We thought we were finally done with the farm bill after months and months of “negotiations,”  but we spoke too soon.  Apparently the House yesterday overruled a different version of the farm bill than the President signed, meaning that we’re back at the beginning.  Well, almost the beginning. This is just one more step to prove that the Bush Administration is pure evil.

I don’t think I have to remind anyone that an estimated 35.5 million Americans are food insecure; meaning their access to enough food is limited by a lack of money and other resources.  (USDA/ERS, Household Food Security in the United States: 2006).  Food Banks all over the country have been urging that the farm bill needs to be passed and put into place. 

Yesterday in a press release, America’s Second Harvest, the country’s largest food bank distributor commended the House for overruling the President’s veto.

“Demands are up, and food is down,” said Vicki Escarra, President of America’s Second Harvest. “This is one of the worst times that our food banks have experienced in recent years in terms of the level of need and our ability to meet the need. At the same time, food stamp benefits are eroding and food and fuel prices continue to soar.”

Food banks nationwide have experienced a dramatic decline of nearly $200 million in food donations from the USDA surplus commodity program in recent years as a result of a strong agriculture economy. The Farm Bill, which has been debated for months in Congress, would bring much needed immediate relief to this dire situation facing the nation’s charitable distribution Network by replenishing record low levels of food inventories at food banks and significantly improving food stamp benefits. It would increase the amount of mandatory funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) from $140 million a year to $250 million a year and index the amount for inflation. (May 21 Press Release)

 

So after reading what the farm bill could do to immediately help the hunger situation, read this….

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House overwhelmingly rejected President Bush’s veto of a $290 billion farm bill Wednesday, but what was to have been a stinging defeat for the president became an embarrassing episode for Democrats.

art.wheat.gi.jpg  

The House will try to pass a $290 billion farm bill again Thursday after a mixup the day before.

Only hours before the House’s 316-108 vote, Bush had vetoed the five-year measure, saying it was too expensive and gave too much money to wealthy farmers when farm incomes are high. The Senate then was expected to follow suit quickly.

Action stalled, however, after the discovery that Congress had omitted a 34-page section of the bill when lawmakers sent the massive measure to the White House. That means Bush vetoed a different bill from the one Congress passed, leaving leaders scrambling to figure out whether it could become law.

Democrats hoped to pass the entire bill, again, on Thursday under expedited rules usually reserved for unopposed legislation. Lawmakers also probably will have to pass an extension of current farm law, which expires Friday.

“We will have to repass the whole thing, as will the Senate,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. “We can’t let the farm bill just die.”

Republican leaders called for a farm bill do-over. The White House, almost gleefully, seized on the fumble and said the mixup could give Congress time to fix the “bloated” bill.

“We are trying to understand the ramifications of this congressional farm bill foul-up. We haven’t found a precedent for a congressional blunder of this magnitude,” said Scott Stanzel, a White House spokesman. “It looks like it may be back to square one for them.”

“In all likelihood, you have to redo this process,” said Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the No. 2 Republican and one of the 100 GOP lawmakers who broke with Bush in voting to override the veto. “I’d like to see a farm bill passed that no judge can say is not the farm bill.”

About two-thirds of the bill would pay for nutrition programs such as food stamps, about $40 billion is for farm subsidies, and $30 billion would go to farmers to idle their land and to other environmental programs.

Congressional Republicans overwhelmingly abandoned Bush in voting to pass the bill last week. They overlooking its cost amid public concern about the weak economy and high gas and grocery prices. Supporters praised the spending on food stamps and emergency food aid.

Before the problem with the bill was discovered, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the bill could make the situation worse for struggling families.

“Members are going to have to think about how they will explain these votes back in their districts at a time when prices are on the rise,” she said. “People are not going to want to see their taxes increase.”

Wednesday’s snag stemmed from an error made while printing the legislation on parchment before sending it to Bush.

Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, said the section in question — which deals with trade and international food aid programs — was never printed. Indeed, the final 628-page version of the bill jumps straight from “Title II” on conservation programs to “Title IV” on nutrition programs.

Democrats proposed bringing up and passing the missing section separately and sending that to Bush, thus allowing the entire measure to become law. But Republicans argued that might not be constitutional because Bush actually vetoed a version that Congress never considered.

The bill would make small cuts to direct payments, which are distributed to some farmers no matter how much they grow. It also would eliminate some payments to individuals with more than $750,000 in annual farm income or married farmers who make more than $1.5 million.

Previously, negotiators were considering a $950,000 income cap for individuals on farm income.

Individuals who make more than $500,000 or couples who make more than $1 million jointly in nonfarm income also would not be eligible for subsidies.

Under current law, there is no income limit for farmers, and married couples who make less than one-fourth of their income from farming will not receive subsidies if their joint income exceeds $5 million.

The administration originally proposed a cap for those who make more than $200,000 in annual gross income but later indicated that it could accept a limit of $500,000.

The bill also would:

  • Boost nutrition programs, including food stamps and emergency domestic food aid by more than $10 billion over 10 years. It would expand a program to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to schoolchildren.
  • Increase subsidies for certain crops, including fruits and vegetables excluded from previous farm bills.
  • Extend dairy programs.
  • Increase loan rates for sugar producers.
  • Urge the government to buy surplus sugar and sell it to ethanol producers for use in a mixture with corn.
  • Cut a per-gallon ethanol tax credit for refiners from 51 cents to 45 cents. The credit supports the blending of fuel with the corn-based additive. More money would go to cellulosic ethanol, made from plant matter.
  • Require that meats and other fresh foods carry labels with their countries of origin.
  • Stop allowing farmers to collect subsidies for multiple farm businesses.
  • Reopen a major discrimination case against the Agriculture Department. Thousands of black farmers who missed a deadline would get a chance to file claims alleging that they were denied loans or other subsidies.
  • Pay farmers for weather-related farm losses from a new $3.8 billion disaster relief fund.
  • CNN Politics, May 21, 2008

    In a rapid rebuke of President Bush’s efforts for fiscal restraint, the House voted to override his veto today of a $307 billion farm bill and the Senate was poised to follow suit Thursday.

    Only hours before the House’s 316-108 vote, Bush had vetoed the five-year measure, saying it was an unnecessary gift to midland farmers at the expense of taxpayers and gave too much money to wealthy farmers when farm incomes are high.

    The veto was the 10th of Bush’s presidency. Congress so far has overridden him once, on a water projects bill. (In quick vote, House overrides Bush veto of farm bill, SF Chronicle)

    ——————————————————————————–

    Empty Shelves at the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington DC. CAFB has seen a 37-percent increase over last year in the demand for the ‘Hungar Lifeline,’ an emergency food assistance program. At the same time the bank is facing a 25-percent decrease in produce donated during the 3rd quarter of this year versus 2005. 

    “On behalf of the 25 million Americans that we serve, I commend the House of Representatives for its leadership in taking one more step to enact a Farm Bill that will help hungry Americans,” said Vicki Escarra, president and chief executive officer of America’s Second Harvest—The Nation’s Food Bank Network. “There is nothing more important right now to low-income Americans and the nation’s food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens than bringing a strong nutrition title in a new Farm Bill to every community nationwide.”

    In a recent survey of 180 food banks, respondents reported an increase of 15-20 percent on average in the number of people turning to their food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens for help. More than 90 percent of respondents reported that increasing food and fuel prices are primary driving forces in increasing demands. Further, more than 80 percent of food bank respondents reported that they are unable to adequately meet the needs of increased demands for emergency food assistance without reducing the amount of food available to agencies or clients or cutting back operations. ( America’s Second Harvest Applauds House Override Of President’s Veto)

    ——————————————————————————–

    Taken from the Community Food Security Coalition listserve on May 21, 2008

    The Irony of a Bush Farm Bill Veto:

    Katherine Ozer – National Family Farm Coalition

     President Bush’s veto of the 2008 Farm Bill further adds to the bewildering debate around it, confusing advocates for progressive policies that support sustainable family farmers instead of factory farms and corporate agribusiness.  He has been quoted as saying “…lawmakers were not doing enough to limit payments to wealthy landowners, many of whom don’t farm”.  This message comes from an Administration that has championed payments and programs benefiting not only wealthy landowners but corporate agribusiness, exporters, the livestock industry, food processors, and grain traders at every step.

