Throughout the 2023 Legislative Session, RIFPC Work Groups brought their case before legislators in support of bills that would improve the food system. Several RIFPC work groups were deeply involved in educating elected officials and advocating for good food policies.
Agriculture and Land
Key Legislation: Sen. DiPalma and Rep. McGaw sponsored resolutions to appropriate $5 million for agricultural land preservation to fill a one-time funding gap in Agricultural Land Preservation Commission funds. In the FY2024 state budget, $2.5 million funds were successfully appropriated for agricultural land conservation.
Our Advocacy: Before the legislative session even began, RIFPC members and staff met with the Governor’s policy staff to emphasize the importance of providing this funding. When news broke that such a line item was not included, RIFPC’s Active Farmland Preservation Work Group submitted a letter asking the Governor to amend the budget. The group further emphasized this priority to legislative allies and conducted a variety of outreach campaigns to farmers and other stakeholders. Hosting a legislative roundtable, RIFPC and several key partner organizations worked diligently to advocate for this funding. Together, this work led over 70 farmers to submit unique letters of testimony to the Senate Finance Committee, remarked upon by the Chairperson DiPalma. RIFPC members and staff also attended the hearings for the Work Group, testified on behalf of network farmers unable to attend themselves, and submitted written letters of support for this funding.
Key Legislation: Sen. Mack sponsored two bills focused on exempting the real, tangible and personal property of urban and small farmers from taxation. Both bills were held for further study in committee.
Our Advocacy: The Urban Farmer Support Work Group worked closely with Sen. Mack to develop the definitions of both small and urban farms in Rhode Island. Work Group members supported the development of an urban farmers and partner organizations coalition. When the legislation was heard, the Work Group also provided written testimony in support. The group is already hard at work planning their strategy for advocacy next year!
Wasted Food Solutions
Key Legislation: Rep. Hagan McEntee and Sen. DiMario introduced bills to provide a tax credit for food donations by qualified taxpayers to nonprofit organizations. Unfortunately, the legislation was stalled in committee. It is expected that similar legislation will be reintroduced next year.
Our Advocacy: Our Wasted Food Solutions Work Group led the charge to move these bills forward. Work Group members held a widely attended legislative roundtable, connected with aligned organizations for advocacy campaigns, and submitted testimony in support of the legislation. The Work Group is well-poised to take on this issue again in the next legislative session.
Key Legislation: Rep. Cortvriend and Sen. Valverde’s bills to increase the organic waste ban to 30 miles were held in committee for further study.
Our Advocacy: Our Wasted Food Work Group hosted the keynote plenary session at the Rhode Island College Compost Conference & Trade Show. The panelists for this session included Work Group members and key legislative allies, Rep. Cortvriend and Sen. Valverde. Work Group members used this opportunity to educate legislators and other attendees about the policy opportunities available in Rhode Island. RIFPC also submitted written testimony on behalf of the food waste ban. Several Work Group members also provided their own testimony and spoke to the Committee when the legislation was heard. The group is thrilled to further dive into this work next year.
Key Legislation: Long-standing efforts to provide healthy school meals for all were continued this year. Three different bills were introduced. Two passed through the Senate, but none made it through the House. We expect legislation will be reintroduced on this next year.
Our Advocacy: RIFPC’s Food Access Work Group members joined the RI Healthy Schools Coalition to advocate on behalf of this legislation. The group also hosted a legislative roundtable to answer legislators’ questions, including testimony from current students about the impact this would have. Some members and staff even testified at the State House when the House and Senate Finance Committees heard the legislation. Our new Healthy School Meals for All Work Group is preparing for even greater advocacy during the next session.
Key Legislation: Rep. Spears and Sen. DiPalma sponsored legislation authorizing a sliding scale decrease in benefits as a beneficiary’s income increases up to 250% of the federal poverty level. Neither bill moved out of committee.
Our Advocacy: Although brought to the attention of the Food Access Work Group later in the session, group members immediately took to supporting this legislation. Members of the group attended Committee hearings and submitted testimony in support of the policy. This focus has blossomed a new Benefits Cliff Work Group, with members ready to advocate for this legislation in the coming year.
Key Legislation: The federal Farm Bill is a piece of omnibus legislation that Congress renews every 5 years. The last Farm Bill became law in 2018, creating several new programs and offices. The Farm Bill is currently being reviewed and rewritten by the appropriate House and Senate Committees.
Our Advocacy: Our Farm Bill Work Group worked diligently this year to bring the needs of Rhode Island farmers and people experiencing food insecurity to the forefront of Farm Bill conversations. The Work Group developed policy priorities for key areas of the legislation that will impact Rhode Island. Members of the Work Group also successfully held meetings with Rhode Island’s entire Congressional delegation. One meeting, with Senator Reed, even resulted in RIFPC co-hosting a Farm Bill legislative roundtable with key advocates from across the state. The Work Group is excited to continue this critical advocacy into the fall, in hopes that the current Congress will pass a new Farm Bill.