Thursday, July 14, 2011

Farm Bill Conversations

It's that time again! Every five years, Congress debates and re-authorizes America's Farm Bill in what is always a lively debate on Capitol Hill and the public arena. The Farm Bill is one of the omnibus spending bills that Congress passes to dictate funding on a wide variety of food and farming programs for five years at a time. Debate on the 2012 Farm Bill has already begun and may be contentious with Congress and President Obama focusing on deficit reduction.

We were lucky enough to have Mark Winne with the Community Food Security Coalition in Crescent City for two days last week, and one of the sessions he offered was an open conversation about the Farm Bill. Why should you care about the Farm Bill if you're not a farmer? The Farm Bill is about so much more than farms and farmers:
  • The SNAP program (that was once called food stamps) is the biggest part of Farm Bill spending and brings over half a million dollars into Del Norte County every month -- that's money that is feeding our neighbors, being spent in our stores, and supporting local jobs.
  • Support for crop-based energy solutions is also part of the Farm Bill, with provisions in the 2008 version encouraging corn production for ethanol rather than human or animal consumption.
  • Commodity crop supports help determine what crops will be grown on millions of acres of farmland. Support for corn and soybeans, for instance, help provide the underpinning for cheap, heavily-processed foods that some have linked to the current obesity crisis.
  • Small programs like the Farmers Market Promotion Program grants help promote local and regional food systems and infrastructure. The FMPP grant won by CAN last year is buying local radio and newspaper ads, supporting our Crescent City Farmers Market, and encouraging the purchase of locally-produced, fresh, healthy foods by SNAP (in California, CalFresh) recipients.
The Farm Bill sets farm and nutrition policy for five years. It will affect what we eat and how much we pay for it. It affects every resident of the United States every single day and now's the time to have a say in how it will affect us over the next five years. To learn more, check out some of these links:

The Community Food Security Coalition's 2012 Farm Bill Priorities

Seattle's Farm Bill Principles

The Environmental Working Group's Top 10 Things You Should Know About the Farm Bill

Good News for Local Foods A listing of programs that help local producers and consumers that were included in the 2008 Farm Bill. Some may be in jeopardy for 2012.

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