If you’re like many Food Day supporters, you care about the food you eat. You may be concerned with rising rates of obesity and diet-related illnesses in our country. You may worry for people in your community who don’t have regular access to affordable healthy food. You may care about whether your food is eco-friendly and if those producing it were treated fairly.
But asking you to care about the farm bill might seem like a stretch. Hey, you’re busy! You have a lot of things to worry about. Is it realistic for you to you spend your valuable free time wading into this complex law?
The new farm bill is expected to spend just under $1 trillion over the next ten years. If you are a taxpayer, you are contributing to this spending. If you eat, the farm bill affects you. It also affects your family and your community. You should care about the farm bill because you are a stakeholder.
As a stakeholder, you may find some of the policies in the current 1,770 page-long farm bill startling. The vast majority of federal farm subsidies go to a handful of crops, like corn, soy, and cotton, with the largest and wealthiest farms receiving the biggest benefits. Many of these subsidies do not support healthy foods that feed people directly. For example, a lot of the subsidized corn is used to produce ethanol and much of the corn and soy are used as animal feed at concentrated animal feeding operations (also known as “factory farms”). There are incentives in the bill for monocropping vast acreage and for farming on environmentally sensitive land. There are disincentives for growing fruits and vegetables (called “specialty crops” in the bill) and for growing organic food.
But there’s good news too. The farm bill includes programs that reward the farmers who are the best stewards of the land. Some programs help young people and people of color who want to start sustainable farms. Others help family farmers and local entrepreneurs provide good food to the people in their area.
Congress is now rewriting the farm bill. You can take action with the members of Congress who represent you. Please voice your support for farm bill programs that help family farmers, protect natural resources, and provide healthy, affordable food to all Americans.
Photo Credit: NSAC
Top left: Farmers markets, like this one in Washington, D.C., can receive assistance through the farm bill's Farmers Market Promotion Program.
Bottom right: Farmers and farmer advocates from around the country travel to the nation’s capitol to advocate for better farm bill policies.