Since 2012, Food Policy Action (FPA) has scored lawmakers annually on how they vote on measures that impact our nation’s food policy. The National Food Policy Scorecard aims to capture the full spectrum of policies that affect the food system, from budget resolutions to environmental protection. The Scorecard highlights how food is intertwined with everything from the economy to the environment to healthcare.
This year, the DC-based group didn’t have much to work with. In 2017, Senators were graded on just one vote and co-sponsorship of ten bills, and Representatives were graded on five votes and eleven bills. Both New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and all Representatives of New York City districts scored 100% for 2017, with the exception of Dan Donovan of the 11th district, who scored just 20%.
The minimal attention that was given to food policy this year reflects the divisive political environment. In the House, the majority of food related votes were on anti-regulatory bills that aim to weaken the regulations ensuring clean water and air, safe food, and basic protections in the workplace. The FPA also negatively scored lawmakers who voted to confirm Scott Pruitt to the EPA, which occurred largely along party lines, based on his active track record to undermine environmental protections.
Despite the sour food policy climate, multiple bills that would have positive impacts were introduced with bipartisan co-sponsorship, but have not yet come to a vote. The Raise the Wage Act would benefit millions of food chain workers throughout the country with a livable minimum wage, and the Agricultural Worker Program Act would protect undocumented farm workers from deportation. Other introduced bills would address food waste, prevent “lunch shaming” in schools, protect rural children from nerve-agent pesticides, and revise food assistance programs to focus on a healthy diet.
With the farm bill up for reauthorization by September and midterm elections next November, 2018 could put food policy back in the spotlight. FPA hopes that the Scorecard will help the public hold lawmakers accountable for building a better, fairer food system.