“What does the Farm Bill mean for me?”
The extension of the current (2008) federal Farm Bill expires at the end of September. If a new bill (or an extension of the current bill) is not passed, federal price supports to farmers will revert to those of the 1949 permanent bill. Some farmers, such as those involved in wheat or dairy production for example, would profit from the 1949 supports. Yet farmers who produce commodities that were added after the 1949 legislation, such as soybeans would lose support. This uncertainty makes it difficult for major food producers to plan for the future and to run profitable businesses.
“I’m not a farmer, so why should I care?”
The Farm bill does not consist of only commodity support programs though. A larger portion of federal funding is dedicated to nutrition and food assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP), which was formerly known as food stamps. The Democrat-controlled Senate passed its version of a Farm Bill that included nutrition and food support programs in addition to commodity support programs. The Republican-controlled House passed only commodity support programs and not the nutrition support programs. Both programs have always been supported by both major parties until this year. This is the first time in history that support programs designed to assist those needing food have been split from support programs designed to assist producers achieve security and profit in unstable production and market conditions. During a time period of increased unemployment and increased underemployment, the House is proposing to cut $10 billion from the SNAP program over the next ten years. This has caused the entire Farm Bill to be stalled. This puts our nation’s food producers at risk while bipartisan politics try to reach an agreement.
The Farm Bill Also Affects Animal Rights
Additionally, according to Live Science’s August 9th Op-Ed, the Farm Bill Tramples States Rights to Protect Animals, Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, states that,
“As members of Congress left Washington and returned to their districts for the August recess, opposition to the farm bill amendment introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), began to swell. The King amendment is a sort of legislative kudzu, so invasive and dangerous it could crowd out hundreds of state and local laws setting appropriate standards for agriculture.” and “For the animal welfare movement, to put a fine point on its impact, King’s measure could easily repeal all the state laws against shark finning, puppy mills, extreme confinement of farm animals and the slaughter and sale of meat from horses, dogs and cats.”
How Our Tax Dollars Support the Degrading Quality of Our Food
If you would like a deeper understanding of how federal supports affect what farmers produce and how they produce it, please view the 2007 documentary, King Corn.
“King Corn is a feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. In the film, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America’s most-productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat—and how we farm.” (kingcorn.net)
Our food system has become a Domination System.
The system no longer works for our wellbeing, but instead we are dominated by the system’s need to create ever increasing yields and profit at the cost of our wellbeing, the wellbeing of our farmers, and of the crops and livestock they produce. The domination system under which we all live is described by theologian Walter Wink in the Powers that Be. I do recommend reading it.
We can choose to create another way to feed ourselves while also supporting our farmers and caring for animal wellbeing and the wellbeing of our environment.
. . .
We can grow a garden for ourselves with what space we have.
We can also support small local farmers.
Before we can dismantle the current systems that dominate us, we must first create suitable structures and systems with which to replace them.
This is Gandhian Economics – Constructive Program
This is Jesus’ Third Way – Nonviolent Social Change
This is Restorative Practices – Creating Systems to Meet People’s Unmet Needs