It’s been over three months since we last discussed the Farm Bill. Back then, the House of Representatives had just passed a version of the bill that included great things like an increase in food stamps, support for growers of fruits and vegetables, and increased money for environmental conservation members but did little to correct the bill’s major flaw, namely the billions of dollars in commodity subsidies given to farmers who grow soy, corn, cotton, wheat, and rice. These subsidies are astoundingly problematic because they encourage an overproduction of crops that can be teased into processed foods, which results in a situation familiar to anyone trying to stick to a low grocery budget: processed foods end up being much cheaper than simple fruits and vegetables.
Now, the Farm Bill is ready to go to the Senate. Although the current version of the bill is much the same as previous ones, two amendments are expected to be proposed. The first, from Senators Bryan Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, and Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, would call for a cap of $250,000 on payments made to any individual farmer in a year. This amendment is similar to the one proposed by Representative Ron Kind, Democrat of Wisconsin, during the House’s debate. The second amendment, this one from Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, and Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, would eliminate subsidies altogether and replace it with free government revenue insurance for all farmers and ranchers. What is fascinating about both of these amendments is both their bipartisan nature and the fact that all of the senators involved come from states with heavy farming industries. There was a fascinating op-ed in Sunday’s New York Times by Michael Pollan in which he argued that although the Farm Bill is not currently at its ideal weight, a change is in the air. Truly, it is beginning to seem as though eaters and most politicians alike are united against Big Agriculture.
Weed It and Reap [New York Times]
[Photo: St. Louis County]