     We agree that loopholes for those who don’t farm – whether land investors or McMansion developers – should be closed, but limiting which farms can participate in farm and conservation programs due to off-farm income is not the answer. The Bush Administration is virtually silent on the real bad actors contributing to our broken industrial food system; they get a free pass. Why don’t they care that owners of mega-dairy and -livestock operations can tap up to $300,000 in taxpayer subsidies to clean up their pollution through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)? Or that Bush’s “Justice Department” appears poised to approve the pending JBS-Brazil acquisition of two of the top five beef packing companies in the U.S. that will make a Brazilian company the largest beef packer in the U.S. and the world, which threatens the livelihoods of virtually all America’s ranchers.

     The Bush Administration, while touting an anti-subsidy line for wealthy farmers, has irresponsibly and continually ignored what would be responsible measures to stabilize commodity prices for farmers:  an effective government policy that includes a strategic food reserve to help stabilize volatile food prices for consumers, a price floor reflecting the true costs of production for farmers, and meaningful conservation and land stewardship programs.  Without policies that ensure farmers receive a fair market price – not just in times of crisis or through misguided demand-driven policies like ethanol production – taxpayer-supported payments or subsidies become essential to cushion low prices and to avert widespread foreclosures and rural community shutdowns.  For these reasons the National Family Farm Coalition does not support the commodity title of this farm bill.

     The Administration has opposed the decade-long efforts of Senator Grassley and others supporting real structural market reforms and to restore competition in livestock markets to provide independent family livestock operators fair access to their markets.  This competition is being blocked by increasing market concentration with four companies controlling 80 per cent of the meat slaughtered in the U.S.

     Responding to questions on the rise of global food prices during an April 29 White House press conference, President Bush stated that we should “…buy food from local farmers as a way to help deal with scarcity, but also…to put in place an infrastructure so that nations can be self-sustaining and self-supporting…” This is the correct position on international food aid and one with which we agree yet it is ironic that the Bush Administration’s continued support for free trade and the WTO has contributed to the crisis by dismantling the domestic food production in many of these countries.  On May 2, President Bush advocated lifting restrictions on exports and concluding the Doha round of the WTO to help solve the world’s food crisis.  He further stressed the cultivation of genetically engineered crops under the false pretense that they resist extreme weather conditions and increase yields.

     This message in the midst of the farm bill negotiations helps explain the Administration’s position on the bill:  they truly care more about completing the Doha round than enacting sensible domestic farm policy.  It is ironic that the direct farm payments most criticized by the San Francisco Chronicle, the editorial boards of the New York Times and the Washington Post are the payments explicitly allowed under the World Trade Organization (WTO), i.e., payments that are decoupled and delinked from production.

    It has never been more critical to the survival of millions around the world that we define the problem correctly and pursue a solution that builds food sovereignty.  While higher prices for grain, seed, and fertilizer fueled by speculative trading practices contribute to escalating food prices, the significant role of diesel fuel prices in both the farm production and distribution systems must be addressed at domestic and global levels.  The excessive corporate profiteering of oil and grain companies must be exposed and curtailed.

    We need to re-establish programs and policies that authorize farmer and country control over agricultural production systems, including the right to limit low-cost imports that destabilize local, agrarian-based economies.  This is an essential step to stabilizing the farm and food economy globally. It must start with the people and the communities on the ground – not with corporate agribusiness, misguided free trade agreements, oil companies, and GE-seed representatives

     

    What do you think?  Should the Farm Bill be vetoed or not?  Below I’ve listed a couple of websites that might help you figure out what you think…

    Click here to read to presidential Farm Bill veto message.

    Other articles about the Farm Bill

    Siding with the Bushies? from Grist

    Ag Observatory Farm Bill website

    Food Banks Urge Passage Of Historic Farm Bill To Help Hungry Americans

    I am fascinated in how American culture and changes over time effect how America feels about gardening. Thats why I would love to go to this forum and hear from older generations their ideas.  Adults and youth in your organization are encouraged to participate. Students can even get community service hours by going and taking notes that can be used for organizations. And free seeds?  I know its a bit late in the season, but I’ll never turn down free seeds…  So go and enjoy the light refreshments and soak up some knowledge and experiences.

