Across California, communities have started food policy councils so that local advocates for food producers and consumers can work together to improve the food system. Earlier this year, a coalition of these groups called the California Food Policy Council made its first foray into state policy by publishing an analysis of legislators’ voting records on 10 different food and agriculture related bills considered in Sacramento in 2013.
The 2013 California Legislative Report Related to Food and Farming considered a wide universe of bills before narrowing its tracking to 10 pieces of legislation that the group considered critical to improving the food system. Those bills covered a wide range of issues. For example, Assembly Bill 60, which passed, will allow undocumented immigrants — many of them farmworkers — to obtain drivers’ licenses. Assembly Bill 551, which SPUR supported, permits cities and counties to offer property tax incentives for urban agriculture. Assembly Bill 996, which was held in committee, would have reformed the regulations regarding certified farmers’ markets. And two other bills aimed to make it possible or easier for more Californians to be eligible for food stamps, known in California as CalFresh. The report's wide range of issues reflects the broad farm-to-table perspective of many food policy councils.
For each of the bills that made it to floor votes, the report includes a tally of how each assemblymember and senator voted. It is this aspect of the report — highlighting for constituents how their elected officials voted on important pieces of legislation — that the council hopes will help focus more attention on food system reform in the coming years. The council is currently planning to publish its second legislative report in 2014.