Friday, November 18, 2011

Why the Farm Bill Deserves Our Attention

Food Democracy Now!
  Every five years, Congress restructures the Farm Bill. And it's up for renewal in 2012. Now before you tune out and move on, consider this: if you eat food, the Farm Bill deserves your attention.

  The term 'Farm Bill' downplays the influence it has on all of our lives. It has much more to do with each of our everyday lives than we might think. Sure, it's an important piece of legislation that greatly affects farmers, but also impacts food consumers from the countryside to big cities, and everywhere in between. Some people suggest it should be renamed the 'Food and Farm Bill'.

  Now what exactly is the Farm Bill? It is a collection of legislative food and farm acts that is renewed every five years. The last time it was enacted, in 2008, the Farm Bill represented $284 billion of the federal budget at that time. It,
"sets priorities and provides funding for everything from crop subsidies, farmland preservation, international food aid and exports, nutrition entitlements (such as food stamps), lending to farms, rural infrastructure investment, research, forest protection and restoration, energy promotion (think bio-fuels and ethanol), organic agriculture, livestock, crop insurance and disaster assistance, and commodities trading."
So as you can see, the Farm Bill is a pretty wide-spread umbrella. It isn't just about farms and farming.

  Usually, writing a new farm bill takes about a year or so. Stakeholders from all facets of the food supply are given opportunity to have their voice heard, by providing testimony to House and Senate Agricultural Committees. The funding and direction of the bill is put together after all information is considered, and finally the bill is voted on by both legislative bodies. That's how the democratic process should work, right?

  So what makes the 2012 version of the Farm Bill so different? Well, it appears that legislators are trying to rush the Farm Bill though using a secret committee that is out of the public eye. This is all somewhat tied to the 2011 Budget crisis where a Super Committee was assigned the task of cutting $1.3 Trillion from the budget by the fall.

  The Super Committee tasked the Agricultural Committee to propose $23 billion in cuts to the Farm Bill legislation. Just four committee members are meeting behind closed doors to decide on those cuts, thus stealing any chance for reform to occur in regards to local, organic and healthy food until the next Farm Bill comes up in 2017.

  We all know that if this legislation is allowed to be written without the influence from the people, lobbyists and Big Agriculture will win out (or have I just become that cynical??). And the interests of companies like Monsanto, Cargill, and ADM will continue to be protected, further damaging our food system/supply.

  We can't allow that to happen.

  If we want any progress to be made within our food supply, the time is now. We can't wait until 2017. If we can, we want the government to cut farm subsidies for the 'big farm' and enact agriculture reforms that would create jobs, clean up the environment, strengthen sustainable local food systems and make healthy food available to everyone.

  That all starts with writing an open and fair Farm Bill.

  So what can we do? Go to Kill the Secret Farm Bill and let the members of the Agricultural Committee know, we want our voice heard in regard to the Farm Bill!

  Long story short, we can't cut corners on this legislative process. The Food Bill is a discussion that needs to be in the public. After all, this is a Congress that just declared pizza a vegetable. I think they've proven they need a little assistance where food is concerned.

  Have a great weekend! ~ Sabrina


Kill the Secret Farm Bill (Food Democracy Now)
Stop the Secret Farm Bill 
The Secret Farm Bill
Why the Farm Bill Matters


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