Since we have been talking about policies I really wanted to discuss the newest Farm Bill in this post. However, after reading articles from CNN, The New York Times, and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, I’m now feeling rather depressed and uninspired.
I had hoped this newest edition would remove, or at least reduce, the subsidies given to large, corporate ag businesses and be given to small scale, intergraded, family farms/ag businesses instead. I had also hoped there would be incentives for monoculture farmers to be more environmentally aware and to include sustainable practices into their farming techniques. Other aspects I had hoped to see were an increase in funds provided for school lunch and breakfast programs; an increase in funds for the SNAP program; and GMO labeling law.
What I had hoped to see in this new farm bill did not come to pass. However, there were a few small steps taken to improving our food system and now only time will tell if the changes will have the desired effect on the food system.
One benefit of this new farm bill is that direct subsidies have been cut. To compensate for that though, there is now a subsidy for crop insurance. This could be beneficial to a wider range of farmers, not just the big ag businesses, but only time will tell. Another bonus of this farm bill is it has set a series of conservation practices that a farmer must follow in order to receive subsidies (CNN.com). Although, I’m not sure what those practices entail since the bill cut conservation programs overall.
One of the major negatives of this farm bill is the spending cut made to the food stamp program. This change will cut $8 billion from the SNAP program funding over the next five years, reducing household monthly benefits by around $90(NYTimes.com). The bill does include a $200 million increase in funding for food banks, however this probably won’t cover the shift in demand caused from the decreased food stamp funding.
I was unable to find anything that said they made improvements to the school lunch and breakfast program. There was also no mention of GMO labeling. They did make a change that requires the country where an animal was born, slaughtered and processed to be included on the label. What are your thoughts on requiring those locations to be listed on meat labeling? I personally think it is unassay but am interested what you all think.
Overall I’m disappointed with this latest farm bill. Although, since it has been at an impasse for the past two years I’m glad they were able to finally pass something and there were baby steps taken to making it more small scale, local food movement friendly.
The New York Times article:
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition blog: