There's plenty at stake in the Food and Farm Bill—that tome of legislation covering everything from farmers markets to food stamps to farmland conservation. As of two days ago, our 2008 Farm Bill has officially expired, with no viable replacement. What does this mean? While big programs like SNAP (food stamps) are safe for now, several other lesser-known programs are left abandoned, or risk losing their funding altogether. Here are five programs that might matter to you.
1.) Are you a regular at your local farmers market? With the expiration of the farm bill, new farmers markets, community-supported agriculture programs, and roadside stands do not have access to startup funds.
2.) Prefer organic farming practices? Programs which offer incentives for farmers using sustainable practices or transitioning to organic production, as well as dedicated research funds for organic farming, are on hold.
3.) Care about land conservation? At present, farmers can't enroll sensitive land like wetlands or grasslands in restoration projects.
4.) Want to see young farmers thrive? Programs which provide training opportunities, education, and technical assistance for beginning and young farmers—the future providers of food in this country—risk losing funding altogether.
5.) Do you like knowing which products use organic farming and production methods, and which do not? Programs which help cover the costs of becoming certified USDA organic—a pricey undertaking—are now at stake.
With the Food and Farm Bill in limbo, these important programs have been put on hold and their future remains unclear. I touched base with Dan Imhoff of Food Fight 2012 to find out why he's worried, and how we can be proactive towards a better farm bill.
I see this [expiration] as something to be worried about because it seems that our leadership still doesn't understand the crisis in the food system, and just how fundamental the Farm Bill is to getting things right in society. There is nothing more fundamental than food. And there are some real problems with how and what we are producing. The Farm Bill is our mechanism to right things that are wrong in the farm system, to do things that the market doesn't compensate land owners for, to make sure everyone has access to healthy food. And by ignoring this important debate, they are putting off some of the most important work that should have been done this year. Congress refused to act and I think that's a broader reflection of how dysfunctional things are right now at the national level.
So what can we do? Dan recommends pledging to make a call or write an email to your representative, and urge for a passage of a Food and Farm Bill by the end of the year. He suggests turning to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition or the Environmental Working Group for talking points. He also reminds Californians that we have an opportunity to do something positive at the state level with Prop 37, and require GMO labeling.
Learn more about the Farm Bill from our previous coverage here at GOOD:
Photo via Wikimedia Commons.