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Nation’s Top Chefs, Food and Nutrition Experts Call on Congress to Fix House Farm Bill

Nation’s Top Chefs, Food and Nutrition Experts Call on Congress to Fix House Farm Bill

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

This letter was initiated by Kari Hamerschlag of Environmental Working Group and authors Anna Lappé and Dan Imhoff out of frustration that the House Agriculture Committee slashes $16 billion in nutrition assistance and $6.1 billion from conservation programs while spending $36 billion on new farm subsidies and failing to include meaningful reforms to the costly federal crop insurance program.

Now is our chance to turn the farm bill into a healthier food bill, but we need you to stand with us.

Join EWG, Chef Mario Batali, author Michael Pollan and more than 60 of the nation's food and health leaders in urging Congress to cut insurance subsidies and redirect that money into vital investments in nutrition, healthy food and conservation programs.

Click here to take action right now - before the House votes on the 2012 farm bill.

July 25, 2012

An Open Letter to Members of the House of Representatives:

With the 2008 farm bill set to expire in a matter of months, the House Agriculture Committee has recently approved a new version of the bill that would steer the next five years of national food and agriculture policy in the wrong direction. We urge you to vote a resounding “no” should this legislation come to a House floor vote, unless the bill is extensively rewritten through the amendment process.

There is little reform to be found in the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012. The House did retain some of the Senate bill’s positive elements, including programs that scale up local production and distribution of healthy foods and bolster marketing and research for fruit, nut and vegetable farmers. On the whole, however, this is a huge step backward in almost every other regard. Making $16.1 billion in cuts to food assistance during such dire times for so many Americans is unacceptable. We also strongly oppose the $6.1 billion in cuts to conservation programs and the elimination of the Organic Certification Cost Share Program.

We are deeply concerned that the bill would continue to give away tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to the largest commodity crop growers, insurance companies, and agribusinesses while drastically underfunding programs to protect natural resources, invest in beginning and disadvantaged farmers, revitalize local food economies, and promote health and food security. This would come primarily in the form of high target prices for commodity crops and unlimited crop insurance premium subsidies to industrial-scale growers who can well afford to pay more of their risk management costs. By failing to enact key reforms such as payment limits and means testing, the House bill would ensure that unlimited subsidies to mega-farms continue to drive small family farmers out of business.

The House further failed to enact the Senate approved conservation compliance provisions in the $9 billion-a-year crop insurance program. This would require growers collecting insurance premium subsidies to take simple measures to protect wetlands, grassland, and soil. Without basic conservation standards, growers can plow up marginal areas and intensify fencerow-to-fencerow cultivation of environmentally sensitive land and still gain unlimited government support, erasing decades of conservation gains. Crop insurance programs must also be reformed to work better for diversified and organic farmers, and ensure conservation compliance and comprehensive payment caps or income eligibility requirements.

Outside of the food stamp program, most of the benefits from the farm bill would flow to the producers of five big commodity crops (corn, soy, cotton, rice and wheat). The bill continues to spend nearly eight times more on these crops than on healthy fruits, nuts and vegetables. Meanwhile, millions of consumers lack access to affordable fruits and vegetables. Fewer than five percent of adults currently meet the USDA’s daily nutrition guidelines. Partly as a result, the nation is suffering from an epidemic of chronic diseases, including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, while diet related health care costs from these illnesses are rising to an estimated
$70 billion a year.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Modest reforms to crop insurance subsidies to large farms and insurance companies could save more than $20 billion. Congress should use these savings to provide full funding for conservation and nutrition assistance programs and strengthen initiatives that support local and healthy food, organic agriculture and beginning and disadvantaged farmers. These investments could save billions in the long run by protecting valuable water and soil resources, creating jobs and supporting foods necessary for a healthy and balanced diet.

Other provisions in the House bill roll back fundamental regulatory and constitutional protections. One dangerous section would gut common-sense rules that protect water quality and wildlife from agricultural pesticides. Another would essentially exempt GMO crops from meaningful environmental review and federal oversight, creating multiple “backdoor approval” mechanisms for untested crops. Yet one more seeks to prevent states from setting their own standards for farm and food production. The bill also strikes important fair competition and contract reforms for livestock producers from the 2008 Farm Bill. All of these provisions must be dropped.

We urge you to demand that House leadership give you a chance to make your voice heard to create much needed food and agricultural policy reforms. When it is your turn to vote, we urge you support amendments that eliminate the dangerous extraneous provisions, support local, healthy and organic food, provide full funding for nutrition programs and enact fiscally responsible reforms to crop insurance and commodity programs. More than ever before, the public demands this. Come November, they will be giving their votes to members of Congress who supported a healthy food and farm bill that puts the interests of taxpayers, citizens and the vast majority of America’s farmers first and foremost.

