Food Tank, in partnership with American University, is hosting the 2nd Annual Food Tank Summit in Washington, D.C. on April 20–21, 2016.
This two-day event will feature more than 75 different speakers from the food and agriculture field. Researchers, farmers, chefs, policymakers, government officials, and students will come together for panels on topics including food waste, urban agriculture, family farmers, farm workers, and more.
Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Jason Huffman, the Agriculture and Trade Editor for POLITICO Pro, who will be speaking at the summit.
Food Tank (FT): What inspired you to get involved in food and agriculture?
Jason Huffman (JH): I should say that I was inspired to get into food and agriculture because of my experiences as a youth working in my grandfather’s and uncles’ hay and straw businesses. But those experiences actually had the opposite effect on me. That was hard, grueling labor. I was really motivated to become a food and agriculture policy journalist as a result of my experience editing Food Chemical News, a food policy newsletter, starting in 2008. I discovered that food and agriculture policy is the most interesting and involved of all policy topics. Food is the largest and most regulated industry in the world. It’s a dream for a policy journalist to cover.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
JH: I believe there are many opportunities to improve the food system, but I think we are on the cusp of making great strides at improving the safety of imported foods. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has rolled out some big new initiatives as part of its effort to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act, but the agency is going to need a lot of funding support and backbone to keep moving forward.
FT: What innovations in agriculture and the food system are you most excited about?
JH: I am excited by the red-hot popularity of organic food and the growing popularity of sustainable farming. I hope it continues.
FT: Can you share a story about a food hero that inspired you?
JH: So many of the stories we write in POLITICO are about political conflict. So, if I identify one of the characters we’ve featured as a hero, I am sure to hear that I have taken a side. Regardless, I have to give Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack some credit. For seven years—a marathon for any cabinet member—he has done his best to champion the causes of an administration that seeks to improve the nutritional qualities of what Americans eat, children in particular, and the environmental approach we take to the land, while simultaneously having to promote the powerful United States agriculture industry. We’ve been tough on the US Department of Agriculture in our reporting, too. So, if I ever have a dream that I am Tom Vilsack, please wake me up right away.
FT: What drives you every day to fight for the bettering of our food system?
JH: My job is to provide accurate information about what’s happening or about to happen in food policy in the best and fastest way possible. My goal is not to improve the food system, but to inform others who might. Being able to contribute reliable information in a helpful way is what drives me.
FT: What’s the biggest problem within the food system our parents and grandparents didn’t have to deal with?
JH: My grandfather was a hay and straw farmer, as I mentioned, so I sometimes imagine what he would think about the food system today. If he worried about things—though he was not much of a worrier—he would probably be concerned about how it’s almost impossible for a family to start and/or maintain a small farming operation today, much less talk a young person into continuing to run such an operation.
FT: What’s the first, most pressing issue you’d like to see solved within the food system?
JH: The safety of imported foods. I think it’s achievable.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
JH: Educate yourself more about where your food comes from, but consider the motivation and knowledge base of all sources. It’s incredibly interesting, it will change what you eat, and you can help to drive agriculture in positive directions by your future purchases.
FT: What’s one issue within the food system you’d like to see completely solved for the next generation?
JH: I’d like to see more attention paid by the federal government to helping pave the way for future farmers and to generate more interest in farming. Farming should be thought of as heroic and something to aspire to be.
FT: What agricultural issue would you like for the next president of the U.S. to immediately address?
JH: The next president is absolutely going to have to focus on climate change and, most immediately, how we manage our use of water in agriculture. We’re past crisis. California is our top producing agriculture state and it’s really heading toward an apocalyptic state of affairs.
Interested participants who cannot join can also sign up for the livestream HERE.
Want to become a sponsor of the Food Tank Summit? Please click HERE.
Want to suggest a speaker for one of the Summits? Please click HERE.
Want to watch videos from last year’s Food Tank Summit? Please click HERE.
Sponsors for this year’s Food Tank Summit in Washington, D.C. include: Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition, Chaia DC, Chipotle, Clif Bar, D.C. Government, Driscoll’s, Edible DC, Elevation Burger, Fair Trade USA, Food and Environment Reporting Network, Global Environmental Politics Program of the School of International Service, Greener Media, Inter Press Service, Leafware, Niman Ranch, Organic Valley, Panera Bread, and VegFund.
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