Policy Plate: New Farm Bill Version Not Much Improvement
The latest edition of the federal farm bill, a 1,000-page tome that Congress produces every five years, continues an unbroken string of laws that would pour taxpayers’ money into a system that helps big farms get bigger, gluts the market with starches, sweeteners and fats — adding significantly to the girth of the average American — and does little to encourage cultivation or consumption of foods that are better for you, in ways that are better for the Earth.
Some of America’s biggest names in sustainable food came together today to get wonky and urge Congress to rejigger its priorities on the upcoming 2012 Farm Bill.” Such food luminaries as Alice Waters, Mario Batali, Michael Pollan, Dan Barber, Food Inc. film director Robert Kenner, New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle and Dr. Andrew Weil were among the 70 signers to the open letter asking legislators to “reinvest federal farm and crop insurance subsidy dollars into programs that feed the hungry, protect the environment and promote the consumption of local, organic and healthy food.
The Chicago Tribune’s Editorial Board recently editorialized on the subject offering similar sentiments.
Progressive Farmer editor Chris Clayton referenced the same letter in his farm bill reporting:
Further, the group of food luminaries, spearheaded by the Environmental Working Group, continued to criticize insurance premiums as a critical hole in the Senate Agriculture Committee's argument regarding reforms in the farm bill. The letter called the safety net "an extravagant entitlement for affluent landowners and insurance companies.
- EWG agriculture analyst David DeGennaro exposes the fallacy that southern commodity crop growers are getting the short end of the stick in farm bill proposals in a piece titled Southern Discomfort.
- The Rochester, MN Post Bulletin reports, “Dan Arndt, Steele County Soil and Water Conservation District manager, said some of the worst erosion he’s ever seen has occurred along Minnesota Highway 60 east and west of Faribault. In some cases, soil was two feet deep in ditches.”
- Dan Wilcox, outdoors columnist for Wisconsin’s New Richmond News writes:
“Federal subsidies for commodity crops, making ethanol from corn, and reduction in land in the Conservation Reserve Program have greatly expanded the area planted in row crops. Increased prices for corn and soybeans have farmers plowing up extensive areas of grasslands and highly erodible land and growing row crops year after year instead of rotating row crops with hay and other types of perennial cover. The result is ugly and irresponsible.”
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