* Audrey Denney is a Democratic candidate in California’s First District for the U.S. House of Representatives.
* She is advocating for both organic and regenerative farming policies.
* Her deep experience in farming and education will help her build consensus on issues of sustainability.
Audrey Denney, a Democrat who is seeking to represent California’s 1st District in the U.S House of Representatives, is a very unusual candidate.
Aside from the fact that she is a true organic advocate and is extremely well-versed in the issues that our industry is facing, Audrey is also running a campaign that has regenerative agriculture as one of its core issues — an absolute rarity among politicians.
Yet, what makes this candidate even more compelling is her experience and ability to get people to understand the importance of sustainability in agriculture and to bring people on board with this approach to farming.
Having grown up on a farm in California, Audrey completed her master’s thesis at California State University at Chico on the perceptions of agricultural sustainability and how to change them. She went on to teach agriculture at California State University at Chico for almost six years and worked on agriculture and agricultural education projects in El Salvador and West Africa.
Currently, Audrey is in her third year as a Senior Learning Designer at Vivayic, designing learning strategy and curriculum for worldwide agricultural companies and non-profits, such as the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the World Bank.
I recently spoke with Audrey Denney, and here is an edited version of our conversation:
It is radical for a politician to be talking about regenerative agriculture or carbon farming. How much of a priority is it in your overall agenda?
Agriculture is the economic backbone of California and my district. If elected, my first choice of a committee to serve on would be an agricultural one. I want to help people, farmers and the environment thrive.
We have a growing population and a sick planet, and agriculture is the best way to mitigate climate change and keep people healthy and safe. People want a real farm policy that benefits everyone.
How has the term ‘regenerative agriculture’ resonated on the campaign trail and do people understand this term?
Organic and regenerative come up often on the campaign trail but mostly when I am speaking with farmers or having discussions about forest health. Conversations often center around how we can regenerate the small towns in our district, and we can accomplish this through investing in regenerative agriculture and forestry, which is ultimately about taking care of people and the planet.
In regards to the term ‘regenerative agriculture’, people are starting to understand it more and more. I usually frame it by saying that traditional agriculture is extractive while regenerative agriculture makes the environment better. This resonates with people, and they seem to understand the concept when it is presented in this manner.
How will you position the need for carbon farming to your fellow politicians, many of whom are supporters of Big Ag — businesses that are based on monocropped GMO soy and GMO corn?
The key is to not tell people that they are wrong. Being polarizing in agriculture is not going to get us to sustainability.
Rather, it is about building a big tent and understanding how to bring people along while simultaneously changing practices.
I always start these conversations with shared common values. What is it that we all want? We all want clean air, clean water, good health, prosperous economies.
Regenerative agriculture and carbon farming are ways to grow profits and increase soil health, and this is what I explain. However, it is critical to show people through experience and real case studies in order to get us to the desired outcomes.
What is your take on the organic industry right now and what would you do to improve its integrity?
Organic needs to be tightened up, and there are many areas to be addressed — the supply chain needs to be cleaned up, we have to deal with adulterated organic certificates and fraudulent imported grains, funding for training needs to be increased, the ports need to be more secure, and organic factory farms are deceiving consumers. We need to dedicate funds to curtail the cheating, which will bolster integrity and consumer confidence.
We should not make the National Organic Program so legalistic. It is too important. And we have to make it easier for small and large consumers to meet the standards.
Overall, we should take the necessary steps to ensure that organic food is produced with the values that consumers expect.
In California’s 1st District, Audrey Denney is running as a Democrat against Republican incumbent Doug LaMalfa in November’s election for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
For more information or to support her campaign, even if you live outside of the state, please visit: audreyforcongress.com
Have a great day!
Max Goldberg, Founder
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* The big thing we are watching is September 30th — the date in which the current farm bill expires. Although negotiations are currently taking place for a new farm bill, it appears quite unlikely that it will be signed by then.
* If it is not signed by then, many of the smaller but very important ag programs, including several organic ones, could be in real limbo. This is because they do not have permanent funding streams.
* According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, programs such the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, Organic Production and Market Data Initiative, and Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program will sunset until funding is renewed.
* As we have written about previously in Organic Insider, the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program is vital for the organic farmers in our industry. Without that in place, we could potentially see a drop-off in the number of U.S. farmers participating in the organic program — something we absolutely cannot afford.
* Retired Navy Seal and NYT best-selling author Jocko Willink has launched his own line of organic white tea.
* An interesting piece on how top chefs in Stockholm are taking sustainability to the next level.
* A new quick-service food concept called Organic Fork has opened in Long Beach, CA.
* Life Alive, a plant-based organic restaurant chain backed by Panera and Au Bon Pain founder Ron Shaich, will open a new location in Boston’s Back Bay.
* Lastly, if you’ll be in NYC this weekend, there is a new documentary — written and produced by Center for Food Safety’s Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell — that you may want to see.
* A Dangerous Idea: Eugenics, Genetics, and the American Dream will be playing at the Cinema Village (22 E. 12th Street in Manhattan) during the week of September 28-October 4th.
* Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Producer and Co-Writer of the film, will be at the following screenings: Friday, Sept 28th at 6:30 PM and 9:00 PM, and Monday, Oct 1st at 6:30 PM. For more information and to watch the trailer, click HERE.