At a recent daylong summit on “The Future of Food Policy” hosted by Washington D.C.-based Food Tank, urban agriculture advocates expressed dismay over the current political climate, describing it as both chaotic and frightening. In the midst of this chaos, negotiations for the 2018 Farm Bill are already underway and supporters of urban agriculture are scrambling.

Urban Agriculture Shifts Tactics Under Trump

D.C. organizations who depend on urban agriculture to feed the food insecure will be impacted.

Advocates for urban agriculture are nervous these days. President Donald Trump has said little about his agriculture policy plans, his Agriculture Secretary nominee Sonny Perdue is a longtime ally to traditional rural agribusiness interests, and Trump’s proposed budget slashes funding for many of the agencies upon which urban residents depend.

At a recent daylong summit on “The Future of Food Policy” hosted by Washington D.C.-based Food Tank, urban agriculture advocates expressed dismay over the current political climate, describing it as both chaotic and frightening. In the midst of this chaos, negotiations for the 2018 Farm Bill are already underway and supporters of urban agriculture are scrambling.

Kathleen Merrigan is a former U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary and longtime advocate for both organic and urban farming. Many observers say she’d be the Agriculture Secretary right now had Hillary Clinton won the election. Less than 100 days into Trump’s presidency, she sounds worried.

Executive Director of Sustainability at George Washington University, Merrigan, told the food policy summit audience she’d heard “the forces of darkness want to eliminate organic” from the Farm Bill entirely. Both organic and urban agriculture programs may be at risk for federal funding cuts, but Merrigan stands ready to defend the space urban agriculture has carved out for itself.

“Urban agriculture can’t feed the world—heck, it may not even be able to feed the block,” she quipped, but Merrigan insists the movement has more than earned its seat at the policy table. Urban farms matter, according to Merrigan, because they offer city dwellers a way to find a connection to the land and even their rural-dwelling, fellow Americans.

Historically, the Farm Bill has always brought together unlikely allies, so Merrigan is urging urban agriculture advocates to work with traditional rural agriculture groups. Considering the many cuts torural programs that Trump is proposing, Merrigan’s suggestion makes a lot of sense. She made that plea while sharing the stage with Kip Tom, a rural farmer from Indiana and a Trump supporter, signaling, perhaps, that negotiations can happen anywhere.

While Merrigan opined about federal funding, Chris Bradshaw, Executive Director of the D.C.-based non-profit Dreaming Out Loud, honed in on urban agriculture programs in the District. Bradshaw also sits on the D.C. Food Policy Council. For Bradshaw, D.C.’s city farms grow food, yes, but they’re also a conduit for social justice, or at least that’s what Bradshaw feels they should be.

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