SAFSF Member Policy in Action: Agua Fund

We are excited to bring back the SAFSF Member Spotlight in our monthly Policy Connection Newsletter, highlighting SAFSF members who are funding food and agriculture policy advocacy at the federal, state, tribal, and/or local levels. Please fill out this Google Form or email SAFSF Policy Associate Maggie Mascarenhas at [email protected] if you are interested in featuring your policy work here. 

Policy Serves Those Who Show Up

by Ann Mills, Executive Director, Agua Fund 

Since its inception, the Agua Fund has supported policy advocacy as a means of advancing the foundation’s mission to protect the natural environment, help the disadvantaged, give voice to the underserved, and promote democratic values and full participation in civic life.  Government policies and budgets have direct impacts – for good or ill – on the communities we care about. The Agua Fund wants to equip our grant partners to have a voice at the table. 

In 2023 policy advocacy has taken on greater urgency. Our grantees see opportunities to build a stronger sustainable food and agriculture system at federal and state levels. They are leveraging their skills to ensure historic levels of federal grant dollars serve communities most in need. And amid threats to our Democracy, partners are elevating their voices to protect the right to vote and defend the rule of law.  

Agua’s commitment to supporting policy advocacy cuts across all our funding priorities because policy and budget decisions impact all our grantees – whether they work in the environmental, social services or the civic engagement arenas. And we regularly reassess how we can provide our grant partners greater flexibility and time to engage and expand their advocacy efforts. To that end, we have increased the number of multi-year and general operating support grants. We have simplified our grant application and reporting process.

We are also looking at ourselves and how Agua can use its voice in the advocacy arena.  One exciting example was our participation in SAFSF’s 2023 Hill Day as part of the Forum this past June. We joined almost 100 other funders to show up in meetings with the US House and Senate. In very full meetings we communicated our commitment to fundamental food and ag policy principles. Collectively these funders invest more than $260M a year in their states and congressional districts. Members and their staff took notice. Agua is also a happy member of the SAFSF Policy Committee, which is actively looking at how to best engage fellow SAFSF members as we define the full range of what it means to support advocacy. Stay tuned.

It is an exciting and urgent time to engage in policy advocacy. Agua is thrilled to be part of SAFSF’s journey as we look at the possibilities for 2024 and beyond.