     

    If you’re interested in presenting at the forum you can fill out this form and send it in!

    Have fun- I wish I could go!

     

    I’ve been hearing recently about a proposed plan to plant and maintain a kitchen garden on the White House lawn.  It would be a great way to spread the word about urban and kitchen gardening. Here’s a short article about the project by Roger Doiron, president of Kitchen Gardeners International.

    Announce plans for a food garden on the White House lawn, making one of the White House’s eight gardeners responsible for it, with part of produce going to the White House kitchen and the rest to a local food pantry. The White House is “America’s House” and should set an example. The new President would not be breaking with tradition, but returning to it (the White House has had vegetable gardens before) and showing how we can meet global challenges such as climate change and food security.

     

     It certainly would not be the first time there was agriculture at the White House.  John Adams, the first president to occupy the White House, planted a vegetable garden there in 1800 (White House Historical Association).  In 1835 Andew Jackson created the White House Orangery, an early type of greenhouse where tropical fruit trees and flowers can be grown, and added more trees, including the famous Jackson magnolia.  The Orangery was later expanded into a greenhouse, which was torn down in 1857 to make way for the Treasury Department building.

     

    Sheep on the White House Lawn, c. 1917. Library of Congress

     

    The article below tells a little bit about White House vegetable gardens during the war effort.

    Here is a longer article on the subject available at this link.

    Message to the Next President: Eat the View

    By Barbara Damrosch, published Thursday, February 28, 2007 in The Washington Post

    I’ve been following the presidential campaign news, and I can’t believe no one has asked the big question: Which candidate will pledge to be the Gardening President? Who will be the one to take the lead in teaching food self-sufficiency and good nutrition to the American public? What a fine example it would set if the food miles traveled by presidential produce added up to zero.

    Chef and food activist Alice Waters made headlines in 2000 by urging President Bill Clinton to plant a vegetable garden at the White House. “Send me the seeds, Alice” was his answer, as quoted in the St. Petersburg Times. But the plan was deemed out of keeping with the grounds’ formal style, and nothing came of it. Perhaps Hillary Clinton, if elected, would be willing to see it through.

    The idea certainly has historical precedent. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were dedicated farmers. According to William Seale, author of “The White House Garden,” the first kitchen garden at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was installed by President John Adams in 1800 — to cut household expenses.

    I contacted Rose Hayden-Smith, an expert on the history of wartime gardening and agriculture programs during both world wars, and she highlighted some of the first families’ efforts in the last century. Woodrow Wilson’s second wife, Edith, “raised sheep on the former White House lawn during World War I as part of the White House’s war mobilization effort,” Hayden-Smith noted. “Eleanor Roosevelt was a Victory Gardener, and grew beans and carrots on what had been the White House Lawn. This was going on by 1943. She inspired millions of other home gardeners in their efforts.” Jimmy Carter, another farmer at heart, paid particular attention to the herb garden.

    Perhaps the time has come to bring back the Victory Garden in a new guise: as a war on childhood obesity, inactivity, addiction to highly processed food with empty calories, and the use of fossil fuels to grow and ship us our meals.

    Roger Doiron, the director of Kitchen Gardeners International ( http://www.kitchengardeners.org), had a great suggestion: “We give tax breaks to people to encourage them to put hybrid cars in their garages and solar panels on their roofs, so why not a tax break to encourage environmentally friendly and healthy food production?” He likened his plan to deducting the square footage of a home office: the bigger your garden, the better the tax break. Those with no yard could deduct the rental fee for a community garden plot.

    That would be one small step toward a healthier nation. But it would get my vote.

    —–

    For an additional comment from KGI’s Roger Doiron on this topic, please click here.

    To cast your vote in favor of a new garden on the White House lawn, please go here and click on “rate this idea”.

    Article copyright of Barbara Damrosch. Reprinted with permission.

