Old MacDonald Had a Farm Bill
November 5th, 2011 - By Lari Robling
The Farm Bill is broad-reaching legislation that comes up for renewal September 2012. Given it's budget, there are many interests involved, but what's in the best interest of consumers? We begin the dialogue with Dan Imhoff and LaDonna Redmond.
- John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Farm Bill Budget Visualizer
- Pennsylvania Public Health Training Center at Drexel University: Why the Farm Bill Matters
Chances are, when you sit down to dinner tonight, you are not thinking government food policy. But the meat, potatoes, vegetables — everything on your plate is part of legislation called the Farm Bill. And if you pay for that meal with SNAP, food stamp assistance, the Farm Bill does that, too. It’s up for re-authorization next year and given the proposed cuts to balance the nation’s budget, the expectation is that there will be big changes in this expenditure that exceeds 280 billion dollars.
“There are really two issues at stake here.”
Dan Imhoff is an activist and the author of “Food Fight: The Citizens Guide to a Food and Farm Bill.” He spoke at a national food day event sponsored by the Philadelphia Department of Health – also a funder of the FIT series.
“What kinds of foods are we going to have available and then how are those foods going to be produce,” asks Imhoff. He continues, “Right now we have a farm bill that promotes industrialized commodity agriculture and we can see that those markets are really strong and what we really need is a different kind of investment in regional agriculture and really the Farm Bill can be a driver to diversify our food system.”
The Farm Bill had its beginnings when farms were being foreclosed and dust storms swept the open land. Sounds familiar….but the bill came about during the Great Depression as a way to keep crop production at profitable levels. Throughout the years, the focus has changed, but as Imhoff notes this legislation still determines how farms operate.
“The real question,” he says, “is what size?” Imhoff adds, “The small and medium scale farmers in this country have a lot harder time making money and staying afloat than these huge mega farm operations that get big subsidy payments are able to turn that into expanded acreage and even more consolidation of farms and power.”
LaDonna Redmond works for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade policy. She spoke about food justice at the event and says there are small things individuals can do to have more control over our food system….
“You need to pay attention to where you food comes from, says Redmond. “ You can vote of course with your dollars where you buy your food if you are not shopping farmers markets and you don’t know a farmer I strongly suggest you meet one. It really is about families and communities and people sitting around the table everybody eats so this is not a conversation that leaves anybody out.”
Imhoff agrees we need to support regional food production and adds, “We are losing our culture of family farmers and we are also facing a crisis where not a lot of young people want to be farmers today or can really afford access to this essential career and farm bill programs can help with that.”
The most important thing consumers can do is pay attention to how the bill is revised in the coming months and voice an opinion.