Payment limits topple, but the livestock title looks good — for now
Update [2007-12-14 13:5:54 by Tom Philpott]:The Senate just passed the farm bill, 79-14. Presumably the livestock title is intact. Now it’s time to mount an epochal battle to defend that important title as Congress reconciles the House and Senate versions, which will take place in early 2008.
An amendment that would have limited subsidy payments crumbled yesterday despite winning the vote 56-43. That’s because, in filibuster-related shenanigans similar to what happened to the energy bill, the amendment needed a "super-majority" of 60 votes to pass.
But the current Senate version contains much worthy of defending — specifically, a robust "livestock title," which would (among other good things) ban meatpackers like Tyson and Smithfield from owning their own livestock — a practice whose odiousness is well-described by Elanor Starmer.
Aimee Witteman of the formidable Sustainable Agriculture Coalition told me today that she expects the Senate to pass that version of the bill. However, even that wouldn’t ensure that Smithfield will no longer be able to raise 1 million hogs every year.
That’s because while the livestock title might indeed scrape through the Senate, it’s hard to imagine it surviving the reconciliation process. The House version of the farm bill contains no livestock title to speak of; and it seems likely that regressive forces there will crush it.
And even if it survived reconciliation with the House, it would be astonishing if that … thing … in the White House signed off on a livestock title with teeth.
Still, it will be a small miracle if the livestock title emerges from the Senate — a sign that agribusiness is slowly losing its grip over the political class, that growing public support of human-scale, sustainable agriculture is becoming a political force.
It will be of key importance to keep pressure on, to keep raising public awareness of the ill effects of a tightly consolidated, rigorously industrialized meat-production system.