections and would also allow the state or citizens to file suits against retailors who intentionally violate. Farm Aid partners Friends of Family Farmers, Oregon Tilth, Adelante Mujeres, Family Farm Defenders, Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance, and several others support Measure 92.
Question 7: Clean Water, Open Space and Healthy Communities Bonds
Question 7 asks voters to determine whether $53 million should be allocated toward environmental preservation, including state water resources and working farms in the state. Since 1940, Rhode Island has lots 80 percent of its farmland. These funds would allow the state to counteract this loss.