The 3 E’s of our 2012 Farm Bill: Ecosystems, Eating, and Economics, and What Does That Have to Do wi
It would be an interesting exercise to go out and ask people, “What is the Farm Bill about?” and “How does it affect your life and what you eat?” Even I would’ve missed so much of what is contained in this bill if asked those questions even a month ago. I attended a webinar offered by PolicyLink called “Healthy Food, Healthy Economics” and was intrigued when it focused on the 2012 Farm Bill. It was very exciting to hear Detroit’s Double Bucks Program at Eastern Market highlighted on this national webinar by Dr. Oran B. Hesterman, President/CEO of the Fair Food Network.
I’ve attended a lot of seminars, workshops, and webinars regarding food access, healthy living, and quality of food. There’s a multitude of buzzwords associated with food these days: food desert, organic, cage-free, equal access, processed, natural, no additives, FDA approved, and so many more. How is any of this connected with the Farm Bill? Boy, was I in for an education!
The Farm Bill is omnibus legislation that covers a wide range of programs and policies and was first implemented in 1933. Every bill has had its own name and is rewritten every 5 to 7 years by Congress. The Senate then determines annually how much money will be spent on the bill in appropriations. The 2008 Farm Bill contained 15 different Titles (categories) covering 673 pages with a $288 billion cost, and is due to expire on September 30, 2012. You may be as surprised, as I was, what was included inside those pages.
The most publicized portion of the bill is commodity, which has to do with farmers getting money for growing or not growing non-perishable crops like corn, wheat, and soybean. That’s what comes to mind for most people. It is usually the portion of the bill that is threatened with being cut the most. Amazingly, it is only 12% and doesn’t help the fruit and vegetable farmers who produce the fresh products needed for a healthy diet. Other chapters include land conservation, protection of wildlife, organic farmers, beginning farmers, and farm development and comprise only 20% of total spending. So what is the number one cost of the 2012 Farm bill? Nutrition is 68% of the 2008 Farm Bill, at a total expenditure of $1,958,400,000. This is the portion that hits us right at home. Nutrition is the chapter that covers EBT/SNAP/Food Stamps. It also covers other emergency food programs and local food projects like the Senior Farmer. The number of people on food stamps has increased to 16 million since 2008. Some of this is due to the current national economic crisis and more lenient eligibility requirements. That brings the Farm Bill issue right into our neighborhood pocket.
The Bible states, “My people die from lack of knowledge.” I encourage you to take time to investigate issues, discover how your representatives in the House and Senate are voting, and let your voice be heard by contacting them.
Let’s make it a habit to buy local at your farmers market to make a direct impact here in our home state!
To access the PowerPoint from the “Healthy Food, Healthy Economics” webinar, go to the following link: http://www.policylink.org/site/c.lkIXLbMNJrE/b.7718787/k.6D8C/Research_and_Reports.htm
For more information on Detroit’s Double Bucks program, visit www.doubleupfoodbucks.org.
For more information on the 2012 Farm Bill, visit www.farmaid.org