Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Farm Bill

The Farm Bill is an enormous multi-billion dollar piece of legislation that comes up for renewal every five years.. As some of you may know (much more than I do) the bill that passed through the House of Representatives pretty much holds the status quo. Although there is a lot going on in that bill, one of the biggest issues that concerns me is the huge subsidies that we give to farmers who grow corn and soybeans. These subsidies began during the New Deal under Roosevelt to provide a safety net for farmer's during years of low production. They have evolved to reinforce massive overproduction which benefits agribusiness and food processors, not farmers. I am paraphrasing much of this from an article from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette earlier this Fall. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07248/814565-35.stm And a more lengthy explanation/ rant comes from Michael Pollan http://www.michaelpollan.com/article.php?id=88. I recommend reading it. Now.

Basically (very, very basically) in 2002 63% of the budget for the farm bill excluding the nutrition program, is for commodity programs (which added up to 142 Billion dollars over five years). http://www.extension.psu.edu/FarmBill2007.ppt#261,6,2002 Farm Bill - $782 Billion (Figures in millions, 2002-2007)
That is, to subsidize the growth of corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and cotton. I cannot begin to explain to you why this is so awful, not just for the US, but for the whole world. Many, many people on the web can tell you much better. Here's another link you can check out http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/07/subsidy-laden_farm_bill.php
and another:http://www.environmentaldefenseblogs.org/healthyfarms/

In the meantime, farmers here in Pennsylvania get comparatively little support. Farming is a big part of this state's history and a continued part of its revenue and identity. And wouldn't it be nice to support sustainable family farms growing fruits and vegetables? I heard someone (sorry for the vagueness, but I'm sure it was someone important) say on a CNN special that if every American suddenly decided to eat enough fruits and vegetables every day to meet the US RDA, the current production by our farmers could not meet the demand.

So, here is a plea we got in our e-mail. I'm passing it on for you to follow through with your own Senators:

" Tell Your Senators We Deserve a Healthier Farm Bill!

Next week, beginning Tuesday or Wednesday (October 23 or 24), the Senate Agriculture Committee meets to finalize its version of the 2007 Farm Bill. The Senate must invest significant new mandatory funding in new markets and improved access to healthy foods, protection of our air and water, increased opportunities for beginning farmers and ranchers, and equitable program access for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. These priorities need adequate mandatory funding. Make your voice heard! Call your Senators today. ALL Senators are important to contact. To find your Senators' contact information, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, or look it up http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
When you call, ask to speak with the aide who works on the Farm Bill.

The Message

I am a constituent and I am calling to ask Senator [ ] to ensure that the 2007 Farm Bill provides increased mandatory funding for: (list your priorities)
access to healthy foods,
conservation programs,
new markets, value-added enterprises, and local food systems,
organic farming, and
beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
For more information on the timeline of remaining Farm Bill actions, http://www.farmland.org/programs/campaign/whatshappening.asp

And, I would add, cut subsidies for the big five commodities. In PA, our senators are Bob Casey (202) 224-6324 and Arlen Spector (202) 224-4254.

Sorry if I have confused you. I am confused myself. But, I think anything we can say about turning this country's approach to farming and eating around has to be better than saying nothing.

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