(Beyond Pesticides, November 27, 2017) Congress is working on the 2018 Farm Bill, which will determine how $956 billion of our tax money will be spent over the coming years in shaping our food system. This year, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has introduced a bill that, if passed, will implement many of the food policy reforms that sustainable agriculture policy advocates have long supported.
Ask Your Congressional Delegation to Support the Food and Farm Act!
The bill, which is co-sponsored by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Don Beyer (D-VA), is a result of a two-year conversation, “Sing Your Own Farm Bill,” in which the U.S. Representative engaged a diverse group of farmers, ranchers, fiscal hawks, food and agriculture policy experts, environmentalists, animal welfare advocates, and others to brainstorm ideas for shaping future farm and food policy.
According to Farm Forward, factory farms receive approximately $4 billion in annual benefits under the current Farm Bill –which result in many negative impacts, such as:
• Diet-Related Disease – A diet high in food commodities subsidized by the Farm Bill is linked to a greater probability of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
• Climate Change –The top five factory-farm mega-corporations combined emit more greenhouse gases (GHGs) than Exxon, or Shell, or BP (formerly British Petroleum).
• Water Pollution – Farm Bill subsidy programs contribute to the pollution of drinking water, imposing billions of dollars in healthcare and water cleanup costs on downstream communities.
Highlights of Rep. Blumenauer’s Food and Farm Act include:
Title I: Commodities and Crop Insurance
Title I cuts, caps, and clarifies the farm subsidy programs available in the commodity, conservation, and crop insurance titles of the Farm Bill. It expands coverage for non-commodity farms and ensures that farmers who receive subsidies reduce their environmental impact.
Title II: Conservation
Title II reforms existing conservation programs to focus on performance by distributing resources based on how effectively a project achieves conservation goals and minimizing the environmental impact of agriculture practices.
Title III: Food Assistance
Allows more flexibility in determining what food aid works best for each situation, providing USAID’s implementing partners the ability to use either U.S. commodities or local and regional procurement as they see fit, while eliminating the process by which 15% of non-emergency donated food is sold in local food markets, disrupting local food prices.
Title IV: Nutrition
Title IV expands access to healthy food in schools and underserved areas and at farmers markets through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other initiatives.
Title V: Future of American Farmers
Title V provides support for beginning farmers and ranchers to enter and stay in the agriculture sector. It also assists those in the business who are ready to retire by helping them transition out of farming while keeping the industry vibrant.
Title VI: Food Waste
Title VI establishes the first Food Waste Title of the Farm Bill, which focuses the federal government on food waste reduction and directs USDA to develop methods for measuring, aggregating, and disseminating food waste information to the public.
Title VII: Research, Extension, and Related Matters
Title VII invests in research and education programs that improve sustainable agriculture practices, while also supporting research to help farmers and ranchers succeed in a changing climate.
Title VIII: Animal Welfare
Title VIII establishes the first Animal Welfare Title in the Farm Bill, incorporating reforms to ensure that the treatment of animals is a central part of the country’s food and agriculture policy.
Title IX: Regional Food Systems
Title IX invests in existing programs and creates new ones to support vibrant local and regional food systems, increases transparency within USDA’s existing programs, and streamlines grant program application procedures to make them more accessible.