America’s wetlands and prairies are being lost and our drinking water and food supplies are contaminated with toxic pesticides, fertilizers, hormones and antibiotics. The productivity of our farmland is being depleted, threatening future generations of farmers.
Many farmers are producing food in ways that protect family farms and the environment, but government policies are doing too little to reward good stewardship and too much to underwrite unsustainable crop and animal production by the largest and most successful farm businesses.
To protect America’s families, farmers and natural heritage, Congress must enact a farm bill that fully funds conservation programs, reforms subsidies to protect family farmers and supports a transition to practices that reduce the need for antibiotics, toxic pesticides and hormones.
This year’s effort to renew America’s food and farm policies through the farm bill creates an opportunity for Congress to do more to support family farmers, protect the environment, encourage healthy diets and ensure better access to healthy food – all while strengthening working families. EWG believes that Congress should enact farm and food legislation that provides producers with an effective safety net at a lower cost to taxpayers; invests in conservation and nutrition programs that benefit all farmers and consumers; promotes greater consumption of fruits and vegetables; and delivers greater transparency and accountability.
Supporting Family Farmers
Congress should support family farmers by ending subsidies that flow to the largest farm businesses regardless of need, including measures that:
· End direct farm payments that are provided regardless of need.
· Reform insurance subsidies by placing reasonable limits on who can receive them and the amount they can receive, and reject efforts to cover “shallow losses” or to increase target prices for crops such as rice and cotton.
· Maintain the conservation compact to ensure that farmers protect wetlands, grasslands and soil health in exchange for a taxpayer-financed safety net, including crop insurance.
· Level the playing field for all farmers and assist beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers by easing access to conservation, crop insurance, credit, loan and grant programs.
· Invest in loan and grant programs that help create and expand local and regional markets for farm products.
Congress should invest in research and provide incentives for farmers and ranchers to protect and restore water quality and wildlife habitat by:
· Rejecting cuts to voluntary conservation programs.
· Delivering additional conservation funding and environmental benefits through grants to collaborative partnerships of farmers and local partners working together.
· Reforming easement and incentive programs to achieve administrative efficiencies, target funds more effectively and provide loans for large-scale infrastructure projects.
· Supporting organic food and helping farmers switch to organic food production.
· Strengthening and modifying research, education and extension programs to better focus on organic and sustainable crop and livestock production and healthy food.
Supporting Healthy Diets
Because less than 5 percent of American adults eat USDA-recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables and more than one-third are obese, increasing the nation’s health care costs by $127 billion a year, Congress should:
· Protect and strengthen SNAP and other nutrition assistance programs.
· Support nutrition education to help Americans eat healthier diets.
· Strengthen the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program and reform specialty crop programs so as to increase consumption of local fruits and vegetables.
· Strengthen programs that encourage SNAP recipients to buy and consume more fruits and vegetables, including at farmers’ markets and other food retailers.
· Allow schools to use more school lunch and breakfast funds to purchase local fruits and vegetables.
· Underwrite sound research on nutrition, hunger and food security and obesity prevention.