     

    If you are interested in contributing to the campaign you can do that here.

     

    I’ve only met Ed Bruske a handful of times, but I was impressed by the garden outside of his Columbia Heights home and his dedication to local food and DC Urban Gardeners.  He helped found DC Urban Gardeners last year after finding that there was a lack of outreach for urban gardeners in DC.  His blog, The Slow Cook, is updated constantly with great recipes, informative news, and goings on both around his home and in the DC foody community.  

    He recently wrote an excellent article on the global food crisis that I though was very interesting, especially for people who live in DC.  I would check out his article and the links (especially the Washington Post ones).  While you’re there, take a look at his blog- he’s got great links, great recipes, and great advise.  

    For anyone living in the DC area, Ed Bruske and the DC Urban Gardeners are a goldmine of information, take advantage of it!  They know pretty much everything growing going on in DC and their website has tons of links to local organizations, stores, and garden info. They’re involved in lots of projects so if you’re looking to volunteer, they’ve got some awesome opportunities. They also have a mailing list and a yahoo group you can get involved with.   They’re super open to talking so just drop them an email

    So check out:

    The Slow Cook 

    DC Urban Gardeners

    Cityscape by City Beautiful Reformer Jacob A. Riis, 1890

    From 1860-1910 the US population jumped from 31.4 million to 91.9 million. That means that over this span of forty years the population tripled in size. Urban centers especially felt a strain as 46% of the population lived in urban areas. Cities stretched to accommodate these millions and deteriorated in the process. As the destitute crowded cities, living in back alleys and crowded apartments, the upper classes moved out of the city centers to the peaceful retreat of the countryside. The advent of urban rail systems and roadways allowed for this upper-class migration to the suburbs. Those elite who stayed in the city were surrounded by poverty and feared for their safety, many city-dwellers were desperate for money and food. In the center of Washington, D.C., 18,978 people lived in 303 alleys surrounding upper-class townhouses (Rose).

    The National Mall was a City Beautiful Plan passed in 1901

    The City Beautiful Movement, lead by the middle and upper classes, was meant to deal with these rising issues of sanitation, crime, and over-population of cities. In the height of the Gilded Age, these reformers felt the best way to deal with these issues was through consumption and creation of beauty. They felt that classic beauty of the city would inspire feelings of civic loyalty and moral rectitude in the impoverished that would help to lower crime rates. Uncultivated backyards and vacant lots were seen as eyesores (Basset,1981). In fact, some kitchen gardens nourishing the poor were “improved” or destroyed to be replaced by elegant and classic-style parks and promenades (Williamson).

    Lady Henry showing T.P. O’Connor the Children’s Garden

    Basset, however, believes that it gave teachers and school children an opportunity to become involved in gardening and being outside. For example, Minneapolis’ Garden Club cultivated many of the city’s vacant lots. They grew so many vegetables that local stores began carrying their produce. These garden city plots worked across social classes to improve health, save money, and “provide rest from the tensions of urban life” (Basset 1981). The benefits of these gardens helped to shape America’s perceptions of growing vegetables in cities, aspects reflected in current day community gardens (Williamson)

    Click here to learn more about Liberty gardens during World War I.

    To return to the main history page click here.

    If the City Beaustiful movement just fascinates you here’s some references….

    Bassett, Thomas J. “Reaping on the Margins: A Century of Community Gardening in

    America.” Landscape, 1981 v25 n2. 1-8.

    Gilbert, Stephanie Paterson. The City Beautiful Movement and Harrisburg’s Old 8th Ward. http://www.old8thward.com/citybeautiful.htm

    Rose, Julie K. 1996. City Beauiful: The 1901 Plan for Washington D.C. Aproject of American Studies at America University. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~cap/CITYBEAUTIFUL/dchome.html.

    Wikipedia. The City Beautiful Movement.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_Beautiful_movement

    Williamson, Erin A. A Deeper Ecology: Community Gardens in the Urban Environment. U Delaware. http://www.cityfarmer.org/erin.html

    Really great paper found of the City Farmer website, it has great background and history and incite into the need for and role of community gardens in North America.

