News in Brief today examines a stunning environmental victory resulting from a strong, sustained advocacy of NM environmentalists. A second NIB outlines all that is wrong with the GOP’s tepid “bipartisan” effort at COVID-19 relief. Read on.
News in Brief
From The ABQ Journal: “Holloman Air Force Base decision a victory for New Mexico wilderness, public lands. I was alerted to this news from folks in Silver City. When Roxanne and I visited Silver City and other communities in southern NM, this was one of the issues raised most often: F-16 training flyovers and plans to expand the area over which flights could occur, places that are natural treasures. The level of advocacy on this was remarkable and, as remarkable, the military listened and selected the option favored by environmentalists. Kudos to all of our pals in Silver City. It is awfully nice to win one.
From The Washington Post: “Opinion: Republicans’ blundering attempt at bipartisanship” If you have GOP friends, you may start to hear how the GOP is trying to be bipartisan with this effort on the part of ten suddenly “moderate” GOP Senators who want to work with the White House on COVID-relief. But their bill is an insult, offering no increase in unemployment, reducing the amount of relief Americans receive, offering no relief to states and local jurisdictions, and eliminating the minimum wage provision. It is as if they feel Americans don’t deserve relief, after having fed the wealthy the largest tax break in US history. But when Biden rejects this offer the GOP will launch an assault: “Biden is reneging on his pledge to seek unity. He is forcing a socialist agenda on us.” Obama tried to work with the GOP in 2009 and got zero back for it except a tepid ACA. It is time to do what is needed, not what the GOP would prefer.
The session is heating up and Retake has observers in all of the hearings where one of our Transformational bills are being heard. Even if you do not subscribe to our Legislative Alerts, you can find links to them on our NM Legislation page. That page also has links to an array of resources designed to make it easier to advocate in this session. Check it out and dive in. And if you really want to better understand how the process works, join our weekly Legislative Huddle, every Friday,3:30-4:30pm. Click here to register for the Huddle. You must pre-register to participate.
One of the links on the NM Legislation page will take you to “bills we support” which provides brief summaries for each of the bills we support and for the 20 Transformational Bills, we also provide more detailed summaries with speaking points you can use in your advocacy. On that page we are also reporting on each bill’s progress through the legislative process, including committee assignments.
Coming This Week: HB 7 Abortion Ban Repeal will be heard and voted on in the House Chamber this week after it passed its two committee assignments last week. Tomorrow in Sen. Conservation, three important Transformational bills relevant to climate change are on the agenda. (Find info in yesterday’s Alert at this link.) Unfortunately there are three bills ahead of it and the committee has only been able to get through 2-3 bills per hearing, so they may not be heard until Thursday.
HB 207: A Transformational Plan to Address NM Hunger, Food and Water Insecurity, Improve Local Food System and Resource Management, & Promote Traditional Practices
We’d held space for this bill on our Transformational bill list, but to be honest we were getting nervous as we really didn’t have a great idea of just how broad the bill would be or its potential for addressing the needs of our farm community, rural NM, and the more than 70,000 New Mexicans who seek food assistance every week. Roxanne poured over the bill and found it to be extraordinarily broad in scope. As you read the summary below, hold in your head just how much more easily we could advance each of the aspirations outlined if there were a State Public Bank installed to provide needed financing. HB 207 seeks to expand local food manufacturing and improve distribution and storage systems to create stronger local food supplies; it wants to expanding agricultural practices responsive to climate change; it wants to promote traditional agricultural practices. All of this will require funding during what is certain to be challenging economic conditions. A State Public Bank could enable the state to invest its own billions in these needed infrastructure investments by partnering with community banks, credit unions, and local jurisdictions to make these improvements easier to finance.
HB 207 Food, Hunger & Farm Act, is sponsored by Reps. Melanie Stansbury and Joanne Ferrary and Senator Liz Stefanics. This ambitious bill would create the Food, Hunger, and Farm Council that would work with multiple state departments, institutions, non-profits, and individuals to develop a statewide strategic plan to assess the effects of hunger, malnutrition, and food and water insecurity in New Mexico. It would develop plans to increase access to food; improve food processing, distribution, and storage; improve the quality of food assistance programs; address malnutrition among children, seniors, and low-income communities; promote traditional agricultural practices; increase the purchase of local agricultural products; enhance job creation from agricultural production and food distribution; provide emergency relief for food and water; provide food relief on an ongoing basis to address long-term systemic hunger and food insecurity; and increase food and income security by maximizing eligibility and enrollment in state and federal programs. The fund creates a non-reverting Food, Hunger & Farm Fund in the state treasury with a General Fund appropriation of $750,000 annually beginning in fiscal year 2022.
Why Is This Bill Needed?
- Census Bureau statistics from the annual American Community Survey from 2011 to 2015 showed that rural communities in New Mexico had the highest poverty rate in the nation at 22%.
