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The Most Inspiring—and Regenerative—Wins of the 2018 Elections

The regenerative food and farming movement didn’t get everything we wanted out of the 2018 elections—either in terms of candidates or, as Greg Palast documented, in terms of fair elections. Clearly, our democracy is far from perfect.

But thankfully, that hasn’t stopped the movement for health, justice and regeneration.

On November 6, the country elected several inspiring new leaders, some of whom are already getting to work at the local, state and federal level. On the ballot initiative front, voters in Portland, Oregon, passed a progressive initiative that will, among other things, direct funds to regenerative agriculture projects that sequester greenhouse gases and support local food production.

Maryland district sends anti-Monsanto delegate to the statehouse

We begin by congratulating Vaughn Stewart, the only candidate in the country we’re aware of who publicly called out Monsanto during his campaign—and with good reason.

At a public forum before the elections, Stewart said:

“This issue is very personal to me. I beat cancer last year for the second time in my life. I had salivary gland cancer when I was 18 and lymphoma last year. I can’t prove it, but I’m very certain that the reason is that Monsanto used my hometown in Alabama as a dumping ground for PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls) for decades.”

Vaughn won! He’ll join the Maryland House of Delegates representing District 19.

Colorado, Connecticut and Hawaii elect regenerative food and farming champions

We also had a few big wins for regeneration statewide in Colorado, Connecticut and Hawaii.

Coloradans tapped Jared Polis as their next governor. Polis leaves Congress with a great voting record on health, justice and regenerative organic food and farming.

Polis has been a champion for the climate, for labels on foods produced with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), for industrial hemp and raw milk, for animal welfare, for organic food & farming, for pollinators, for integrative health and wellness, and for the regulation of agricultural chemicals.

The new governor of Connecticut will be Ned Lamont. We endorsed Lamont because of his strong plan for protecting the environment, a plan that includes a pledge to protect clean air, water and soil. Lamont has also pledged to ban insecticides that harm bees. He made a promise to:

Protect our farmers and landowners by reviewing commercially available herbicides and pesticides used in the state and determine which ones are significantly harmful, and enacting changes if necessary. For instance, I will look to ban neonicotinoids and save our bees, which are critical to pollination of our crops, orchards and native vegetation across the state.

Dr. Josh Green is Hawaii’s Lieutenant-Governor-Elect. In “Dr. Josh Green's Prescription for a Better Future,” Green’s top-10 list of policies designed to strengthen and support Hawaii families, he includes "stronger pesticide restrictions and GMO labeling."

Could Congress be headed for a #GreenNewDeal?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won New York’s 14th district House seat after a primary victory over the incumbent Congressman, Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley. Crowley was an opponent of consumers’ right to know where food comes from and how it is produced. The Cornucopia Institute gave him a “D” grade for failing to support labels on foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs.)

Based in part on what she told Bon Appétit, we have reason to believe Congresswoman-Elect Ocasio-Cortez will be much better than the average Congress member on food and farming issues:

For Ocasio-Cortez, food is political, and the most tangible indicator of our social inequities. Sure, as living beings we all must eat to survive—and there’s unity in that—but what we eat and how much and where it comes from and what we must do to get it varies widely. “The food industry is the nexus of almost all of the major forces in our politics today,” she says. “It’s super closely linked with climate change and ethics. It’s the nexus of minimum wage fights, of immigration law, of criminal justice reform, of health care debates, of education. You’d be hard-pressed to find a political issue that doesn’t have food implications.”

Ocasio-Cortez is pushing for a #GreenNewDeal that would decarbonize manufacturing, agriculture and other industries, and fund a massive investment in the drawdown of greenhouse gases. Read her proposal for a Select Committee on a Green New Deal. Then, call your Congress members and ask them to endorse this proposal.

In Minnesota, Ilhan Omar won the District 5 House seat vacated by Congressman Keith Ellison who was elected Attorney General. Congresswoman-Elect Omar wants to join the House Agriculture Committee. Representing an urban district, she sees the committee as an opportunity to promote food security for poor communities. Omar was endorsed by Our Revolution Twin Cities, which confirmed through a candidate questionnaire that she would work to:

• Pass legislation that protects Minnesota's pollinators.