    School children gardening 1912-1918.

    http://homepage.mac.com/cityfarmer/PhotoAlbum33.html

    lots of cute little kids gardening in quaint clothing.

    add to del.icio.us :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank :: post to facebook

    I could talk for days about the causes and effects of rising food prices in the US.  

    Disadvantaged Americans queue for aid in New York

    Its becoming a BIG DEAL. 

    In the past year 1.3 million new participants (many of them families) have signed up for food stamps in a effort to be able to access essential food stuffs and food stamp programs are projected to reach record-high levels this year.  Food banks have experienced a rise of 20 percent in visits than last year.  Food prices have risen 5.5% in just six months.  

    These are just a few facts… type “food prices” into Google and you’ll get 56,800,000 hits, most of them about rising food costs around the world and the social unrest that is coming with it.

    There are many reasons for these price increases. According to America’s Second Harvest, the nation’s largest charitable hunger-relief organization, federal commodity support for emergency feeding organizations has dropped nearly $200 million per year since the enactment of 2002 Farm Bill because of a decline in need for the federal government to buy surplus food to support farmers.  Additionally, food price inflation has caused rapid erosion in the purchasing power of food stamp benefits.  


    Kids get afternoon snacks at a Kids Cafe in Cincinnati, OH (uh, looks like someone took that kid on the right’s jello cup)

    Kids Cafe is a program started by America’s Second Harvest to try to ensure that children of low-income families get the nutrition they need

    “The amount of food stamps per household hasn’t gone up with the food costs,” says Dayna Ballantyne, who runs a food bank in Des Moines, Iowa. “Our clients are finding they aren’t able to purchase food like they used to.” (USA 2008: The Great Depression, The Independent)

    American Food Stamps

    DC is certainly not exempt for experiencing serious hunger issues. According to Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB), a Washington DC food security organization that supports and distributes food to food banks throughout the metro area, nearly 1/3 of DC residents live below the poverty level. ONE THIRD! Thats huge!  60% of households surveyed by CAFB reported at least 1 adult member who was unemployed. In the metro area:

    • One-third of Capital Area Food Bank clients reported having to choose between buying food and paying for utilities at least once during the previous 12 months.  (Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. Hunger in America, 2001).
    • Over one third reported having to choose between buying food and paying rent or mortgage.  (Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. Hunger in America, 2001)
    • Nearly one third had to choose between buying food and paying for medicine or medical care.  (Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. Hunger in America, 2001)
    • 109,000 D.C. residents are eligible to participate in the Food Stamp Program each month, however only two-thirds actually receive them; and of those who do, 74 percent report that they do not last the entire month. (USDA and 2001 Hunger Study-Mathematica Policy Research) 
    • Total number of families making less than $35,000 per year is 43,084 (representing 38.3% of all working families)
    • The average monthly Food Stamp Program benefit is $91.83.
    • Nearly 50 percent of the households served report at least one working adult in the household.   (Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. 2006). 

    No one should have to choose between paying rent or a mortgage or for medical care and buying food.

    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/homepage/story/18898.html

    A study from 2004

    What is the government doing in response to this food crisis?  

    In talking with a representative from CAFB the I found that the DC government does not support their efforts, their funding comes from grants, private donors, and fundraisers. The government currently deals with hunger problems in a few ways:

     

    • Food Stamp Program, 
    • Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
    • free and reduced price school breakfast and lunches. 

    Though these programs are certainly a step in the right direction, many of the programs are under-utilized by those who need them due to lack of awareness, insufficient time to apply for the needed assistance, and the confusing application process that these programs have. Organizations like Capital Area Food Bank try to help people find and understand these resources along with administering their other very accomplished programs.

    http://www.agobservatory.org/library.cfm?refid=97623

    What does the farm bill have to do with all of this?

    A March 29, article in the Economist sums it up pretty well:

    The current [Farm Bill] policy is shameless. Farmers of a few select crops such as wheat or maize can avoid almost all risk using the government’s overlapping system of subsidised insurance, loans and payments. The recipients are hardly the most deserving: farm households make a third more than others, and the richest of them, which get most of the subsidies, bring in three times what the average non-farm household does. Instead of saving the family farm, the policy is destroying it, encouraging agricultural land consolidation and raising barriers to entry. And then there are the deleterious effects America’s price-distorting payments have on foreign farmers and so on trade negotiations.

