Politics makes strange bedfellows and even stranger dinner plates. Amidst much controversy, the Farm Bill reached the Senate floor on Monday and created some unusual alliances. As the San Francisco Chronicle put it, “Seldom in Washington do such coalitions develop that unite the Bush White House and the group Environmental Defense on one side, and on the other, Senate Democrats and Republicans who have set aside their ideological hostilities to preserve and expand crop subsidies for a minority of wealthy farmers.”
Michael Pollan’s op-ed in the New York Times, Weed It and Reap, does a great job explaining the state of the current bill and how “some nutritious crumbs” have been added “to ensure that reform-minded legislators will hold their noses and support it.” A little money for food stamps and “specialty crops” and we’re supposed to forget that the lion’s share of the funding ($42 billion) goes to supporting the five big commodity crops. As Pollan puts it, we “subsidize precisely the wrong kind of calories (added fat and added sugar), helping to make Twinkies cheaper than carrots.” No wonder we’re all getting fat!
So what about the food we actually want to eat? Is there any support for the type of farms that produce healthy, nutritious food? Well, according to Chairman of the House of Representatives Agricultural Committee Collin Peterson, as quoted in Financial Times, the farm sector that raises organic produce and grass-fed beef for local consumers needs little federal help. “It is growing, and it has nothing to do with the government, and that is good,” he told the FT. “For whatever reason, people are willing to pay two or three times as much for something that says ‘organic’ or ‘local’. Far be it from me to understand what that’s about, but that’s reality. And if people are dumb enough to pay that much then hallelujah.”
Wait a minute, did he really call me dumb? Dumb enough to eat food that is full of natural flavor and doesn’t need sodium or fat to make it taste good? Dumb enough to support farmers in my community who hold off suburban sprawl? Dumb enough to care about our country’s agricultural heritage and preserving a rural way of life where farmers grow food of which they are proud? Dumb enough to be concerned about food security? Well, count me as really really dumb! But, don’t count on my vote for business as usual when it comes to our food system.
– Maisie Greenawalt, Director of Communications & Strategic Initiatives