Every five years, Congress rewrites a massive piece of legislation known as the Farm Bill. You may notice that all of a sudden there’s a rush of action alerts and articles in the press about this bill, and you may think “why should I pay attention? I’m not a farmer.” So here’s an easy quiz to see if this bill matters to you:
Do you eat?
If you answered yes, and I’m sincerely hoping you did, then you have a stake in this bill. The Farm Bill, which will spend nearly one trillion dollars over the next ten years, determines in large part what farmers grow and therefore, what you eat— and it is about to be voted on in the US Senate this week.
The bill currently provides subsidies to farmers who grow commodity crops like corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton, but not for farmers who grow fruits and vegetables. According to the Environmental Working Group, the majority of these payments go to the largest farms, leaving the 80% of the small family farms growing these crops across the country with less than 10% of the pie.
The bill also provides the funding for important programs like SNAP (food stamps) and other programs to help hungry families, but the version being voted on in the Senate this week doesn’t do enough to help these families access fresh and local fruits and veggies. Though it contains some important provisions in support of organic farming, local food production, and beginning farmers and ranchers, it leaves others out. In general it does far too little to support these types of agriculture in comparison with the billions it spends to support commodity growers.
In short, there is a lot of room for improvement in this trillion dollar package.
This week our co-founder and chairman Gary Hirshberg joined seventy leading chefs, authors, food policy experts, nutritionists, CEOs, and environment and health organizations in sending an open letter to Members of Congress urging lawmakers to reinvest federal farm and crop insurance subsidy dollars into programs that feed the hungry, support small family farmers, protect the environment and promote the consumption of local, organic and healthy food.
Now it’s your turn to join Gary in taking action to call for a healthier, more sustainable farm bill. Lawmakers are scheduled to vote on this bill in the Senate on Thursday, June 7. Your calls in support of these three amendments to improve the farm bill can make a real difference:
- SUPPORT: Senator Merkley’s Organic Crop Insurance Amendment. Organic farmers face unjustifiable barriers to participation in crop insurance. These barriers can and should be removed so that organic farmers can be part of the farm safety net that producers in other sectors enjoy.
- SUPPORT: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) announced she would propose an amendment to cut subsidies that go to private crop insurance companies and use the savings to pay for food assistance programs and to support healthy and balanced diets.
- SUPPORT: Senator Sherrod Brown is considering an amendment that funds important programs like Value-Added Producer Grants and the Rural Microentrepeneur Assistance Program – two programs that create jobs and spur economic growth through food and farms. And this potential amendment invests critical funding in the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program – two programs that support the future of American agriculture.
When you get in touch, simply say that you hope they will support a healthy and sustainable farm bill by voting for Senator Merkley’s organic crop insurance amendment, Senator Gillibrand’s crop insurance and healthy foods amendment, and Senator Brown’s proposed amendment to support local agriculture and beginning farmers.
Together, we can help make sure that this farm bill serves the interest of everyone who eats.