Facilitating the Farm and Food Policy Project

CBI facilitates the “Farm and Food Policy Project” — an unprecedented collaborative project between some forty policy organizations representing hundreds of constituent groups from across the country — to promote a sustainable U.S. food and agriculture system.

Background and Challenges

As the U.S. federal government's primary tool for managing agricultural and food policy, the “farm bill”, revised and passed approximately every five years, covers support for commodity crops, horticulture and livestock, conservation, nutrition, trade and food aid, agricultural research, farm credit, rural development, energy, forestry, and other related programs. In the past, due to its far-reaching impacts, this comprehensive omnibus bill has often been subject to controversy and conflict, as well as to intense competition between interests with differing priorities for available federal funds.

In anticipation of the 2007 revisions to the farm bill, and to address past endeavors where grantees worked at cross-purposes, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation established the Farm and Food Policy Project (FFPP). The Foundation asked CBI to design and facilitate a collaborative process that would enable a core group of six diverse organizations to work toward the goal of building a more sustainable U.S. food and agriculture system. The Farm and Food Policy Project’s six core organizations — the Environmental Defense Fund, Community Food Security Coalition, Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Rural Coalition, American Farmland Trust, and the Northeast Midwest Institute — would work with 35 sub-grantees, who represented over 100 constituent groups, to effect policy change.

The CBI Approach

CBI provides facilitation services and helps the FFPP define shared goals and values, develop a structured process, and successfully collaborate with essential stakeholders.

CBI and its coordinating partner, the Northeast Midwest Institute (NEMW), identified two primary challenges facing the success of the Farm and Food Policy Project collaborative process: the core organizations came to the FFPP with extremely diverse interests and therefore lacked a clear set of common goals; and the farm bill legislative process had historically been fraught with alliances and animosities that prevented various coalitions from working together.

To address these challenges, CBI and NEMW helped the FFPP organizations develop a final grant proposal with defined roles, responsibilities, and allocations of monies; to help establish a set of protocols or ground rules for interaction; and to initiate joint meetings for the group. Then, the project team began to craft a Declaration Report based on their shared values and policy goals. The document detailed what participants hoped the process would accomplish, and laid out four agreed-upon policy initiatives:

  • Promote new agricultural markets and rural entrepreneurship   
  • Enhance the economic viability of small- and moderate-sized family farms and ranches
  • Reward environmental stewardship
  • Combat hunger by increasing access to healthy food through community food systems

CBI developed a structured process designed to keep conversation productive and accessible across diverse interests, and to preempt conflicts arising out of historical tensions. CBI coached and assisted the project coordinator; helped participants develop protocols; convened and facilitated a twelve-person national coordinating committee; supported four work groups; provided facilitation and mediation around difficult and complex program and policy issues; and helped conduct a final process evaluation.

CBI also supported an important accompanying initiative known as the Diversity Initiative. This project provided additional funder resources for minority farmers and ranchers to jointly develop a shared platform to protect and enhance diverse farmers' participation in federal programs. The collaboration among Black, Latino, Asian-American, and Native American farmers, and others, resulted in unprecedented gains for low income, small, and minority farmers in the final bill.

Results

CBI plays a key role in a collaborative effort that culminates in many of the FFPP’s policy priorities being passed into law.

CBI played a key role in this unprecedented, four-year collaborative effort between hundreds of participating organizations from across the U.S. to move farm bill legislation towards promoting a healthy, just, and sustainable food and agricultural system. The Farm and Food Policy Project submitted thirty-two policy priorities to Congress. Twenty-seven of these were passed into law.