Time for Real Reform
Witnesses at a House agriculture subcommittee hearing today had various ideas for replacing the discredited “direct payment” farm subsidy system. They ranged from raising crop price guarantees to beefing up revenue and crop insurance programs, and all could cost billions more than current farm programs. Lawmakers shouldn’t swallow these proposals as “reform.”
The hearing came the day after more than 30 House Democrats from California sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee asking for a farm bill that would expand funding for programs that promote local and regional food systems and organic agriculture and support beginning and disadvantaged farmers.
EWG food policy Senior Analyst Kari Hamerschlag has compiled data that shows that despite being home to 12 percent of the U.S. population and generating 12 percent of its agricultural output, California receives less than 5 percent of federal farm bill expenditures.
From 2008 to 2010, farm bill programs spent $39.6 billion on commodity crops such as corn, wheat and soybeans – more than six times as much as on specialty crops such as fruits, vegetables and nuts – even though the commodities’ market value of $320 billion was only twice that of the specialty produce.
The authors of a new Economic Research Service report find that “for all metrics except the price of food energy, healthy foods cost less than less healthy foods (defined for this study as foods that are high in saturated fat, added sugar and/or sodium, or that contribute little to meeting dietary recommendations).”
Agri-Pulse reports that Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) are planning to offer a floor amendment to the Senate farm bill to cap the amount of crop insurance premium subsidies that farmers can receive each year.
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