Washington, DC — US Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) has been appointed to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, one of the oldest Senate committees whose jurisdiction focuses on agriculture, nutrition, food, and hunger.
In addition to Booker, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) was also appointed to the committee, marking the first time in history two African-Americans will serve simultaneously on the panel. The pair are only the second and third African-Americans to ever serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in its history.
“Everyone eats, and with agriculture and food policy at the center of its work, the Senate Ag Committee touches everyone’s lives — from the Central Ward of Newark to the middle of the Corn Belt,” said Sen. Booker.
“Our food system is deeply broken. Family farmers are struggling and their farms are disappearing, while big agriculture conglomerates get bigger and enjoy greater profits. Meanwhile, healthy, fresh food is hard to find and even harder to afford in rural and urban communities alike. In the richest country on the planet, over 35 million Americans from every walk of life are food insecure.
“I can’t wait to get to work on this committee building diverse coalitions of stakeholders to begin addressing these urgent issues and making change for the people of this country, of New Jersey, and my neighborhood in Newark.”
In addition to joining the Agriculture Committee, Booker will continue serving on the Senate Judiciary, Foreign Relations, and Small Business committees in 117th Congress.
As Mayor of Newark, Booker witnessed first-hand how our broken food system harmed local residents, as large sections of Newark were essentially “food deserts,” where communities had no access to healthy foods. He was instrumental in helping to bring several supermarkets to the area that helped increase access for Newarkers to healthy foods. He also spearheaded the creation of community gardens and urban farms.
Throughout his time in the Senate, Senator Booker has been an advocate for agriculture and nutrition reform. Most recently, he introduced the Justice for Black Farmers Act to enact policies to end discrimination within the USDA, protect remaining Black farmers from losing their land, provide land grants to create a new generation of Black farmers and restore the land base that has been lost, and implement systemic reforms to help family farmers across the United States.
In 2018 and 2019, Booker introduced the Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act to put an indefinite halt on large agribusiness, food and beverage manufacturing, and grocery retail mergers and acquisitions. Booker also introduced the Farm System Reform Act which would, among other things, strengthen the Packers & Stockyards Act to crack down on the monopolistic practices of multi-national meatpackers and corporate integrators, place a moratorium on large industrial animal operations, sometimes referred to as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), and restore mandatory country-of-origin labeling requirements.
Booker is also the author of the Climate Stewardship Act which would support stewardship practices on more than 100 million acres of farmland by investing tens of billions of dollars through existing voluntary USDA conservation programs to empower family farmers and ranchers to be part of the solution to climate change.
In response to rising food insecurity and supply chain disruptions witnessed during the coronavirus pandemic and stemming from our hyper-consolidated food system, Booker introduced the Local Food Assistance and Resilient Markets (FARM) Act to expand food assistance to vulnerable Americans and increases support for the local and regional food systems that have proven most resilient during the COVID-19 crisis. Booker also introduced the Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act to protect worker, consumer, and animal safety by suspending all current and future USDA waivers and regulations that allow companies to increase production line speeds at meatpacking plants during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, Booker introduced the Food and Nutrition Education in Schools Act with Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) to allocate federal funding for projects that educate students while connecting them to healthy food practices, with a priority given to schools in neighborhoods with high rates of childhood diet-related illnesses and those in which 40 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-priced meals.
Booker introduced the Commodity Checkoff Program Improvement Act with Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) to reform commodity checkoff programs. These programs have received criticism for a lack of transparency, apparent conflicts of interest, misuse of funding, and anticompetitive behavior, all of which harms the family farmers and ranchers who are forced to pay into these programs. Booker and Lee have introduced the bill each session of Congress since 2016.
Booker and Lee also introduced Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) Improvement Act to reform the EQIP program, which provides farmers and ranchers with federal cost-share grants to implement environmentally-beneficial conservation practices on working agricultural lands, in order to better prioritize taxpayer dollars to support the most effective farm conservation practices.