Two important Food and Farm Bill items related to local eating in this week's blogs and news:
First, at Chews Wise, Samuel Fromartz (author of Organic, Inc., a critical look at the growth of organic agriculture) explains how the Food and Farm Bill can help organic farming (or, in the case of crop insurance, stop penalizing organic farmers), and gives suggestions on how you can help. One way is by signing the Environmental Working Group's petition to Congress asking for more support for organic farming. EWG has been near the forefront of the organic food movement for years and their farm subsidy database is shining lots of light on who really receives farm subsidies. They want to submit the petition on July 15.
Second, Michele Kayal, writing for the Associated Press (via The Intelligencer & Wheeling News-Record), summarized how the Food and Farm Bill could help strengthen local food networks. A summary of her article after the jump.
Ms. Kayal writes:
Congress is currently considering $500 million worth of proposals to boost farmers’ markets, the home delivery programs and other direct farmer-to-consumer programs.
The proposals could have a big impact on the American dinner table. In addition to boosting farmers’ markets, the measures would give small farmers better access to schools and other government institutions, and pay for equipment that would turn their pigs into pork chops, their fruit into jams and their greens into pre-packaged salad mixes.
And that, in turn, would mean more fresh, local ingredients in American mouths.
But this year, money to help small local farmers has plenty of support in Congress. Most of the programs under discussion were launched in the 2002 farm bill, but would be increased this time from tens of millions to roughly a half-billion dollars. Champions of large-scale agriculture say they won’t get in the way.
“It doesn’t make sense to get into a cat fight because these people have a place, too, and politically it’s not worth it,” says Rep. Marion Berry, a Democrat whose Arkansas district derives 90 percent of its jobs from rice, cotton and soybean farming.
“If we can get these programs funded properly in the farm bill, you’d see more of them in more communities all across the country,” says Ralph Grossi, president of the preservation group American Farmland Trust. “It generates new hope for farmers who want to produce for local consumers and gives us a reason to preserve the open lands around our cities, so the opportunity to continue to produce exists in the future.”
The Food and Farm Bill will be something like $70 to 80 billion over five years, so the funding sought for local and organic foods are more or less "crumbs" compared to the multi-layer cake of subsidies and food stamps (with a frosting made from high-fructose corn syrup!), and so it is conceivable that quite a few programs for local food will receive increased funding. But will Congress be able to find the funding? And if they authorize funds in the Food and Farm Bill, will they provide funding in future appropriations, or fail to fund the programs?
Marc lives in Berkeley, California. He writes Mental Masala (an enticing blend of food, history, travel, and nature) and contributes to Ethicurean ("Chew the right thing") under the nom de blog Mental Masala.