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The Agribusiness model of the 2023 US Farm Bill as presented by MiBiz vs a Food Justice model

March 8, 2023

Our current food system is not inevitable. Decades of misguided farm policy designed by agribusiness and unchecked corporate consolidation have wreaked havoc on family farmers, food workers, rural communities, and public health. Today, one in seven households with children is food-insecure; median farm income is negative; slaughterhouse workers suffer double the rate of reported injuries and illnesses than workers in the manufacturing sector as a whole; and rural communities continue to decline as factory farms expand.

The above paragraph comes from the introduction of a report by Food & Water Watch entitled, A Fair Farm Bill For All. 

 The US Farm Bill, which is the primary policy that determines how most of the food grown/raised in the US takes place. 

Another excellent resource is the, “Farm Subsidy Database shows that federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2021 totaled $478 billion. This huge amount of taxpayer money does almost nothing to help farmers reduce their greenhouse gas emissions or adapt to adverse weather conditions caused by the climate crisis,” from the Environmental Working Group. You can search to see which farms are being subsidized in you state and county. According to the Environmental Working Group, “most farm subsidies go to commodity crops, such as corn and soybeans, which are not grown to feed people, and to the largest and wealthiest farms.” 

The last time the Farm Bill was decided upon was in 2018, where policy makers dictated how $428 Billion of taxpayer dollars were spent. Many of the same policy makers will determine once again how public money will be used. 

This brings us to the question of what is happening in West Michigan around the US Farm Bill. A little over a week ago, MiBiz posted an article entitled, Michigan ag interests reach national stage in 2023 Farm Bill. 

In many ways, the headline conveys the overall sentiment, which is that it recognizes that Michigan is a major food commodity produce, plus Agribusiness interests will determine who benefits and who doesn’t. 

The MiBiz article cites s few larger farm operations, someone from the MSU Food & Agricultural  Policy department and a representative from the Michigan Farm Bureau. All of the sources cited have a vested interest in maintaining the same heavily subsidized food system that benefits the largest agribusinesses and perpetuates industrial food production that is detrimental to the top soil, contributes significantly to climate change, abuses migrant workers (in both the fields and slaughterhouses) and causes serious public health issues because of how food is processed/created in the commodity markets. 

The MiBiz article also praises Senator Stabenow, who has been chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. However, the praise comes from those who benefit most from the farm subsidies in the Farm Bill, it doesn’t come from small farmers or community groups that are pushing for a food justice/food sovereignty model in the US. This praise of Stabenow was also misplaced in 2018, as we noted in a GRIID article 5 years ago.

The Food & Water Watch report mentioned earlier in this post, does have a section at the end that proposes some interesting policy changes around the Farm Bill. However, until the current Agribusiness system is radically transformed, the US Farm Bill will continue to prop up a food system that harms workers, destroys ecosystems and makes most of us unhealthy. We need to adopt policies and practices that are rooted in food justice and food sovereignty. 

Check out the GRIID produced Food Justice Workshop slides, which we have presented on numerous occasions throughout West Michigan.

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