By Janelle Orsi, Executive Director //
What would it take for you to pull your retirement savings out of Wall Street and invest it in things that enrich your local community? Could you invest your IRA or 401(k) in, say, a local farm, solar cooperative, worker cooperative, or housing cooperative?
These questions are so worthy of answers that 15 volunteers and staff of Sustainable Economies Law Center gathered last year for a day at the law library to imagine and design a cooperative that would enable everyday people to direct their retirement savings into local investments. We sought to understand the applicable financial and tax regulations and assess the possibility that ordinary people could come together and form the required custodial entities to enable self-directed IRAs for themselves and their communities. Our key takeaways were: 1) It would be challenging, but not impossible; and 2) There’s so much we can do in the meantime!Read more
By Neil Thapar, Food and Farmland Attorney //
The first part of this blog introduced the most recent iteration of domestic land grabs, by way of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). These investment schemes threaten an equitable and sustainable future for farmland ownership and stewardship by prioritizing profits, commodifying land as a financial asset, and consolidating ownership with absentee-landlords. As the farmland REIT sector grows, Sustainable Economies Law Center is busy researching and piloting alternative models of farmland ownership that prioritize racial equity, ecological sustainability, and long-term stewardship. While consolidation, characterized most recently by REITs, represents the history of farmland ownership, we see the democratic, cooperative, and community-controlled models below as the future.Read more
By Neil Thapar, Food and Farmland Attorney //
If you don’t follow investment trends, you may not know that one of the hottest investment opportunities in recent years is land, specifically farmland. Many investors, weary of investing in the stock market in a post-Great Recession era, are seeking alternative, stable investment opportunities. Farmland values have historically increased at a steady rate. As an added bonus, investors can also profit from whatever agricultural activities take place on the land. The flood of investment over the last several years means that agricultural land itself is being treated more and more like a profitable financial asset, instead of a productive natural resource. In a decade where both the average value of farmland and age of farmers have hit all-time highs, increased Wall Street ownership of farmland threatens a just transition by furthering principles of profit maximization, financialization of land, and absentee ownership.Read more
By Christina Oatfield, Policy Director
We recently learned that AB 626, the currently pending California homemade food bill, has stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, meaning that no more votes will happen this year. The committee will resume consideration of the bill in January.Read more
By Christina Oatfield, Sustainable Economies Law Center Policy Director
I just stumbled upon an opinion piece by Adam Calo in the San Francisco Chronicle from several months back, which describes the crisis of farmland access and ownership facing beginning farmers. It very poignantly calls on farmers and eaters to engage in policy, specifically around farmland ownership and lack of access to farmland on reasonable lease terms for beginning farmers.Read more
70 Experts (Including our Food & Farm Attorney, Neil Thapar) Share Their Best Advocacy Planning, Strategy, Skills and Training Tips
Our Food & Farm Attorney, Neil Thapar, shared this tip on advocacy in this list complied by CQ Roll Call:
As a lawyer, I’ve missed out on training as an organizer. I’m always looking out for opportunities to better understand social change theory and organizing strategy to better understand how I can more effectively be an advocate. With apologies for the sports metaphor, advocacy is a team sport – so the more effective I am at bringing people onto my team, the more successful I will be. – Neil Thapar, Food and Farm Attorney, Sustainable Economies Law CenterRead more
May marks our annual People Powered Economies membership campaign. During the month of May, we're sharing stories about how our work at the Sustainable Economies Law Center is building more just, resilient communities. If you ever wondered how your donations were making an impact or why you should become a supporter of our work, read on to learn about our partnership with Prospera building resources for immigrant-owned cooperatives! If you like what you read, please join us today!