Farm Bill on the Chopping Board

Farm Bill On The Chopping Board

Wed 25 Jul 2012

Story by The Food Revolution Team & EWG

With Proposed Massive Cuts in Crucial Funding See How The Farm Bill Is Looking In The House Right Now and What We Can Do To Make A Stand For A Better Bill

Earlier in the year we, along with many in our community, joined over 70 organisations and food advocates to ask that real, healthy, local and nutritious food be made a priority in the Senate’s Farm Bill.

The current farm bill, approved several weeks ago by the House Agriculture Committee, fell far short of that goal so our efforts to raise awareness around what this means and how we can support the positive changes, and remain united with our community to face the challenges in areas still in need of improvement, will continue

Today, we are joining again with many of those same advocates, including Ann Cooper, Marion Nestle, Mario Batali, Michael Pollan and 60 others to voice our serious concern with that bill in an open letter to Members of the House of Representatives.

Proposed Cuts in Funding

Two weeks ago, the House Agriculture Committee passed a bill (the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012) that would make even more drastic cuts than the Senate bill, particularly in areas that will affect Americans who need it most. Among these cuts, $16.5 billion has been taken from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the food stamp program). With these proposed cuts from food and nutrition assistance programs 2-3 million people are expected to lose their food stamp benefits. At the same time, the bill will continue to spend almost 8 times more money on corn, soy, cotton rice and wheat groups than fruits, vegetables and nuts at a time when millions of consumers lack access to affordable fruit and vegetables.

Without investing more in healthy food, this bill will do little to change the fact that fewer than 5% of adults currently meet the USDA’s daily nutrition guidelines for fruit and vegetable consumption. Nor will it reduce the significant costs from the nation’s obesity crisis and epidemic of chronic diet related diseases. The diet related cost of diabetes, heart disease and cancer is estimated at $70 billion each year.

Additionally, funding for programs supporting Beginning Farmers and Ranchers, and Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers have been cut and the Organic Certification Cost Share Program has been eliminated along with some positive reform provisions in the $9 billion a year crop program which the Senate approved.

Overall the House bill proposes cuts of $35 billion over 10 years, compared to the $23 billion proposed by the Senate. These cuts will impact programs which would revitalize local food economies, and promote health and food security. Much of the money remaining in the bill will go to the largest commodity crop growers, insurance companies, and agribusinesses.

No More “Fresh” in Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

Although every child should have access to real fresh food and learn about fruit and vegetables, the House bill also includes a provision which eliminates the ‘Fresh’ from the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, so that it can also include canned, dried and frozen fruits and vegetables in place of fresh produce.

If frozen while fresh, frozen fruit and vegetables can still be a good source of nutrients, however they shouldn't be used when good, fresh ingredients are available, plus canned foods can often contain a lot of added sugar which has no place in school lunch. Often, food is frozen, dried or canned so it lasts longer and can travel further, which means more food miles that damage the environment. Fruit and vegetables in these forms are also less useful for teaching children about food, because pre-packaged foods don’t give children the opportunity to touch, smell, taste and learn about food in its natural form.

There Is Some Good News…

We all need to continue to stand up for real food and demand better food policy and support the individuals and organizations presenting the facts and creating invaluable resources to tackle food issues and promote better food education. One of the projects we’re working on right now is in the development of unique hands-on food education training programs for both children and adults. This includes the “Learn your Fruits and Vegetables” project currently being piloted with the Boys and Girls Club of America, supported by 100% of the US funds raised for Food Revolution Day, we look forward to sharing more with you on this in the coming months!

Back to the Farm Bill and where there are some things to be happy about, the House bill does retain some of the Senate bill’s positive elements in support of local healthy food and some of the encouraging measures in the House bill include more support for Community Food Projects, a Farm to School provision that would allow small school districts to source products locally instead of receiving USDA commodities, and more funding for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program.

What Next?

Any day now the bill will go the House floor for a full vote. If the House then passes the bill, a joint conference committee will negotiate a compromise between the House and the Senate bills which would then need to be passed before the current Farm Bill expires on September 30th. Failing this, the current bill could be extended or the Senate bill could be attached to a larger bill likely to pass in the House.

If you disagree with this bill, YOU can let Congress know through this action alert on the EWG website.

What do you think of the Farm Bill?

Let us know by posting on our facebook Food Revolution Community Page.

The Food Revolution Team & EWG

Image credit: EWG


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