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What we can learn from the 2012 Farm Bill hearings Sen. Stabenow has already hosted in Washington

February 29, 2012

Earlier today, Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow hosted the second of four scheduled hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill in Washington, DC.

The hearing held this morning focused on energy conservation and the 2012 Farm Bill. According the Senator’s own Press Release, “Senator Stabenow worked with other agriculture leaders to develop a plan to consolidate 23 conservation programs into just 13, while maintaining the same conservation tools currently available-and in some cases strengthening them.”

Stabenow is praised in the press release for bringing together a bipartisan group of leaders and farmers from across the nation to create a solution that will both save money and create more agricultural jobs. However, the press release doesn’t say who was involved in the process, how jobs will be created and what those jobs will actually look like.

Who Gets Invited

Those invited to speak at the hearing were made up of primarily government entities, farmers and spokespersons for large national conservation foundations such as the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). The NFWF was created in 1984 and has always been stacked with government and corporate people on its board of directors. More importantly, the NFWF has a list of corporate partners, which would make any serious conservationist sick to their stomach. Companies like Walmart, Altria, Budweiser, FedEx and a litany of oil companies such as BP, Conoco/Philips, Chevron and Exxon/Mobil.

The “farmers” that were invited were representatives from people who own large farms that use primarily heavy equipment and farms that grow mostly mono-crops. Some of those farmers that spoke were from Mattson Farms and the Darrel Mosel Farms. Both of these farmers are beneficiaries of significant farm subsidies through previous farm bill legislation. You can search farms subsidies across the country or county by county by going to the Environmental Working Group’s farm subsidy database site and those in Michigan can click here.

The first of the four Farm Bill hearings being held in Washington took place on February 15. The focus of this hearing was Energy and Economic Growth for Rural America.

Listening to the comments it was interesting that much of the discussion and much of what Senator Stabenow spoke about in her comments was the emphasis on agricultural energy production such as bio-fuels and the expansion of the use of agriculture-based products such as soybean based materials that will be used to make seats for cars.

Besides all the ecologically unsound ramifications of bio-fuels, the continued push for such a direction of using farmland for fuel, this decision will have devastating consequences on global food prices and will contribute to widespread hunger.

Those who addressed Senator Stabenow and the Agricultural Committee were exclusively representatives from agribusiness, government and private energy corporations.

For instance, Virent is a corporation that refers to itself as a crude oil replacing company. It is true that the company is developing chemical and plant-based energy resources, but the company is really operating with a green capitalism framework. Virent’s corporate partners include on of the largest members of the global food cartel – Cargill. In addition to Cargill, Virent has a close partnership with companies such as Shell, Coca Cola and Honda, which should be a clear indicator of who will be the primary beneficiaries of the 2012 Farm Bill.

This writer listened to the majority of the commentary from business and government during the February 15 Farm Bill hearing. The commentary from virtually every person who addressed the committee clearly was speaking on behalf of corporate America, despite the occasional rhetoric on sustainability. You can listen to the entire hearing, which is streamed on the Agriculture Committee’s web page.

After looking at who was invited and what was addressed at the first two 2012 Farm Bill hearings, there doesn’t seem to be any indication that the Agricultural Committee is hearing local, small farming and food voices or that those voices don’t really matter because they do not have any representation during these government hearings.

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