It’s tough to turn down any invitation to a dinner thrown by the James Beard Foundation (JBF), one of the country’s leading food enthusiast organizations. The events are always carefully sourced meals created by great chefs in a roomful of people who care about a sustainable food system. Read more
Okay, yes, sometimes corn is a vegetable. But most of the time, it’s something else entirely—highly processed corn syrup in a can of soda, for example, or a fast food burger made from a corn-fed cow. Sadly, today the average American is eating too much of those junk foods, and not enough fruits and vegetables. But while the impacts on public health are dramatic (see this recent report on the costs of diet-related heart disease, for example), that’s not the whole story. Read more
Hundreds of millions of conservation dollars in the federal farm bill should be used more effectively to address widespread water pollution problems in California, concludes a new report released today by Environmental Working Group (EWG). Too much money is going to install micro-irrigation systems and build facilities to manage and treat the millions of tons of animal waste generated by dairies and cattle feedlots. Too little is going to support high-impact ecological farming practices such as cover cropping, nutrient management, filter strips and conservation tillage. Read more
Kari Hamerschlag is a passionate advocate for healthy food policy and political action in the United States. She’s also a champion of a fair and just Federal Farm Bill. As the Senior Food and Agriculture Analyst at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), her work focuses on food and agriculture policy for local, healthy, organic, and sustainable options. Read more
At long last, the Farm Bill race of 2012 is over.
The past week has been a flurry of activity in Congress, as the looming fiscal cliff spurred Washington to action. Despite the public attention on the Farm Bill over the past year, the conclusion to the long drama came not in a fiery showdown but instead slipped – barely noticed – in to the end-of-year fiscal fight. The bill that passed the House on Tuesday night had tucked into it a nine-month Farm Bill extension that pushed the debate off until later this in 2013. Read more
As of this week, our nation’s food and farm policy in the form of the 2008 Farm Bill has officially expired, with no workable replacement. There are many who see this as a better course of events than the passage of one of the new, admittedly imperfect, bills passed by the Senate and proposed in the House. Others view congressional inaction as no big deal.
We beg to differ. Read more
Well, it’s official. Last Thursday, Speaker of the House John Boehner confirmed that the House will not vote on the 2012 Farm Bill during this brief Congressional working session and thus we’ll zip right past that pesky September 30 expiration date on the former bill. (I’ll explain what this means momentarily.) It’s possible that during Congress’ upcoming lame duck session in November, a one-year extension of the current bill will be voted on, and then we’ll get to do this all over again next year! Read more
With the debate over the 2012 Farm Bill currently underway in the Senate, most of the media’s attention has been focused on how direct payments—subsidies doled out regardless of actual farming—are being replaced with crop insurance, in a classic shell game that Big Ag’s powerful lobby is likely to pull off.
Meanwhile, the Senate may hurt the less powerful by cutting $4.5 billion from the largest piece of the farm bill pie: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps). Reducing this lifeline for 46 million struggling Americans (more than 1 in 7—nearly half of them children) has become a sideshow in the farm bill circus, even though SNAP spending grew to $78 billion in 2011, and is projected to go higher if the economy does not improve. Read more
Part history text, part socio-political commentary and part call to action, Food Fight: The Citizen’s Guide to the Next Food and Farm Bill offers something for everyone from the seasoned agriculture advocate to the newcomer on the food systems scene. The newly re-issued book by Dan Imhoff comes just as the federal debate over the 2012 Farm Bill is heating up. Read more
The Farm Bill is a 700-page hodgepodge of laws, regulations, guidelines and payouts covering all manner of U.S. agriculture, conservation and nutrition programs. And by the end of September, Congress is supposed to re-authorize this mess, or some variant of it, for another five-plus years.
A rational, coherent blueprint for a healthy national food supply might be too much to ask. But after years of studying the Farm Bill, I’d be thrilled to see a dent made in four of its most glaring conflicts of purpose. Read more