Our nation was built on the principles of protecting our greatest legacy: the land on which we grow our food and feed our families. Stand with us to protect not only family farmers, without whom we would all go hungry, but to enact a food and farm bill that fairly and judiciously serves the interests of all Americans.

Sincerely,

Leigh Adcock
Executive Director, Women, Food and Agriculture Network

Will Allen
Farmer, Founder, CEO of Growing Power

Dan Barber
Executive Chef and Co-owner Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Mario Batali
Chef, Author, Entrepreneur

Fedele Bauccio
CEO, Bon Appetit Management Company

Jo Ann Baumgartner
Wild Farm Alliance

Andy Bellatti, MS, RD
Andy Bellatti Nutrition

Wendell Berry
Lane's Landing Farm

Haven Bourque
Founder, HavenBMedia

Christopher Cook
Author of Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis

Ann Cooper
Chef and Founder, Food Family Farming Foundation

Ken Cook
President and Co-founder, Environmental Working Group

Ronnie Cummins
Founder and Director, Organic Consumers Association

Laurie David
Author, Family Dinner

Michael R. Dimock
President, Roots of Change

Christopher Elam
Executive Director, INFORM

Andy Fisher
Co-founder and founding Executive Director, Community
Food Security Coalition

Joan Dye Gussow
Grower, Author, Professor Emerita Teachers College, Columbia University

Gale Gand
Author, Chef-in-Residence-Elawa Farm and Partner, Tru Restaurant

Melinda Hemmelgarn, MS, RD
Food Sleuth Radio

Gary Hirshberg
Co-founder and Chairman, Stonyfield

Mark Hyman, MD
Chairman, The Institute for Functional Medicine

John Ikerd
Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics, University of Missouri

Dan Imhoff
Author, Food Fight: The Citizen’s Guide to the Next Food and Farm Bill

Wes Jackson
President, The Land Institute

Michael Jacobson
Executive Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest

Robert Kenner
Director, Food Inc.

Navina Khanna
Co-founder and Field Director, Live Real

Andrew Kimbrell
Executive Director, Center for Food Safety

Fred Kirschenmann
Author and President, Kirschenmann Family Farms

Ashley Koff, RD
Author, Mom Energy and Founder, Ashley Koff Approved

Harvey Karp, MD
Author, The Happiest Baby on the Block

Melissa Kogut
Executive Director, Chefs Collaborative

Fredi Kronenberg, PhD
Consulting Professor, Stanford University School of Medicine

Elizabeth Kucinich
Dir. of Government Affairs, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Anna Lappé
Author, Diet for a Hot Planet, Cofounder, Small Planet Institute

George Manalo-LeClair
Executive Director, California Food Policy Advocates

Bill McKibben
Author, Deep Economy

Liz McMullan
Executive Director, Jamie Oliver Food Foundation

Craig McNamara
President Sierra Orchards and Center for Land-Based Learning

Frances Moore Lappé
Co-founder, Small Planet Institute

Dave Murphy and Lisa Stokke
Food Democracy Now!

Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Director for Public Witness, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)

Marion Nestle
Professor, NYU and Author, Food Politics

Nicolette Hahn Niman
Rancher, Author, Attorney

Denise O'Brien
Co-founder, Women, Food and Agriculture Network; organic farmer,

Robyn O'Brien
Executive Director, AllergyKids Foundation

Michael Pollan
Professor, UC Berkeley School of Journalism

Nora Pouillon
Chef, Author, Owner of Restaurant Nora

LaDonna Redmond
Food Justice Advocate and Food and Community Fellow

John Robbins
Author, Diet For A New America, The Food Revolution, and No Happy Cows

Ocean Robbins
Host, Food Revolution Network

Eric Schlosser
Author, Fast Food Nation

Jim Slama
President, FamilyFarmed.org

Alli Sosna
Chef and Founder, Pine Benefit Corporation and MicroGreens

Matthew Scully
Author, Dominion

Michele Simon
President, Eat Drink Politics

Jim Slama
President, FamilyFarmed.org

Naomi Starkman
Founder, Editor-in-chief, Civil Eats

Anim Steel
Real Food Challenge

Josh Viertel
Former President, Slow Food USA

Andrew Weil, MD
Founder and Director, Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine

Tom and Denesse Willey
T&D Willey Farms

Mark Winne
Mark Winne Associates