What About the Food in the Farm Bill?

field.jpgI’m relatively new to this crazy Farm Bill thing. I was invited last Summer to an event at Paul Newman and local food activist chef Michel Nischan’s restaurant, the Dressing Room in Wesport CT, to listen to an amazing panel of speakers and participate in a dialog about the 2007 Farm Bill. This incredibly informative and passionate panel included, US Representative Rose DeLauro (D-New Haven, CT); Gus Schumacher, the undersecretary of Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services during the Clinton Administration; Daniel Imhoff, author of Food Fight: A Citizen’s Guide to the Farm Bill; and Annie Farrell an advocate for sustainable and organic farming and manager of Millstone Farm in CT.

I was stunned by what I learned last year – more importantly, I was stunned by what I didn’t know, and I consider myself a sustainable agriculture supporter! I’ve been trying to track the progress of this Bill in its fits and starts and controversial moments, but still find myself quite ignorant and ever-more surprised when I hear or read another piece of this hulking bulk of legislation.Today is my ‘recipe’ day, not that I’ve kept up with the schedule lately AT ALL, but after reading the NY Times article about the latest on the Farm Bill, I just had to write something about this. Sorry. Look for some lighter fare (perhaps easier to digest than the Farm Bill) Monday!

I know there are some great strides in terms of increasing aid for food stamps, food banks and nutritional programs – yeah! Forgive my total ignorance here, but what is up with these fat AND GROWING subsidy programs????

I realize that I have a long way to go to get my wee brain around the logic in these subsidies, but can somebody please explain why we are making these ‘direct’ payments of subsidies to individual farmer’s whose income is over $750k/year? By the way, I believe this relates to personal income rather than farm revenue . . .From that meeting last year, I also learned that nearly all subsidies go to the 5 main big-ag crops – wheat, corn, soy, cotton, ???? (can’t remember the last one, someone, please feel free to set me straight on this) – and that most of the stuff we buy at our local farmer’s markets or from our grocers – lettuce, cucumbers, strawberries, tomatoes, etc. – are specialty crops, AND that a large percentage of those big 5 are shipped out of the country, used for feed or are being made into ethanol or fuel.

While I believe there was progress made in support of smaller farms and farmer’s markets, it seems to me that most of the money is going to non-food subsidies.

I need to learn a LOT more. I feel very strongly that we ALL need to learn a lot more and get active NOW in order to have a greater effect on the next Farm Bill, which will come around in about 4 years.

There are some awesome posts here on the GreenOptions blogs from folks that are far more educated than me. Please visit them:

White House Signals Farm Bill Veto – Will Congress Bend?

Say What? President Bush Encourages Americans to Eat Local

Small Wind Remains in Farm Bill

Farm Bill Redux: A Second Change at Real Reform

Written by greendivameg

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