Our primary food production systems in the United States are overly industrialized. Heavy reliance on imported foods, with minimal safety inspections and a huge carbon footprint to transport products around the globe, reduces domestic jobs and saddles consumers with lower quality food. Today, 1 in 6 people in the U.S. are struggling to buy food.
People are asking for real change — for access to better food so they can be healthier, and for the U.S. to create more jobs in sustainable businesses. In response to the public’s growing complaints about our troubled food system and the lack of employment opportunities, our government claims to be exploring ways to boost domestic food production and work options. Unfortunately, most of their plans encourage further industrialization, leading to fewer stable jobs and making food just another assembly-line product.
Recirculating Farms promotes an alternative to this model, one that establishes a healthy, natural, and community-based way to grow fresh food. It is up to us to motivate change and build a movement calling for local, healthy, sustainable food. In doing so, we can create green jobs and food security in every community in the United States. We are therefore actively engaged on a number of critical issues nationwide:
- Raising awareness about recirculating farms
- Increasing public support for growing fresh local food and creating green jobs through building recirculating farms, especially in low-income urban and rural communities
- Calling for federal funding and other support for increased research and development of recirculating farms
- Promoting recirculating farms as an alternative to ocean fin fish farming
- Advocating for the United States Department of Agriculture to label fish grown in recirculating farms as organic, if they move forward with organic labeling standards for seafood
- Establishing clear standards for permitting, monitoring, labeling and operation
Research And Training
- Developing educational materials and programs to teach recirculating farming
- Building a model farm (our own Growing Local NOLA!)
- Supporting research into alternative natural feed sources for farmed fish to replace the use of wild fish for protein
Nationwide we work on legislation and individual campaigns with agencies to promote sustainable agriculture and fair farming laws and policies.
- Preventing Ocean Aquaculture – Since the 1980s, federal fisheries managers have been pushing development of open water finfish aquaculture – growing carnivorous finfish in giant floating net pens/cages in U.S. ocean and Gulf waters. There has been much public opposition to this practice, due to problems with pollution and escapes of farmed fish into natural waters, altering wild fish populations, harming other marine wildlife and creating conflicts for fishing communities. The reauthorization every few years of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the main federal law about fish and fishing, creates an opportunity to include language that could prevent or allow ocean fish farms in U.S. waters. We are working to once and for all stop this harmful, outdated and unnecessary industry. Check out the collaborative group we jointly initiated with other partners to learn more about this project.
- Farm Bill – Like the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Farm Bill regularly comes up for reauthorization. This important piece of legislation controls all things farming – but also many food related matters too, such as SNAP (aka “food stamps”) and also school food. We are working with partner organizations to make sure food assistance programs are well funded, urban and recirculating farms have access to support and grants just like other farms, and that school food is healthy and affordable for everyone. We had a big win in 2019, when a new Department of Urban and Innovative Agriculture was added to the new Farm Bill that included funding and other support for a wide range of agriculture programs, including recirculating farms!
Local / Regional
- Velella Epsilon fish farm project Florida – Federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) have been been reviewing permits for a ‘pilot’ commercial open water aquaculture project off the west coast of Florida, near Sarasota for a number of years (some permits have been issued). Several government agencies have provided funding to the project, without adequate environmental assessments. Florida has been experiencing an increase in dangerous and deadly harmful algal bloom events where thousands of sea turtles, fish, manatees and even a whale shark have died, as well as widespread coral die-off. The project could increase pollution, further harming water quality and marine habitats. Write to us for more information or to help protect the Gulf of Mexico from ocean fish farming.
- Menhaden – Menhaden are one of the most important fish – they are the base of the food chain for many seabirds, larger fish and other marine life. They also help improve water quality as they act as tiny filters — when they eat they take in water, eat particles and expel clean water. These tiny fish are taken by the millions each year from Gulf waters. There is no limit on how many may be caught each year. Also the catch method is damaging to our marine wildlife and other fisheries — spotter planes find giant schools of menhaden and then boats are deployed with large nets to encircle the entire school. This traps not only all the fish, but also any marine wildlife, like sharks and dolphins, in the nets. We are requesting an annual catch cap on how many menhaden may be taken each year in the Gulf of Mexico to maintain a healthy population and reduce the death of other marine wildlife caught in the nets.
- Land access in New Orleans - urban farming is on the rise nationwide and New Orleans is becoming a leader. We have dozens of urban farms and community gardens, but all suffer from the same challenge – having stable access to space. Many farms have closed or been forced to relocate, even multiple times after having put in time and resources to develop good soil and community participation. We are working with the City Council, New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) and other organizations to create ways to transfer blighted and abandoned land to farmers.
- Green Roofs Initiative - Urban farms in New Orleans and elsewhere are providing fresh, healthy local food, green space and new job opportunities. But having stable access to good space is a real challenge. Since property is at a premium in New Orleans, like in many cities, we are working to create new spaces – on top of buildings for farmers. We are working to promote incentives that give property owners a reduced tax bill if they have a “green” roof. Ideally farmers could use rooftop space for growing and building owners would be more willing to offer their rooftops to benefit from the tax reduction. Sign the petition for green roofs here!
- Farming regulations in New Orleans – The City of New Orleans rewrote their Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO). In doing so, this changed some regulations related to local farms, creating some challenges in growing and distributing fresh local food. We are working with local farmers and others to make changes to the CZO that support and enhance urban growing in New Orleans.