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New Mexican Faith and Farming Groups Spotlight Opportunities for Fairness in the Food System

— March 20, 2024

Albuquerque event featured perspectives on food system challenges from farmers, advocates, and mental health professionals.

Albuquerque, NM — New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light Sacred Lands Committee, First Congregational UCC ABQ Green Justice Team, and Farm to Table New Mexico hosted an event at the First Congregational United Church of Christ ABQ uplifting the voices of those at the center of our food systems in New Mexico and beyond.

At the event, titled Our Sacred Lands: Food, Farming and Fairness, attendees learned about the multi-faceted challenges facing farmers and ranchers — from mental health to local challenges and opportunities to national legislation such as the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act (S.557, H.R.1249).

The panelists included Alan Brauer of Indigenous Farm Hub, Pam Roy of Farm to Table New Mexico, and Desiree Woodland of the Suicide Prevention Group. They shared the joys and challenges of independent and small farming and ranching in New Mexico and the need to “level the playing field” for farmers and ranchers.

That includes reforms to the federal checkoff program that farmers and ranchers of 22 commodities must pay in to. New Mexico rancher and R-CALF USA board member Cash Carruth of Bloomfield, NM, said the checkoff program is “killing independent ranchers” and the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act is needed to achieve fairness in the ranching system.

Image of cattle on a ranch
Cattle on a ranch; image courtesy of Famartin via Wikimedia Commons,

Panelist Sarah Carden of Farm Action Fund spoke about how to bring more awareness to these challenges, and provided meaningful ways to advocate for those tending our food systems. “Passing the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act in the next Farm Bill is the best action Congress can take to level the playing field for farmers and ranchers,” said Carden. “The OFF Act’s common sense safeguards would restore checkoff programs to their original research and marketing purpose, instead of padding the pockets of big ag lobbying organizations. Farm Action Fund is proud to have joined with leaders in New Mexico to convene yesterday’s important gathering with farmers, ranchers, and advocates.”

Event organizer Rev. Clara Sims, Assoc. Minister at the First Congregational UCC and Assistant Executive Director of NM IPL, said, “This event uplifted just how difficult, and meaningful it is, to be a small farmer or rancher and why reforms like the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act are badly needed to achieve greater fairness and support for NM farmers and ranchers. Food is at the heart of justice. We need to better support these people who are integral to all our lives and well-being.

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