Food Policy in the Granite State
It’s election season again, the time of year when important political issues greet us along with our morning coffee. One term frequently thrown around is policy, which you’ve probably heard paired with topics such as healthcare, the environment and economics. With such a prominent term comes weighty discussion, and it’s important that you understand what it means, how it’s related to food, and why you should get involved.
Policy is an intentional network of rules used to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes. Government policy assists decision making regarding how the government raises and allocates money, as well as enforces procedure and protocol. Organizations, institutions and businesses often use policy to decide purchasing procedures, and how to treat their employees, among other things. Policy is the framework of our current society, and this framework can either foster innovation, or snub it out.
The powers of policy have an enormous impact on how we deal with food in New Hampshire. For example, food policy dictates things like how much support each crop gets from state and federal government for a given year, UNH’s decision on where to purchase food to fill the demand of their 15,000 students, and even smaller scale decisions, like the new maple grading system that took effect this past January. In recent years, the policy surrounding food in the New England region has made great advances, but New Hampshire has fallen behind.
Every other state in the region has either adopted, or is in the process of adopting, a food waste ban for commercial and/or residential waste streams. This has led to innovation in Vermont with anaerobic digestion, a method to create clean burning fuel, high quality fertilizer, and all but eliminate organic waste in our waste stream. (If you want to know more, check out digester.vtc.edu).
While our neighbors have carved a path, we still have the opportunity to lead. New Hampshire can become a role model for sustainable food production by fostering a regenerative agriculture system, which is believed by many to be the most effective and efficient way to support the health of our economy, environment, and society.
One initiative determined to create sustainable food production, called “4 per 1,000,” is a beginning to the solution of our deteriorating agriculture system and our damaged atmosphere. 4 per 1,000 aims to secure food production and slow down climate change by focusing on soil and its capacity for carbon.
Carbon, a gas that is detrimental to the atmosphere when released into the air (AKA greenhouse gas), becomes a nutrient powerhouse for the underground world when absorbed into the soil. Through soil storage, the presence of carbon creates more fertile planting grounds, leaving the land richer and more resistant to the negative effects of climate change. (To see a pictograph of this process, visit 4p1000.org/understand.)
The initiative proves that if we can increase the amount of carbon contained in soil by 4% on a yearly basis, we can halt the annual increase of carbon in the atmosphere, an opportunity that no one in the region can afford to dismiss.
Currently, there are Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) funds available to support New Hampshire agriculture practices like 4 per 1,000 that actively sequester carbon. The Granite State can accelerate this innovative environmental movement by approving a policy that assigns these funds to farmers who use solely regenerative practices for carbon isolation.
The old adage in New Hampshire goes, “everyone’s neighbor has been a state representative.” Civil service is in our DNA. But we have to make sure it doesn’t just get silently passed on from one generation to the next. To effect change, we must participate in our government, and that starts on a local level.
We know the power of going out and voting, but more so we know how powerful it is to talk with those people who represent us in office.
So e-mail, call, grab a coffee with your local state representative and tell them what you care about. Change doesn’t happen until you start the conversation.