Since 2009, we’ve accomplished a lot.
First, we started work on an assessment of the City and County’s food shed to give us information on agricultural food and access issues from which to make policy recommendations. We have collected secondary data that provides a picture on the health of our community residents, including indicators on diabetes and obesity rates for adults and children. We’ve also collected hunger statistics and documented how many residents get support from local food banks or shelters. We are currently conducting primary research and holding focus groups to speak with our Seniors at the City and County Senior Centers to hear from them directly about their needs and challenges related to food and food access. This is ongoing work and we hope to report on our findings toward the end of the year.
The Farmland Preservation Resolution was approved last January by the Board of County Commissioners. We used it to leverage the passage of one of the few bills that was funded by the legislature last year: the Natural Heritage Conservation Act. This act was passed with $5 million to establish a fund that will restore and protect, among other things, working farms, ranches and other agricultural lands.
You may recall, we passed procurement resolutions at both the City and County level supporting Senator Tim Keller’s Senate Bill 63, which would have increased the preference advantage for NM food producers and processors products to be purchased by government, public and private entities. This bill made it to the Governor’s desk but then was vetoed. Pam Roy will speak briefly regarding this after I present. I will leave the details to her, but this bill was drafted with extensive input and guidance from this council, because if every NM consumer purchased just 15% of their food from the state’s farmers and ranchers, it would increase annual farm income by $392 million. This was and still is an important opportunity to increase the income of local producers but also to improve the quality and nutritional value of the food we serve in schools and other institutions, bettering the health of our citizens
The Farm Production and Land Use Subcommittee of the Santa Fe Food Policy Advisory Council advised the County on the Agricultural section of the County Sustainable Growth Management Plan. We are now working with County planning staff to begin strategizing on how to implement the directives related to agricultural protection for the upcoming process to rewrite the County Land Development Code in an effort to balance the needs of food production with development.
We partner with the NM Food and Agricultural Policy Council to support and promote statewide reforms that will have an affect on our citizens locally and we’ll continue our work with them.
In 2011 we will be focusing on the following work:
Disaster Response: Currently, emergency preparedness is not a high priority for our citizens, but it must be because both the city and county have no storage for emergency food provisions. The poor are going to be the most at risk if we do have a disaster, where food cannot be accessed for up to 72 hours because they cannot afford to set aside that much food for their families. We will be working with Emergency Preparedness staff members, Joyce Purley at the City and Martin Vigil at the County, to figure out ways to address this situation and make a report to you with our recommendations. We feel this is a high priority for both the City and County.
Land Use Code: the Council gave considerable input into the County’s Sustainable Growth Management Plan, and now the Council will be working with the County to provide recommendations for agricultural protection or zoning options for the Sustainable Land Development Code process. Urbanization and population growth in New Mexico is causing the disappearance of farmland, both as land area for development and as a source of water rights for municipal uses. Urbanization also increases the price of farmland, increasing inheritance taxes, which often forces landowners to sell or subdivide their agricultural lands into smaller and smaller acreages, creating the slow death of our farmland. We want to work with the County to ensure that the agricultural related directives set forth in the Sustainable Growth Management Plan are implemented in a way that bring agricultural land uses, ag businesses and other similar opportunities out into the forefront for all the reasons I mentioned.
Finally, in 2011, we will continue our work on the local procurement of food. Senate Bill 63 did not pass, but we’ll continue to work at the State level on this initiative. We’ll also continue our work with both the City and County on ways to purchase more food from local sources to help boost our local farm economy and create jobs.