Farm Bill 2012
The Farm Bill is a huge piece of legislation that literally shapes the American farm and food landscape. And it’s no small potatoes. In 2008, the Farm Bill appropriated over $284 billion. Most of the money that doesn’t go toward food assistance programs ends up in the pockets of those producing commodity crops, or as Michael Pollan calls them, “building blocks of fast food.”
The Farm Bill, continues Pollan, “isn’t a bill just for farmers. It really should be called a ‘food bill’ because it is the rules for the food system we all eat by, and those rules are really lousy right now. They need to be changed.”
Unfortunately, the 2012 Farm Bill process began on a note that was less transparent than ever before. In October of 2011, the Environmental Working Group coined the term “Secret Farm Bill” to describe the negotiations that took place between the Senate and House Agriculture Committees and the congressional supercommittee. The supercommittee failed to reach a consensus and beginning in early 2012, the Ag Committees began hammering out their versions of the bill in earnest.
Throughout the process, one thing has been clear; the 2012 Farm Bill will require significant cuts. And whether the Democrat-controlled Senate and the GOP-controlled House can agree on a bill before the last one expires in September is anyone’s guess. Stay tuned! (And scroll down to read the latest article at the bottom of the right column.)
Stories in this series:
Food fighters: Don't give up on the farm bill
The upcoming farm bill won't be the watershed moment we've been waiting for. But it still provides an opportunity for food reformers to become sophisticated policy players.
Quick and dirty: Congress may rewrite the Farm Bill in two weeks
Brace yourselves, food advocates: The congressional supercommittee charged with reducing the national debt considers making cuts to the nation's most important food and farming legislation.
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 …
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 …
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 …
Theft in progress: Big Ag raids the treasury — with help from Congress
If the straight-up taxpayer swindle taking place in the supercommittee isn’t making you angry, you’re probably not paying attention. I’m talking about the attempt by agribusiness and a group of willing farm-state representatives to put billions of taxpayer dollars into the pockets of industrial farmers during the ongoing super committee Farm Bill negotiations. According to The Hill, the moment of truth is upon us: The supercommittee is indeed poised to rewrite the Farm Bill behind closed doors and with no input from reform-minded congresspeople, let alone the public. Many of us have known this was going on, but the Environmental Working …
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, …
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 …
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 …
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 …
Can the 2012 Farm Bill protect the Ogallala Aquifer?
Kansas wheat.Photo: Brian McGuirkMy father farmed in Kansas and envied those lucky farmers in the wetter states to the east of us, who could grow 200-bushel corn and other lucrative crops like soy beans and sugar beets. He had to satisfy himself with wheat, a drought-tolerant crop first brought to the States from a place in Russia much like ours. There, they called such arid places “steppes.” Here, we called them “plains.” To look at the pale-green buffalo grass that covered the High Plains, you would never suspect that an aquifer holding as much water as Lake Huron lay beneath. …
Why the 2012 Farm Bill is a climate bill
The Environmental Working Group says climate change activists should be concerned about proposed cuts to farm bill conservation programs, which would be the carbon-emissions equivalent of adding 2 million cars a year to America's roads.
Farm Bill update: Fewer secrets, more hard work
The Secret Farm Bill process is long over and the Senate Ag Committee has scheduled its first round of Farm Bill hearings. So where should the sustainable food community put its attention now?
Corn, corn everywhere — and not a drop to eat
Record-high crop prices have all the big farms in the Midwest planting up a storm while farm state politicians plan to trim conservation programs. Put them together and what do you get? A Big Ag bubble.
Despite the headlines, Big Ag subsidies aren’t going anywhere
Is crop insurance just another way to say "handouts for Big Ag"? Or is it an excuse to send taxpayer dollars to overseas insurance giants? Our sources say it's both.
Farm bill fail: Is food policy headed back to the future?
If Congress can't pass a new farm bill by September, farm policy will default to a 1949 version of the bill that was constructed for a very different America.
Farm Bill 2012: ‘It’s a mess, but it’s our mess’
Daniel Imhoff, the man who literally wrote the book on food policy, talks about democracy, debate, and why we should feel thankful for the farm bill, even in depressing years like this one.
Would you like a bad farm bill — or a terrible one?
For food reformers, little has changed since the "Secret Farm Bill" process was exposed to the public last fall. But now the GOP-led House has turned their attention to food stamps and it remains to be seen whether Congress can agree on a bill in time.
Will this Farm Bill do enough for young farmers?
By the time the next Farm Bill expires in five years, 125,000 American farmers will have retired. This fact may well be the biggest threat to national food security, but you wouldn’t know it if you’ve been following this year’s Farm Bill hearings.
Politicians, advocates make an 11th-hour push for a better farm bill
Do you have something to say about the $85 billion bill that will shape the nation's food and farming landscape for the next five years? Congress is digging down into the details, but it's not too late to chime in.