Old MacDonald Had a Farm Bill Part 2
March 2nd, 2012 - By Lari Robling
It comes up every five years and is sometimes perceived as a pernicious weed, but The Farm Bill is a massive piece of legislation with far reaching influence. From big agribusiness, small farmers, food assistance programs, fuel for your car, access to locally produced food and more, just about everyone has an interest. Get to know your Farm Bill!
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You know the joke—laws are like sausages, best not to see them being made. Take The Farm Bill, it oversees agribusiness, family farms, bio energy, food assistance programs, farmers markets and a whole lot more. "The Farm Bill is a completely stunning piece of legislation, you look at it and you think of it as just jaw dropping," that’s Marion Nestle, NYU professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health. She writes about food politics and of course, The Farm Bill.
"It really can't be understood except historically and as an accretion of programs that got built on one by one by one or another member of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees." The first Farm Bill was written in 1933 to help farmers during the Depression. It's renewed every five years and needs passage in 2012. There's so much at stake, every lobbyist, grassroots organization and special interest is putting in their two cents making sure they get their dollars.
Plus, there are regional interests. Gabriella Morah is a project manager for The Food Trust here in Philadelphia and notes these priorities don't have to be mutually exclusive. "Agricultural environments really go ahead and supply the food for the urban environments." The Food Trust brought together local interest groups including governmental and non-profit agencies as well as farmers to create a unified voice.
"One of our major interests is public health, and really the epidemic of obesity that has become so prevalent. As well as issues with malnutrition on the other side under nutrition and hunger." Broader economic issues are also important says Morah, "we can potentially see in the long run decreases in spending for care of a lot of the obesity related co-morbidities that exist in this country, like cardiovascular disease, like diabetes, that's affecting children and adults. So there can be savings there as well."
Here in Pennsylvania, Senator Casey supports inclusion of a national marker bill, The Local Farms Food and Jobs Act, encompassing many of these issues. On March 7th, a Senate hearing is scheduled to discuss healthy food initiatives, local production and nutrition. The Food Trust is producing a fact sheet to help people who want to learn more about how this bill affects our region.