Farm Bill


The bad food news of 2011

We continue digesting this year’s food politics coverage below — only this time we take account of the things that didn’t go so well. (Tired of bad news? See the year’s good food news instead.) 1.  Food prices have gone up, and more people need help feeding their families The fact that 46 million people — about a seventh of the U.S. population — now receive food stamps (i.e. help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)) should be enough to tell us that something is wrong with America’s food system. But thanks to the way public food assistance is …

Farm Bill

Whippersnappers unite: Young farmers work to change 2012 Farm Bill

A group of young farmers visiting Sen. Olympia Snowe’s office in Maine.Across the U.S., young people are heeding the call for a more just, sustainable, and healthy food system, and are heading to the fields to build it themselves. They are working on farms and starting their own small-scale farm businesses from scratch. But, as the National Young Farmers’ Coalition recently revealed, there are big obstacles getting in the way of these green entrepreneurs — and the change eaters want to see on their grocery store shelves. Last month, the Coalition released the results of a needs survey of 1,000 …

Farm Bill

Hacking the Farm Bill

A slide from the winning entry. Rebecca Klein wasn’t expecting a lot when she signed up to attend last week’s Farm Bill Hackathon. This public health expert from the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins University had never heard of a hackathon — a gathering of computer programmers who lock themselves in a room to tackle epic projects with unrestricted creativity — until around two weeks before the event. While the idea of bringing together other sustainable food advocates with computer programmers interested in helping them build tools appealed to her, it also seemed a little ambitious. The …

Farm Bill

Crop insurance: This year’s Farm Bill frontier

2011 was a record year for liability, with drought in Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma, and Hurricane Irene taking out crops along the Eastern seaboard. Photo: Bob Gutowski One of the great battles of the 2012 Farm Bill might concern … (drumroll) … crop insurance! Don’t roll your eyes: At $8 billion, it’s the largest part of the current farm bill budget that actually has to do with farms (as opposed to what is literally the largest part, which deals with food stamps). According to a leaked document containing a set of recommendations by the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to …

Farm Bill

No Secret Farm Bill and other things to be thankful for

Mark Bittman has provided the ultimate Thanksgiving guide for anyone interested in making our broken food system work again. His exhaustive list of the 25 people or groups for which he is most thankful is a must-read.* It starts with nutritionist and food system reform pioneer Marion Nestle and ends with “anyone who’s started a small farm in the last five years, and anyone who’s supported one; anyone who cooks, and especially anyone who teaches others to cook.” That covers a good portion of Grist readers, I’d like to point out. So good on all of you, too. Heaven knows, …

Farm Bill

The Farm Bill: The view from the grassroots

The odds that most of us laypeople will have any opportunity to influence this year’s Farm Bill process are looking awfully slim. Sure, there’s still a chance the current, nearly opaque supercommittee process, and the piece of it now known as “the Secret Farm Bill,” could break down. If that happens, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) said last week: It could proceed under a more normal legislative process through both the House and Senate committees early next year, or the current farm bill could be extended for a year, with the committees coming back to work on a new …

Farm Bill

A local food blueprint

Photo: Matthew BurpeeThe most exciting aspect of the new USDA report on the local food and farm economy [PDF] isn’t the sizable $4.8 billion in annual sales of local food it says occurred in 2008. It’s the fact that, as the AP noted, the local food economy is poised to grow as fast as even the most optimistic estimates. The way things are trending, local food sales in 2011 could pass $7 billion — a number that local food boosters (as well as the USDA itself [PDF]) threw around a few years back. That figure would represent an impressive 15 …

Sustainable Farming

Incredible shrinking farmland

Photo: Alicia Guy Joel Huesby comes from a long line of conventional farmers, but in 1994, he had what he calls an epiphany that led him to switch to organic farming. He’s of the mind that we’ll drive ourselves to extinction if we drive our farmlands that way first. “Conventional commodity agriculture, to my way of looking at it, is standing in the boots of a dead man with toothpicks holding his eyes open,” he said. “It looks alive but it’s not. I don’t see that as the future.” Through years of trial and error, Huesby and his family found …

Factory Farms

Will a ‘Secret Farm Bill’ be passed this week?

Photo: Jeff Cushner Update (Nov. 4, 2011): According to this SFGate article, the new bill is expected to be submitted to the congressional supercommittee as early as today (Friday). Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wisc.) (the same Kind who put forth the Kind-Flake amendment during the 2007-2008 Farm Bill process) has stepped up at the 11th hour to oppose the swift passage of a “Secret Farm Bill.” He told SFGate’s Washington D.C.-based reporter Stacy Finz: “Time is of the essence. This is a horrible process. It keeps Congress and the whole nation in the dark.” An additional 26 additional members of congress …

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