RAFI-USA’s Approach to Policy Work
RAFI-USA addresses the challenges and opportunities for farm families, communities, and the environment to thrive, not only through on-the-ground program support, but also through policy work.
Why we do policy
RAFI-USA works with many types of farmers at varying points in the development and operation of their businesses. In the course of that work we learn about what factors in the current system are either contributing to the success of their business, or making it harder for them to make a living. When we see similar conditions impacting multiple farmers, they can usually be traced back to policies that create or intensify those conditions.
Policy shapes the environment in which farms thrive or fail, and determines the rules we play by. Policy shapes the structure of industries. Policy directs where and how we spend our tax dollars. Policy can build a system that continues to concentrate wealth and power with fewer and fewer people, or it can strive to make systems fair for individual farmers and communities.
Simply put, policy is a big lever. Those with the most wealth and power will continue to use that lever to consolidate their wealth and power. We believe that farmers, rural communities, and all those who labor in agriculture must also be at the table as policy is made.
What we mean by “policy”
Functionally, policy is any decision whose implementation will have an impact on a large number of people – in our work, this usually means farmers. Given the complexity of federal, state, and local governments, when we talk about “policy,” we mean not only the writing of a law (legislation, also called “authorization”) but also the way the law is interpreted (regulation and rule-making) and implemented. Good decisions at all three of these levels are necessary for a policy to be useful for farmers and rural communities. This means working with legislators (in Congress or in state legislatures), as well as with implementing agencies such as the US Department of Agriculture or the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. While the bulk of RAFI-USA’s recent policy work has been on federal policy, we have also worked at the state level in North Carolina.
How we work: our policy principles
Our vision for agriculture is that:
- Family farmers have the power to earn a fair and dependable income.
- Everyone who labors in agriculture is respected, protected, and valued by society.
- Air, water, and soil are preserved for future generations.
- The land yields healthy and abundant food and fiber that is accessible to all members of society.
- The full diversity of seeds and breeds, the building blocks of agriculture, is reinvigorated and publicly protected.
As we pursue policy to make this vision a reality, we aspire to the following principles:
- Our policy positions should be grounded in accountable relationships with the stakeholders who are affected by that policy. Our policy work is directly informed by the lessons we learn as we provide farm advocacy, technical assistance and other services to farmers and community members, then ground-truthed with them to make sure we are on the right track.
- Our policy work should build the capacity of stakeholders to organize, lead, and pursue advocacy on their own.
- While recognizing and addressing the urgency of immediate crises which are symptoms of bad policy, we must also take a systemic approach to our policy work and seek to address the root causes of the crises we see.
- We recognize that our agricultural system in the United States was from its very beginning built on racism, injustice and exploitation, which continue today in many forms. We must address both the historic impact of this injustice and the ways it is shaping our agricultural system today.
- It takes a movement. We collaborate with other organizations and coalitions to build critical mass for positive change.
Check out the links below to read more about specific policies and campaigns that RAFI-USA is working on!
- COVID-19 Policy Recommendations – RAFI-USA’s platform on how the federal and state governments should respond to support farmers, farmworkers, and rural communities during the pandemic.
- Our Stand With Farm Families Campaign advocated for rules to protect contract livestock farmers.
- We monitored the 2018 Farm Bill process and shared updates and action alerts to help farmers and community members make their voices heard.