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2012 Farm Bill will maintain corporate food model

July 12, 2012

Yesterday, MLive ran a story citing Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow who believes that the 2012 Farm Bill that passed in the Senate and is being voted on in the House today is a “win for Michigan.”

Actually, the MLive posting wasn’t much of an article, since it was mainly a re-printing of a statement from Senator Stabenow, with no other voices or a critical assessment of the version of the bill passed by the Senate.

The version passed by the Senate is not a win for Michigan, unless you define Michigan as big business. According to Food & Water Watch, which has been organizing a campaign to get the federal government to pass a Fair Farm Bill, the Senate passed version of the Farm Bill benefits the large agri-businesses in the US, not small farmers or a sustainable food system.

Although the Senate bill made changes to commodity policy that will be touted as reform, the bill reinforced prior farm policies that favor large industrial-scale agriculture and overproduction of commodity crops like corn and soybeans. Only a few companies sell what farmers need (like seeds, fertilizer and tractors) and only a few firms buy what farmers raise, which means they pay more for supplies and get less for their crops and livestock. The four largest companies in each industry slaughter nearly all the beef, process two-thirds of the pork, sell half the groceries and process about half the milk in the United States.

This is no accident. It’s the direct result of lobbying campaigns by major agribusinesses, industry trade associations and the policies that Congress passed on their behalf. And the process in which the Farm Bill was decided is even more disconcerting. Started in secret under the guise of the Supercommittee budget slashing process last fall, the farm bill has had little input from anyone other than a handful of legislators and the Big Ag lobbyists who pay the most to play. The secret farm bill developed for the Supercommittee got scant scrutiny from the Senate Agriculture Committee. The 1,000-page proposal was released only a few days before the Committee finalized the nearly trillion-dollar legislation in three short hours  – that’s about $90 million a second.

Then, when the Farm Bill finally made its way to the Senate’s agenda last week, nearly 300 amendments flooded in. From the absurd (ending the federal food stamp program and taking on Canadian geese) – to the outright irrelevant  (aid to Pakistan and protecting the Pentagon budget), many of the amendments had little to do with farming or food.

The House version of the bill was introduced last week and might be decided on today. The MLive story mentions this in one sentence, but offers up no information on what is in the House version of the Farm Bill, nor where Michigan members of Congress stand on this issue.

Again, according to Food & Water Watch, the House version so far has not been a benefit to the public. They state:

Most of today’s action was related to the nutrition title, which primarily funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps). The House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill cuts $16 billion from SNAP benefits, primarily by limiting eligibility. The Committee rejected an effort to make the cuts even steeper (by applying the draconian Ryan Budget cuts) but also rejected an effort to restore the SNAP cuts or use the lower level of $4 billion in cuts in the Senate Farm bill.

So, it not only appears that the Farm Bill will maintain the tax payer subsidies to big Ag, it will continue massive support for factory farms, unsustainable agriculture practices and punish low income families with cuts to food assistance. One more reason why we need a food revolution!

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