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.
Executive Director, Women, Food and Agriculture Network
Farmer, Founder, CEO of Growing Power
Executive Chef and Co-owner Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Chef, Author, Entrepreneur
CEO, Bon Appetit Management Company
Jo Ann Baumgartner
Wild Farm Alliance
Andy Bellatti, MS, RD
Andy Bellatti Nutrition
Lane's Landing Farm
Author of Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis
Chef and Founder, Food Family Farming Foundation
President and Co-founder, Environmental Working Group
Founder and Director, Organic Consumers Association
Author, Family Dinner
Michael R. Dimock
President, Roots of Change
Executive Director, INFORM
Co-founder and founding Executive Director, Community
Food Security Coalition
Joan Dye Gussow
Grower, Author, Professor Emerita Teachers College, Columbia University
Author, Chef-in-Residence-Elawa Farm and Partner, Tru Restaurant
Melinda Hemmelgarn, MS, RD
Food Sleuth Radio
Co-founder and Chairman, Stonyfield
Mark Hyman, MD
Chairman, The Institute for Functional Medicine
Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics, University of Missouri
Author, Food Fight: The Citizen’s Guide to the Next Food and Farm Bill
President, The Land Institute
Executive Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest
Director, Food Inc.
Co-founder and Field Director, Live Real
Executive Director, Center for Food Safety
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
Executive Director, Chefs Collaborative
Fredi Kronenberg, PhD
Consulting Professor, Stanford University School of Medicine
Dir. of Government Affairs, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Author, Diet for a Hot Planet, Cofounder, Small Planet Institute
Executive Director, California Food Policy Advocates
Author, Deep Economy
Executive Director, Jamie Oliver Food Foundation
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)
Professor, NYU and Author, Food Politics
Nicolette Hahn Niman
Rancher, Author, Attorney
Co-founder, Women, Food and Agriculture Network; organic farmer,
Executive Director, AllergyKids Foundation
Professor, UC Berkeley School of Journalism
Chef, Author, Owner of Restaurant Nora
Food Justice Advocate and Food and Community Fellow
Author, Diet For A New America, The Food Revolution, and No Happy Cows
Host, Food Revolution Network
Author, Fast Food Nation
Chef and Founder, Pine Benefit Corporation and MicroGreens
President, Eat Drink Politics
Founder, Editor-in-chief, Civil Eats
Real Food Challenge
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 Associates