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!
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 see one story of how our advocacy has changed lives and enabled thousands of homemade food businesses! If you like what you read, please join us today!
For the next 24 hours, we have a $500 matching grant opportunity from a generous supporter, Brian Hicks! All donations made TODAY (5/16) will be matched up to $500. Give now to double your impact and help us reach our $60,000 goal!Read more
By Subin Varghese for P2P Foundation
Step 1. Start now
Don’t wait. That’s rule #1 for living in a world where we’re already feeling the impacts of climate change; millions of lives and livelihoods are at risk — or stand to benefit from solutions — in this and future decades. We needed a just transition of our energy economy yesterday. And while there are challenges to universal access and equitably shared benefits from clean energy, there are steps we can take today to start building projects, jobs, and improved health in local communities.Read more
We're in the middle of our fundraising drive! Throughout this month, we're sharing four stories of how our work is making an impact and building more just, resilient communities. For current members and donors, this is a way for us to share how your support is making a difference. Read about our work with the People of Color Sustainable Housing Network below and join us today.Read more
I drew you a cartoon, because you’ve probably had days like this lately:
By Van Dell and Chris Tittle, Sustainable Economies Law Center staff
On a warm spring day at the end of April, Sustainable Economies Law Center and Qilombo/Afrikatown hosted an Afrikatown District Tour and Land Liberation Strategy Session as part of an ongoing effort to build solidarity and develop cooperative responses to Oakland's displacement crisis. A diverse group of community organizers, neighbors, funders, lawyers, and comrades gathered in the Afrikatown Community Garden to share visions for community self-determination and introduce our respective work. It quickly became a space for cultivating new relationships and rooting ourselves in the social and material ecology of Afrikatown’s particular project to liberate land for community need.Read more
By Subin Varghese, Community Renewable Energy Director
Step 1. Start now.
Don’t wait. That's rule #1 for living in a world where we're already feeling the impacts of climate change; millions of lives and livelihoods are at risk -- or stand to benefit from solutions -- in this and future decades. We needed a just transition of our energy economy yesterday. And while there are challenges to universal access and equitably shared benefits from clean energy, there are steps we can take today to start building projects, jobs, and improved health in local communities.
The Sustainable Economies Law Center is pleased to welcome a new volunteer, Camille Stough, who will be working with us part time for the next six months, focusing on our Community Compost Law & Policy Project and on developing resources to support our Legal Cafe clients.Read more
A little-known fact about Sustainable Economies Law Center: We have a project focused on Community Compost Law & Policy. Like many of our projects, it developed in direct response to a need that surfaced repeatedly for our clients and collaborators. Making soil is a legally complex matter, and community-based compost organizations and urban farms have been hitting legal barriers that sometimes make their work impossible.
The fate of a banana peel can illustrate this. Different regulatory frameworks apply when the peel is:
- picked up from a restaurant or residence (local waste collection laws);
- transported in a vehicle (state and local laws);
- dropped at an intermediate location (state transfer laws and local zoning laws);
- taken to a composting facility (state compost facility licensing laws, environmental laws, and zoning laws);
- rotting (ongoing reporting requirements by the compost facility);
- bagged up for sale (testing and labeling laws); and
- sold (special sales tax rules sometimes apply).
Those are a lot of legal considerations for a decomposition process that nature has traditionally managed without any guidance whatsoever!
Compost is a hot topic now, mainly because compost can save the earth! Or, at the very least, it can greatly enhance our ability to sequester carbon. Also, many states now have legislated mandates to systematically divert organic waste from landfills. In California, this requires that we scale our composting infrastructure rapidly. One legislative analyst estimated that more than 14,000 jobs could be created by such a mandate.
We have only a short window of time to influence the shape of the nascent compost industry. Will large corporations build massive compost facilities and seek exclusive rights to manage our communities’ green waste? Or can we act now to create a decentralized, community-based composting sector that will create rich soil, fertile local gardens and farms, educational opportunities, and good jobs? Law and policy play a significant role in answering that question, which is why the Law Center has gotten involved.
Over the past two years, volunteers have helped us research compost law, draft policy recommendations, pitch legislative proposals in California, and provide legal advice to community-based compost organizations. Now, we are collaborating with a loose coalition of California-based compost organizations to explore advocacy routes. If we can raise sufficient funds, we’ll likely expand to do this work nationally.
We've also been working with wonderful law students and Berkeley Law School's Environmental Law Clinic to produce a draft brief for policymakers on ways to advocate for community composting. We are currently working to revise and expand this brief. In the meantime, we've inspired law students to draw cartoons about compost law. Here is a bewildered banana peel on its way to a community compost center. True story!
By Jason Spicer for CoLab Radio
Excerpt: The “New Economy” label is used by a rising generation seeking to promote economic democracy, and build an economy which achieves the three e’s of the famed “urban planner’s triangle”: environmental sustainability, social equity, and economic development. For those interested in actionable, place-based strategies towards this end, the San Francisco Bay Area is currently a hotbed of activity, featuring a rich ecosystem of worker cooperatives, employee-owned firms, support and advocacy organizations, and local government initiatives, making it an exciting case study for those in other city-regions. What can those seeking to grow a “New Economy” learn from the Bay Area?Read more