Lessons from the Farm Bill and the ABNNF meets on Monday at 6

Its not that any money from Congress's Farm Bill is coming to Allston or Brighton (even though there was a time when significant agriculture was happening here), but this op-ed in today's New York Times suggests some lessons that may have value to activists here.

Weed It and Reap - New York Times

1) "For starters, farm bill critics did a far better job demonizing subsidies, and depicting commodity farmers as welfare queens, than they did proposing alternative — and politically appealing — forms of farm support."

It is not enough to just criticize someone else's proposal, no matter how bad it might be. We also need to put forward our own positive vision for what we want to see happen.

2) "And then the farm lobby did what it has always done: bought off its critics with “programs.” For that reason 'Americans who eat' can expect some nutritious crumbs from the farm bill, just enough to ensure that reform-minded legislators will hold their noses and support it"

Substitute "Harvard", "Boston College", or any other developer for "the farm lobby".
Substitute "community benefits" for "programs" and "Allston/Brighton residents" for "Americans who eat. Does this sound familiar?

"And then Harvard did what it has always done: bought off its critics with “benefits.” For that reason Allston and Brighton residents can expect some crumbs from the campus expansion, just enough to ensure that City Hall will support it."

3) "However many worthwhile programs get tacked onto the farm bill to buy off its critics, they won’t bring meaningful reform to the American food system until the subsidies are addressed — until the underlying rules of the food game are rewritten. This is a conversation that the Old Guard on the agriculture committees simply does not want to have, at least not with us."

Which can be easily re-written to:

"However many worthwhile benefits get tacked onto the development to buy off its critics, they won’t bring meaningful reform to the planning process until the lack of a comprehensive plan is addressed — until the underlying rules of the game are rewritten. This is a conversation that the Old Guard simply does not want to have, at least not with us."

The author concludes that "the politics of food have changed, and probably for good. If the eaters and all the other “people on the outside” make themselves heard, we just might end up with something that looks less like a farm bill and more like the food bill a poorly fed America so badly needs."

Can enough of us make ourselves heard so we might end up with something that looks more like a balanced and thoughtful approach to development and less like a rush to build anything that is proposed? Let's give it a try! Please join us tomorrow night - Monday, Nov 5 at 6:00 at the Gardner School, 30 Athol St for the first meeting of the A/B North Neighbors Forum.

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