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Good Food Leaders Demand a Healthy Farm Bill

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Environmental Working Group today released a letter signed by more than 70 American food and health leaders who urged Congress to cut crop insurance subsidies and redirect that money into vital investments in nutrition, healthy food and conservation programs. Signers include Michal Pollan, Bill McKibben, Marion Nestle and celebrity chefs Mario Batali, Tom Collichio, Alice Waters and Rick Bayless.  The letter was initiated by EWG and authors Anna Lappé and Dan Imhoff, out of frustration with the lack of meaningful reforms in the Senate Ag Committee’s 2012 farm bill.

The Los Angeles Times’ Kim Gieger writes of the letter:

As the Senate considers a once-every-five-years farm bill this week, a group of food activists and celebrity chefs has called on Congress to cut subsidies to commodity crop farmers and reinvest the money in conservation and healthy food programs.

Grist’s Food Editor Twlight Greenway adds:

It’s a timely statement by this star-powered group, as the Senate Agriculture Committee’s draft of the 2012 Farm Bill — a package of federal farm and food legislation representing nearly a trillion dollars — looks like it could finally hit the Senate floor this week.

And they have a point. As we’ve reported in the past, the Senate draft probably won’t improve the big picture of the food landscape as-is. In the draft, farm conservation efforts and nutrition assistance both face deep cuts, while the industrial farm lobbies have ensured that the biggest commodity farms continue to rake in subsidy payments. (Don’t believe me? Take a look at this graphic, which ran with Sunday’s New York Times op-ed on the subject. It shows that a full 76 percent of the subsidy dollars distributed between 1995 and 2010 went to a mere 10 percent of the nation’s farms.)


The Atlantic posted the letter and said:

Every member of Congress received a copy of the letter at close of business on June 4th, in anticipation of the Farm Bill's going to the Senate floor for debate later this week. The writers and signers hope that this letter will spur more citizens to learn about this legislation and contact their representatives.

While at Take Part, Clare Leschin-Hoar writes:

What’s going on is complex and troublesome for those who care about diversity of crops; about food assistance for some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens; for conservation programs, rural development and more.

The public letter, which was released Tuesday, goes into detail about the dire need for reform, and pointedly reminds lawmakers that voters will remember which members of Congress supported a healthy food and farm bill come November.


Table Scraps:

-       Roll Call reports that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D- N.Y.) – who voted against the Senate Agriculture Committee’s farm bill -- has proposed an amendment that would replace food assistance cuts with cuts to the highly subsidized crop insurance program.

-       Daryll Ray and Harwood Schaffer of the Agricultural Policy Analysis Center at the University of Tennessee come to several conclusions about crop insurance subsidies, including:

“A core argument for revenue insurance is that it is market-based. The idea being that revenue insurance provides a private-sector remedy to agriculture’s price and income problems instead of the government-based remedy as has been the case in the past. The problem we have with that statement is that it is not true. The government is just as involved as it ever was only now there is a middleman in the process. And the middleman has to be paid a fee over and above the payments that are made to crop farmers.”

-       Iowa Governor Terry Branstad vetoed $500,000 for the Iowa Food Bank Association. So America’s breadbasket no longer has bread – for the needy.

-       Red State blogger Daniel Horowitz says “There is perhaps nothing as destructive to the free market as the federal government’s stranglehold over the agriculture sector.  There is also nothing as detrimental to the GOP’s ability to draw a bold contrast on free markets, dependency, spending, and crony capitalism, as their willingness to support 5-year farm bills."

Tweet of the day:

@SenGillibrand I stood w/@TomColicchio & other anti-hunger advocates in #NYC to protest food stamp funding cuts in the 2012 #farmbill

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