Photo: Rick Hood and Shane Emmett, of Health Warrior, encouraging customers to call our Senators to vote NO to the GMO Compromise Bill. Date: July 5th, 2016
A community’s dollars should be used to support its own people, with particular focus on the areas of food. If we want the majority of people to receive the maximum return on their community’s investment, then small food businesses must be strengthened at every turn. Minority and women ownership should be prioritized to level the playing field. Bigger businesses should be supported in their efforts to transition to employee ownership and to accept anti-trust regulation.
Here are nine ways to start this shift:
Promote grants/incentives around food hubs. Use incentive dollars from grants, release from payment of business licensing fees to back local food hubs and other networks that are focused on place, health, and equity. These systems of support for locally owned businesses nurture local supply chains, enable peers to support each other, set up forums for candidates to address food policy, and foster the kind of collaboration necessary to make local food distribution viable or renewable energy locally affordable.
Use city contracts to increase purchases of good food. Local, healthy, fairly produced, humanely raised, and sustainably grown. An example would be requiring antibiotic free chicken. Re-direct corporate subsidies to organizations that provide technical assistance to micro enterprises. The Association for Enterprise Opportunity has shown that if just one in three microenterprises was strengthened to hire a single employee, the United States would be at full employment.
Allow small food businesses to farm community garden plots through contracts. Invest in shared infrastructure for local “economies of scale.” For example, a foundation might invest in a local grain mill, providing needed processing that would encourage the resurgence of local grain farmers in Richmond.
Set asides for community land. Require a community garden in Richmond to be in every 5 + acre park. Agricultural and community land trusts preserve affordability for residents, farmers, and local business owners in contrast to speculative gentrification. Land banks to bring vacant and blighted lots under the control of the public authority to redevelop the land for productive uses.
Support the creation of worker-owned businesses, and support larger businesses, particularly those going through founder transitions, to become employee owned through ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Plans), voting incentives and tax. Shared equity can be been a powerful engine.
Limit the saturation of unhealthy fast food options and encourage small local food businesses to level the playing field. Possible initiatives are taxing soda beverages and voting for zoning restrictions that prevent fast food companies from locating in neighborhoods. Another is to exclude national chains from districts emphasizing independent retailers.
Sustainability & Ecological Awards: Encourage government agencies to establish sustainability and ecological awards for small food businesses.
Support stronger anti-trust regulation to stop anti-competitive actions of large corporations. Tax small business at a lower rate than large corporations.
Environmental impacts of industrial livestock agriculture: Encourage policy makers to demand more accountability and bring about more effective regulation of industrial livestock agriculture, which does not pay their costs fairly for the environmental externalities of their operations. Local livestock production, which more often protects its landscape and natural resources, will therefore be on a more level playing field and more competitive.
Economic development tax breaks: Support legislation to cap the dollar value of the economic development tax breaks that large companies are eligible to receive.
Credit Card and swipe fees: Independent retailers are disadvantaged with two credit card companies dominating the market with no leverage to negotiate better terms. Cap credit and swipe fees, as the European Union, Australia, and other countries have done.
High Cost of Health Insurance: Unfair advantages on the part of large competitors allow the to secure better pricing and terms from insurance suppliers. Support more rigorous enforcement of anti-trust laws in this area.
Amazon: Advocate for its break up or regulate its platform as a "common carrier" similar to how we treat railroad companies and other firms that control essential transportation and communication infrastructure.
Reduce Regulatory Red Tape. A few national initiatives that would be helpful are:
Strengthen antitrust laws.
Loosen copyright and patent laws.
Reduce unreasonable occupational licensing that creates difficulty for startups.
Reduce or remove unnecessary regulations of small food businesses that create financial burdens.
Conservation Programs: Encourage state government plans to spend money to create a conservation easement. Pay farmers development value of their land to continue to grow and require deed restrictions to for future development.
Tighten the regulations of the Small Business Administration to prevent large corporations from using so much of its funds for non small business activity.
Strengthen laws to prevent the exploitation of farm workers.
Allow municipalities to regulate food production over the states: Local food ordinances vs. State allow for more food sovereignty. It makes it easier for people to buy raw and organic foods locally, like raw milk, and makes it possible for farmers to sell these products without going through a state inspections process.
We need a people’s food plan and it must have health, the environment and justice at its heart.
Locally owned businesses play a central role in healthy communities, and are among the best engines that cities and towns have for advancing economic opportunity. The presence of locally owned businesses is linked to higher rates of job creation, less income inequality, and stronger social networks. Unfortunately, in many communities, small businesses are disappearing. It appears to have become much harder to launch one. In many cases, it’s because public policy and concentrated market power are working against them. Misguided zoning policies, soaring real estate costs, and financing terms that incentivize landlords to rent to chains are making it harder for local businesses to find suitable space.