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Nation’s Top Chefs, Food and Nutrition Experts Denounce Flawed House Farm Bill

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(202) 667-6982
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For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Washington, D.C. – More than 60 leading chefs, authors, food and agriculture policy and nutrition experts, business leaders and environment and health organizations have sent an open letter to Capitol Hill objecting that the House agriculture committee’s proposed farm bill would “steer the next five years of national food and farm policy in the wrong direction.”

The notable signatories urged lawmakers “to vote a resounding ‘no’ should the legislation come to a House floor vote [before the August recess], unless the bill is extensively rewritten through the amendment process.”

Signers include Chefs Mario Batali and Ann Cooper, Food Inc. film director Robert Kenner, authors Michael Pollan and Laurie David, New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle, pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp and medical expert Dr. Andrew Weil.

“The House bill will leave millions of people without enough food to eat, help fewer farmers and contribute to the loss of millions of acres of wetlands and grasslands,” said Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group. “Meanwhile the cost of crop insurance is poised to set another record---at the expense of the American taxpayer.”

You can read the full letter and list of signers here.

Kari Hamerschlag of Environmental Working Group and authors Dan Imhoff and Anna Lappé initiated the group letter to express 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.

Hamerschlag, Imhoff, and Lappé organized a similar letter denouncing the Senate version of the farm bill last month.

"We are speaking up for the millions of Americans who share the belief that the farm bill should use taxpayer dollars wisely and fairly,” Lappé said. “The 2012 legislation should promote healthy food, reward farmers who are good stewards of the land, and provide the much-needed resources for struggling families to put food on the table."

The letter sent to the House acknowledges that the committee retained some of the Senate bill’s modest but 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,” the letter says. “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.”

The letter strongly criticizes the House panel’s failure to retain the Senate-approved conservation compliance amendment. Moreover, its version contains dangerous anti-environmental provisions that would roll back fundamental regulatory and constitutional protections, gut common-sense rules that protect water quality and wildlife from agricultural pesticides, exempt GMO crops from meaningful environmental review and federal oversight, and prevent states from setting their own standards for farm and food production.

"Rather than making real reforms to alleviate hunger, strengthen stewardship, and boost rural economies, the House farm bill would continue sending billions to agribusinesses and weaken regulations around pesticides and genetically modified crops,” Imhoff said. “Americans deserve better."

Signers of the letter hope that floor action on the bill would give House lawmakers the opportunity to dramatically improve the legislation. They are calling on lawmakers to pass amendments that eliminate harmful extraneous provisions, support local, healthy and organic food, provide full funding for nutrition assistance programs and include fiscally responsible reforms to crop insurance and commodity programs.