Finally. Whew. The once snake-bit but now awesome Colorado Food Systems Advisory Council (COFSAC) bill survived the legislative process and will be signed by the Governor on May 31st.
Snake bit? Why? Two years of agony is why. For whatever reason, this non-controversial food system infrastructure building bill, got caught – not once, but twice – in political issues having nothing to do with the bill itself. Those political winds were strong enough to kill the bill – not once, but twice. However, that is the past. In the present, HB1202, the COFSAC bill, passed the Colorado Legislature with bi-partisan support!
Back in 2010, the Colorado Legislature created the Colorado Food System Advisory Council (amid some political controversy) and the Farm to School Task Force. Unfortunately, while they showed some vision in creating these two entities, they didn’t demonstrate enough will to provide any staffing or operational funds for them. Instead, management of the two entities fell to outside groups who either secured grants or otherwise funded some staffing for them. While both entities rang up accomplishments under this structure, it was widely known that institutionalizing support with dedicated staffing and operational costs would greatly increase their reach and capacity. Eventually, the decision was made to combine the two entities in one Council, broaden the Council’s mandate and ability to influence policy, house the new Council within CSU, and dedicate some state funds for operations and staffing. That is what the legislature voted for in HB1202.
HB1202 strengthens our food system infrastructure by bringing together the agency, non-profit, producer, and academic partners necessary to leverage the full potential of Colorado’s food system to strengthen access to healthy foods, while growing economic opportunities for Colorado’s food economies, in every corner of the state. Areas of focus for the Council include:
- connecting Colorado producers to federal food assistance programs which redirects federal dollars to Colorado farmers while increasing access to fresh, healthy foods;
- leveraging the purchasing power of our state’s institutions to create new markets for Colorado producers which, of course, increases access to fresh, healthy foods; and
- supporting the implementation of the strategies outlined in the Blueprint for Colorado Agriculture.
At the beginning of fall (if you assume as I do that fall begins in September), the newly constituted Council will begin its important work on these, and other, issues – with permanent staff support. We were all betting that institutionalized support would enable COFSAC to take Colorado’s agricultural economy and food access to new heights. Now we finally get to find out!