As you may know, the Senate is currently debating the next Farm Bill, a critically important piece of legislation which will have far-reaching effects on the way Americans eat. (Take a look at this infographic showing how the 2008 Farm Bill has impacted the American diet — and our health.)
I’m leaving to experts the in-depth reporting on this behemoth (over 1,000 pages, with a near trillion dollar price tag), but I did want to share some links if you need to get up to speed:
NPR has an easy-to-digest report on why the Farm Bill matters to everyone.
For a more in-depth review, check out this report by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
Marion Nestle of Food Politics expresses her dismay at the bill’s lack of focus.
But in an open letter to Congress, everyone from Eric Schlosser to Chef Ann Cooper argues that it makes no sense to provide “unlimited crop insurance premium subsidies to industrial-scale growers who can well afford to pay more of their risk management costs,” and instead suggests
. . . . modest reforms to crop insurance subsidies that could save as much as $2 billion a year. Half could come from payment limits that affect just four percent of the growers in the program. 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 couldsave billions in the long run by protecting valuable water and soil resources, creating jobs and supporting foods necessary for a healthy and balanced diet.
Doesn’t that make sense?
Meanwhile, the bulk of the bill’s cost – 80% — is allocated to SNAP, the federal food stamp program. Senator Gillibrand of New York is fighting to restore a $4.5 billion proposed cut to food stamps, while Michele Simon of Appetite for Profit has published a report, summarized here, examining the ways in which three powerful industry groups benefit from (and lobby for) the food stamp program: major food manufacturers, leading food retailers and the large banks which administer SNAP benefits for the states. Until I read her troubling post, I had no idea of the secrecy surrounding the SNAP program.
And, of course, there are the usual political shenanigans. Take a look at Wonkette’s list of some of the decidedly, ahem, non-agricultural amendments to the bill.
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