image description June 6, 2012

Farm Aid Failure

Farm Aid Failure

The farm bill is here and it’s not a pretty picture.

This affects all Minnesotans, every one of us. And it dictates policy for another five years, read this post and the three excerpts and DO SOMETHING today to make a difference.

The letter at the bottom of this post is a note I got from Jamie Oliver. I signed its call to action, so should you. Preceding that is an amended note (by me) from Kari Hamerschlag. She is the Senior Food and Agriculture Analyst for the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Their simple and eloquent elucidation on the key issues is something everyone should read. I have a child in the Minneapolis public school system and the food there is shamefully inadequate in meeting the needs of our young. It’s not the lunch ladies fault.

To kick it all off, Bob Semple Jr. wrote this excoriating editorial on the same subject in the New York Times on June 3.

According to Kari…On April 20th the Senate Agriculture Committee approved a farm bill draft that fails to provide many of the food and farming nuts and bolts that Americans had thought would be in it. The bill is often referred to as The Food Bill because it might be the ultimate legislative mechanism determining what Americans eats. At a size of roughly $100 billion a year, through its subsidies and policies it determines the types of crops that are grown, how we grow and sell food, how we support farmers, and what food assistance programs are available to all Americans. Last year in a poll 78 percent of you said making nutritious and healthy foods more affordable and accessible should be a top priority in the farm bill. That’s not in the bill.

The heroically brilliant Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has seen that there is some modest new funding for local and healthy food programs, including a local food promotion program and a new incentive program that will double the value of food assistance dollars when used for healthy food purchases. Those provisions come from the Local Farms Food and Jobs Act. Those gains are real but the large agribusiness , under the rest of the legislation, will continue to gain subsidies worth tens of billions of taxpayer dollars…dollars going to the largest most profitable commodity crop growers and agribusinesses while drastically underfunding programs that support decentralized growth and subsidies aimed at distributing fruits and vegetables and local and healthy food. I think you should let your representative know that you want more of your tax dollars funding healthy food programs in the farm bill. Healthy food programs got jobbed, their support in the bill pales in comparison to the $140 billion in subsidies that will flow to the big five commodity crops (corn, soy, cotton, rice and wheat) that provide feed for livestock, raw material for processed food and corn ethanol fuel for our cars. In recent years, the farm bill has spent eight times more on commodity crops than on fruits and vegetables. This trend is expected to continue in this new farm bill. How awful, especially in a country where fewer than five percent of adults meet the USDA daily nutrition guidelines in their diets.

Now that the bill has passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee, it will go to the Senate floor where Senators will debate and offer amendments to the bill before taking a full vote likely in early June.

Do you want to help make sure that tens of millions of kids get a shot at forming a healthier eating habit by serving them fresh fruits and vegetables at school? You’ll support farmers who grow that food by helping to change the focus of the bill by talking to your representatives…

The farm bill heading to the Senate floor contains only $150 million annually to provide school children with a healthy fruit and vegetable snack– only enough for children in 4,500 or 6 percent of our elementary schools.

Even supporters of the current bill using the best arguments of fiscal responsibility, make no sense when the bill gives away unlimited crop insurance premium subsidies to wealthy farm operators at the expense of feeding hungry people. And it does nothing to protect our water and invest in healthy food.

In fact, the Government Accountability Office has identified as much as $2 billion a year in available savings from modest cuts to crop insurance subsidies. Half would come from payment limits that affect just 4 percent of the growers in the program. The Senate should use these savings to more adequately fund nutrition programs and strengthen local and healthy food and organic agriculture. These investments could save billions in the long run by creating jobs and reducing health care costs.

Some Senators understand this and will likely be introducing an amendment to redirect billions of dollars from commodity crops into healthy food and nutrition programs.

Please send a general message of support for healthy food to your representative by clicking here.

The bill still has a way to go before it becomes law. Once the bill gets voted out of the Senate, it will then go on to the House of Representatives where they are expected to write and approve their version of the bill. If the two bodies are then able to negotiate a compromise, there would likely be a final farm bill enacted into law before the previous bill expires in late September 2012.

Jamie Oliver sent us this…

The most important law determining what America eats is about to be voted on in the U.S. Senate.

With a $100 billion a year price tag, the Farm Bill dictates the types of crops that are grown, how farmers grow and sell the food you eat, and what food assistance programs are available.

The bill approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee cuts food assistance programs and underfunds programs that invest in local and healthy food. But, Senator Gillibrand (NY) is introducing an amendment to restore those cuts and redirect dollars to provide more support for local and healthy food programs and fruits and veggies in school.

We’ve signed a letter with over 70 like-minded food leaders, chefs, advocates and organizations, including Dan Imhoff, Anna Lappe, Marion Nestle, Michael Pollen, Eric Scholosser, Alice Waters and the CSPI, urging the Senate to provide more support for healthy food in the Farm Bill. You can take action too by letting your senators know you want a Farm Bill that supports healthy food too.

Click here to take action – before the Senate votes and help get the Farm Bill on a better track.

With less than five percent of adults eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, 1 in 3 American kids being overweight and diet related costs of chronic diseases in the US reaching an estimated $70 billion a year, things need to change.

In a national poll last year, 78 percent of Americans said that making nutritious and healthy foods more affordable and accessible should be a top priority in the Farm Bill. However, the bill approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee does not represent this.

With the proposed bill being debated this week, now is the time to ask your senators to support this amendment and stand up for local and healthy food.

Click here to tell your senators to support Sen. Gillibrand’s help get the Farm Bill on the right track.



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