The Public Deserves Better

By, Tom Colicchio

The food that feeds our families and supports our agriculture industry is affected every day by the decisions that elected officials make in Washington. Members of Congress regularly vote on policies that affect the quality, availability, and sustainability of our food supply. And yet, there has been very little attention to bringing transparency and accountability to that discussion.

As someone who has spent his life in the food business, I firmly believe that when citizens enter the voting booth, they need to be as informed about food policy as they are about a candidate’s views on job creation, foreign policy, and social issues. Unfortunately, in Arkansas right now, we have a classic example of what’s wrong with the political discourse around food in this country.

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, who is running for Senate, released a campaign ad that misleads voters and misconstrues the facts about the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill is a critically important law that shapes food production, determines nutrition assistance, and supports farmers, among other things. Sadly, Rep. Cotton’s ad wrongfully accuses President Obama of “hijacking the farm bill and turning it into a food stamp bill,” which simply isn’t true.

But don’t take my word for it. The Washington Post called the ad’s claims “invented history,” and the non-partisan fact-checker Politifact gave the dubious ad its “Pants On Fire” rating, which is the equivalent of an “F” on a high school report card. The truth is, SNAP (a.k.a. food stamps) first became a part of the Farm Bill during the Great Depression, and has been included in every Farm Bill that has become law since 1973. It has been supported by Members from both sides of the aisle for decades.

Today’s voters deserve better. We’ll never be able to improve food policies in this country if our leaders distort and distract instead of discuss and debate. Voters need information, which is why I co-founded Food Policy Action, a non-partisan organization dedicated to bringing light and accountability to the food debate.

Every year, Food Policy Action puts together a Legislative Scorecard to help voters get the information they need to know exactly how their elected officials vote on these important issues. You can find more information about the scorecard at www.foodpolicyaction.org.

Last year, Rep. Tom Cotton scored a 0% on the Legislative Scorecard. In other words, on every single vote that touched upon sensible food policy, Rep. Cotton voted the wrong way. In light of this score and his blatantly false ad, I know this much to be true: the public deserves better. It’s up to voters to make sure Rep. Cotton gets the message.

Tom Colicchio is Co-Founder of Food Policy Action, a Food Advocate and Chef

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