Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Farm Bill

Approximately every five years, Congress re-authorizes what is usually called the Farm Bill. It is one of a few bills that is considered omnibus legislation, meaning that it covers a vast amount of legislative territory in a single, sweeping bill. The Farm Bill doesn't just include legislation directly linked to farms and agriculture. Many people argue that it should be call the Food Bill because of its wide-reaching effects on food and farming prices and profits.

This is a Farm Bill year and Growing Tables has posted about it before: here and here. Unless it is derailed by election-year politics, Congress will re-authorize by the end of the year. Rumors say that there will be no major changes in this bill, particularly none that favor small farms over agribusiness or consumers over profit. Change comes very slowly to the Farm Bill, but here are some resources for learning more:

Public Health Law and Policy has published a primer guide to the Farm Bill. This is their description of the primer:

"The Farm Bill is a major piece of agriculture and nutrition legislation that has a profound impact on public health. It not only affects farming and food production – it also ultimately determines the types of food we eat and how much it costs.

Community leaders across the country can play an important role in ensuring that Farm Bill spending helps promote health. This guide is designed to show the links between their work and federal policy, and to help identify ways to get involved in the Farm Bill reauthorization process."

Mayors of our nation's largest cities have gotten involved, sending this letter to Congress outlining their priorities for the Farm Bill, based on the food challenges their city residents face. The city of Seattle has gone further. They created the Seattle Farm Bill Principles -- meant to guide changes in Farm Bill legislation -- and have been working to get more cities and citizens to sign on to their principles.

The Farm Bill will affect us all. Learn more about it and raise your voice if you believe the priorities contained in past Farm Bills need to change.

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