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This week, chefs Tom Coohill (Coohill’s) and Daniel Asher (River and Woods) spent two days in Washington, D.C., along with other high-profile chefs such as Andrew Zimmern and Tom Colicchio, for the Plate of the Union Farm Bill Summit. There, they met with 15 members of Congress to advocate for food policy changes in advance of the 2018 Farm Bill.
The Farm Bill is a massively important, multi-year piece of legislation that dictates a wide swath of agricultural and food programs, governing everything from commodity crop subsidies to clean drinking water. It was a hot topic at this year’s Slow Food Nations gathering, where entire panels were dedicated to what would—and should—be in 2018’s bill. “The United States has no food policy; the Farm Bill is our de facto food policy,” said James Thompson, Regional Director for the office of U.S. senator Michael Bennett, at one of those panels.
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This was Coohill and Asher’s second trip to the capitol with Plate of the Union. Coohill focused his message on two key talking points: “Making sure the SNAP food stamp program doesn’t get cut too heavily,” and creating a “better, standardized food labeling program” to minimize wasted food. (Read more about how confusing labeling dates lead to food waste here.) “We waste twice as much food as the entire farm bill’s budget is. It’s not a partisan issue at all.” As for Asher? “He is a gregarious, passionate advocate for organics,” Coohill said.
Coohill and Asher will continue to make the trip “every four months or so until the Farm Bill is up,” Coohill said. “We got a great response, but it’s important to keep hitting them with this and reminding them.”