• Break up agribusiness.

• Support organic and sustainable agriculture and horticultural practices.

• Eliminate factory farming of livestock.

• Support small-scale farming.

• Increase funding for urban farming.

• Promote good energy and natural resource conservation practices.

• Require composting to be a component of all public and commercial waste disposal

Meanwhile, in New York, Antonio Delgado flipped New York House District 19. Delgado has a great farming and agriculture platform that includes promises to:

• Protect our small and medium-sized farms and the farming industry while also building out the necessary regional infrastructure to ensure that our farmers are able to have access to the $6 billion dollars of unmet demand for local and organically grown food in New York City.

• Conserve and protect our environment, provide access to credit and business training for small rural farms, invest in preparing the next generation of farmers in our community, and fund programs like SNAP and those incentivizing purchases at local farmers markets.

Those are just a few of the CRL-endorsed candidates who won their races. To see all of the 2018 general election candidates we endorsed, and find out how they did in the November elections, please check out Citizen Regeneration Lobby’s candidates page.

Portland, Oregon ballot initiative will raise funds for regenerative ag

Our favorite ballot initiative win happened in Portland, Oregon, where voters approved the Portland Clean Energy Initiative. Portland’s vote proves that localities can take meaningful action to decrease carbon emissions and realize the economic, social and environmental benefits of transitioning away from fossil fuels.

What’s so promising about this initiative (Measure 26-201)? In addition to creating a fund to support clean energy, it also provides funding for “[r]egenerative agriculture and green infrastructure projects that result in the sequestration of greenhouse gases and support sustainable local food production.”

The Portland Clean Energy Initiative makes wealthy corporations pay their fair share for a just transition to clean energy and regenerative agriculture. The measure language states:

Large retail businesses are a significant contributor to carbon emissions. They encourage consumption of heavily packaged and non-recyclable products, have carbon intensive shipping, manufacturing, and supply chain practices, and share responsibility for generating a substantial portion of the City’s overall greenhouse gas emissions when customer traffic and facility operations are considered. These businesses have an inherent responsibility and the financial capacity to support the goals of this Measure, and an incentive to remain in the City to engage in retail activities here.”

As Fast Company put it, “Portland could make big businesses pay to protect communities of color from climate change.” And, it did! Measure 26-201 is the first environmental initiative in history created and led by communities of color, including Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, Coalition of Communities of Color, NAACP Portland Branch 1120, Native American Youth & Family Center, OPAL/Environmental Justice Oregon, and Verde.

In 2017, Portland pledged to transition to 100-percent clean energy by 2050 (electricity from renewable sources by 2035, and all remaining energy from renewables by 2050).

So far, 80 U.S. cities have made similar pledges. That sounds impressive, but as the Institute for Local Self-Reliance reminded us, none of those cities have the “funding sources that will help them reach these goals.”

That changed on November 6, when voters passed the Portland Clean Energy Initiative. The initiative creates a 1-percent business license surcharge on large retail operations with more than $1 billion in previous annual national sales and $500,000 in annual sales within the city of Portland.

The initiative will raise over $30 million annually. According to news reports, a portion of the money would be used for regenerative agriculture projects that sequester greenhouse gases and support local food production.

A significant chunk of the money generated by the Portland Clean Energy Initiative will also be used for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, with a focus on projects that benefit low-income people and communities of color.

To see all of the 2018 candidates and ballot initiatives we endorsed, and find out how they did, check out Citizen Regeneration Lobby’s 2018 elections page.

Were you inspired by any winning candidates or initiatives in the November 2018 elections? Let us know by emailing info@citizensregenerationlobby.org.

Alexis Baden-Mayer is political director for the Organic Consumers Association and its 501(c)(4) lobbying arm, Citizens Regeneration Lobby. Keep up with news on food, agriculture and environment issues by subscribing to OCA’s online newsletter.

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