Friday, April 27, 2012

Eating Omily: It Starts Here-Farm Bill 2012

As if wild, beautiful, delicious produce popping up in Farmer's Markets isn't enough to get locavores (and sustainable eaters of all stripes) excited, something much, much bigger has arrived:

The 2012 edition of the Farm Bill is coming out of committee and going through rounds of negotiations and votes as we speak.  The Farm Bill is a huge, and crucial, piece of legislation that covers subsidies, tax breaks, and restrictions on farmers, programs and plans to feed those in need, guidelines to get more healthy food into people and curb our not-so-healthy eating habits, and much more.  It can make huge strides toward a sustainable food future, or it can tear down the efforts we've worked so hard to achieve in the few years since the last Farm Bill.

Are you surprised that something this important is getting passed under your very nose and this is the first you've heard about it?  Reminds me of Tuesday, when I didn't know it was my only chance to vote in the Republican primary, something I have a huge stake in, until someone just happened to post something about it on facebook.

Why is it that new tv shows and tic-tac ads are plastered all over every available city surface, but I didn't hear a word about my chance to participate in our democracy until it was nearly too late?  Oh, but that's its own blog post right there...

Congress has announced an accelerated schedule for this year's Farm Bill.  Rather than taking a year to work it over and get it into shape, it could be put in place as early as this Winter!  Some groups have been calling this five-year term's version the Secret Farm Bill, because the process of getting it worked through and passed have been less transparent than ever before.  Well, it's not hard to see why.  Millions of us have been making our voices heard, demanding local, sustainable food choices, nutritious foods for our children in schools, the labeling of GMO's, an end to the pesticides arms race, and more, and rather than meeting our demands, too many politicians are too busy kowtowing to the lobbyists run by big companies that line their pockets.  We're going to have to dig deeper for the information we need, and shout louder than ever to keep this Farm Bill from continuing the same old, destructive business as usual.

The important thing is, it's not too late to let congress know what we want out of this Farm Bill!  The senate started marking up and revising the Farm Bill this morning, so you'll need to call your senators as soon as possible, today or tomorrow, actually, today AND tomorrow would be great, to make your wishes known.  What, exactly do we want?  Well, you're welcome to think hard and come up with your own list, and check out your favorite sustainable food information sources for inspiration and ideas, but those groups that keep a weather eye on the food-political horizon are way ahead of us.

The group, Food Bill NYC has made a list of priorities for this year's Farm Bill, as well as a complimentary list of already proposed legislations that would help fulfill those priorities.  You can see what those priorities are by clicking the link above, and then downloading the document on that page that explains them.  By signing a pledge that you support the principles outlined, you can sign up for action alerts as an easy way to make your voice heard through each step of the Farm Bill process.

The Food and Water Watch has its own page with information about the Farm Bill, and what they think are the most crucial changes that need to take place to protect our health, our planet, and our farmers.  It also offers ways you can take action to make this Farm Bill a powerful force for sustainability, including a petition to sign.  This site also offers information about food policy, so you can understand how we got ourselves into this mess, and how we can get ourselves out of it.  The more people we can educate, the sooner we can move into our sustainable food future, and that starts with you!  Watch this video for the quick (and inevitably over-simplified, though not untrue) version of who the Farm Bill stands to help, or hurt.

The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops is speaking out and encouraging Catholics to contact their senators about these issues as well.  Just about every faith advocates stewardship and care of the earth, and of course, the people on it.  This is a democracy, so we all have a responsibility to speak up, as loudly as necessary, to demand that our elected officials make the policies that we want, and get rid of the ones that don't.  The Conference has written an open letter expressing exactly what their Farm Bill priorities are, based on the teachings of the Church, and you can download and read that letter via a link on their webpage.

Natural News warns this new Farm Bill only appears to be on the right track: direct subsidy payments (that's government handouts of cold, hard cash to massive corporate farmers growing stuff we don't need i.e. genetically modified corn and soybeans to be processed into nasty crap) will be ended for any farming company making more than $1 million a year.  That is definitely a step in the right direction, but greater government support for these industrial giants only moves the corporate welfare from the front door to the back door.  If all the people are hearing about the Farm Bill is that it's an opportunity to slash the budget, we could lose hard-earned incentives for farmers to change over to organic farming, and other programs that do cost money, but are more than worthwhile, and are tiny parts of the Farm Bill budget.  Basically, they'd be paying lip service to our demands, while still satisfying the lobbyists.

 You can call your congressional representatives, or write them, and tell them what priorities matter most to you in this year's Farm Bill, but you have to act fast!  Some sources are saying that now that the bill's out of committee, it's likely to only face a tougher fight and get less helpful fast as big compromises are made with those more interested in pacifying powerful lobbyists who don't have the people's interests at heart than their own constituents.  Sad, but true.

Is that enough information?  Are you galvanized for a fight?  Get it?  Got it?  Good.  I cannot stress enough how important it is that each and every one of us demand that this Farm Bill serve the people, and the land, instead of big businesses, but this article from Sustainable Table may give you an idea.  Get out there, and do it, while there's still a few of these guys left to thank you!

Live Omily,
~em

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