- The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture ranks New Mexico 50th in food security, with 17% of households unable to provide adequate food for one or more household members due to lack of resources.
- More than 70,000 New Mexicans seek food assistance every week.
- Between 30% and 40% of household members seeking food assistance are children under age 18 with over 20% of people seeking food assistance in our state being senior citizens.
- More than 60% of households seeking food assistance report that in the previous year they had to choose between paying utilities or buying food. A third of those reported making this tough choice every month.
- Close to 50% of households report having to choose between paying their rent or mortgage or buying food. Almost 20% of those are forced to make this choice every month.
- Three-quarters of households seeking food assistance report purchasing inexpensive, unhealthy food as the most common way to have food in their homes.
Despite this extraordinary level of need and despite NM being a leader in dairy, meat, and food production, NM exports some 97 percent of food grown in New Mexico, while importing 95 percent of food consumed. This bill aims to change those numbers, to keep more food here and import less, and to develop more effective local food distribution systems. Why is this important?
If New Mexico can increase consumption of local agricultural products by 15 percent, it could raise its per capita gross domestic product by some $750 million annually.
Just one of the strands of this multi-faceted bill is to significantly increase the effectiveness of federal and state child nutrition programs like SNAP. Below is a passage from “Helping Food-Insecure Households in New Mexico Afford Healthier Choices through the SNAP Double Up Food Bucks Program,” an excellent policy brief from NM Voices for Children on the impact of just one of those programs:
“Support a variation of the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription (FVRx) program using SNAP DUFB funding. In FVRx programs, enrolled patients with nutrition-related illnesses receive nutritional counseling as well as “prescriptions” for no-cost fresh fruits and vegetables redeemable at participating farmers’ markets. A new pilot program created by the New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association called SNAP Rx will pair such a program at three federally qualified health clinics in Northern New Mexico with the existing funding and infrastructure of SNAP DUFB. This promising and innovative program should help foster partnerships between health care providers and low-income individuals dealing with diet-related illnesses while improving health outcomes of at-risk populations and further increasing the demand for locally grown fresh produce. Upon successful pilot implementation, the SNAP Rx program should be expanded across the state.”From NM Voices for Children: “Helping Food-Insecure Households in New Mexico Afford Healthier Choices through the SNAP Double Up Food Bucks Program”
The description of the SNAP Rx program is but one of several that would be expanded through HB 207. If child and family nutrition is something you’d like to learn more about, NM Voices is a good place to find out more about some of the many tools the state could be using to improve health and food security across the state.
We are proud to be supporting HB 207 as one of several Transformational and Priority Bills that address the critical food, farming, water, and agriculture needs in the state. If you subscribe to our Alerts, you will be kept apprised of the bills progress and how you can raise your voice. If you’re not subscribed, you can do so here.
A Week in Review
About two years ago, I told Retake readers that we were going to scale back on the number of posts each week to focus on organizational issues and build communication infrastructure and relationships with allies. Two years later, this was the first week with only three posts. Thank you 2021 Legislative Session for making it possible. Below you will find last Monday’s review of the previous week’s posts, followed by our two most recent posts, focused on legislation we are supporting: Private Prison Moratorium, and When Is it OK to Send a Message to Gas and Oil?
Looking Back on a Week Without Deep Anxiety,
Looking Forward to Committee Hearings This Week,
and an Inspiring Video from Winona LaDuke
Monday, January 25. As we do every Monday, we summarize posts from the previous week. In addition, we provide an update on what is coming in the legislature and a guest post from Eduardo Krasilovsky, who offers commentary on a historic conflict between between America’s impulse for democracy and historic roots in oligarchy. Great stuff.
It’s Time To End Private Prisons & Mass Incarceration: A Moving Plea
Thursday, January 28. Today’s feature piece is on prison life, life that is bad in government-owned prisons, but far worse in private prisons. We cite Just Mercy: A Story of Justice & Redemption and offer a moving video from women “Lifers” in Munch State Prison. A must-read post. After we outline the degree to which our criminal justice system is driven by systemic racism and has its roots in slavery, we turn our attention to HB 40, a bill that would prohibit NM from entering into new contracts with private prisons or renewing old ones.
The Stone Age Didn’t End for Lack of Stones. Do We Wait ‘Til We Run Out of Oil to Regulate it? It’s Time to Send a Message to Gas & Oil
Saturday, January 30. We begin with a legislative update, followed by a feature piece on how our legislators are getting weak-kneed in the face of gas and oil lobbyists, claiming that this is not the time to “send a message to G&O.” We pose the question: When is the right time? When we are out of oil? Yes, we have an ongoing budget crisis, but we also have so many tax reform options on the table, and the same weak knees that won’t send a message to gas and oil don’t want to raise taxes. At the end of the post, the poem that won 2nd place in the 2021 Inaugural Poem Contest for Students.
In solidarity and hope,
Paul and Roxanne
Categories: Climate Change, Agriculture, Land Use & Wildlife