    Well, the 2007 Farm Bill (H.R. 2419 http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:H.R.2419:) is a $288 billion, five-year farm subsidy bill being considered by Congress as a continuation of the 2002 Farm Bill.  President Bush, idiotically forgetting that we have to eat, threatened to veto the bill because of its high costs.  Many, many organizations pushed for more sustainable farming and renewable energy initiatives and subsidies.   Current reforms include:

     

    •  A modest increase in support for family farmers
    • Schools will now be allowed to use geographic preference to buy local food with federally-funded Child Nutrition programs
    • A new loan program will support local processing and distribution to support the Farm to School and Farm to Institution markets. 

    Hmmm. I’m not sure what to say….

     

    Horribly, the bill cut all mandatory funding for the Community Food Projects Program and Organic Transition – two critical programs that support a transition to organic and local food systems. No more automatic funding means that organizations will have to put a huge amount of effort into fighting for funding every year.  Fights continue between Democrats and Republicans about the Farm Bill up into this month (April), but will have to end by April 18, at which point current policies will be extended for a whole nother year, something we cannot see happen. (Community Alliance For Family Farmers)

    According to Vicki Escarra, president and chief executive officer of America’s Second Harvest in an April 4 press release,“Hungry Americans can not wait any longer [for changes in the Farm Bill]. We are seeing absolutely tragic increases nationwide in the number of men, women and children in need of emergency food assistance, many for the first time ever….Food stamp enrollment is projected to reach record high levels, during the coming year.  This rapid rise in food stamp participation is being fueled by the worsening economic downturn. Low-income families are desperately in need of a new Farm Bill to make improvements in the programs that help ensure that they can put food on their tables and lead productive, healthy lives in this nation so richly blessed with food resources.”

    “A one year extension to the Farm Bill would be catastrophic for food banks and those they serve,” said Escarra.  “The charitable sector does not have the capacity to meet dramatically increasing requests for food assistance.  It is critical for Congress to show leadership by passing a Farm Bill, and for the President to show compassion by signing it. If that happens, none of those in our great nation who face hunger daily will have to wait longer for relief.”(Hungry Americans Cannot Wait For A Farm Bill, March 19, 2008)

    In the Video, Dan Imhoff, Author of Food Fight: The Citizen’s Guide to a Food and Farm Bill, talks about the Farm Bill on a Food News for Cooking Up a Story.

    This is just part 1 of 5. To see the rest, go to the Cooking Up A Story site (where you can also find some other amazing videos about food systems).

    and here’s part 5 of the same series.

    Want to learn more about the Farm Bill?  Well, there’s a billion sources but here’s some of my favorites:

    The 2007 Farm Bill Gets More Attention Than Any Other in History

    Community Food Security Coalition: Policy Priorities and Farm Bill Materials

    A Summary of Farm Policy News

    “Long time in germination; The farm bill”. Economist. March 29, 2008. http://agobservatory.org/headlines.cfm?refID=102132

    Hungry Americans Cannot Wait For Farm Bill” America’s Second Harvest Press Release. March 19, 2008.

    Soaring Food and Fuel Prices Create Urgent Need for A Farm Bill.” America’s Second Harvest. April 4, 2008.

    Imhoff, Dan. Food Fight: The Citizen’s Guide to a Food and Farm Bill.

    Community Alliance with Family Farmers 

    Farm and Food Policy Project 

    American Farmland Trust 

     

    Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. A Fair Farm Bill Series

    Cool pamphlets with lots of good information and cool retro-ish pictures describing issues and changes that could be made (or could have been made) in the 2007 farm bill.

    A Fair Farm Bill for America: How Americans are effected everyday by the Farm Bill―from energy and health to the environment, labor and hunger.

    A Fair Farm Bill for the World: The Farm Bill’s influence over world policies is colossal―the WTO, food aid, market concentration and public health may all change.

    A Fair Farm Bill for Renewable Energy: The Farm Bill should support the next generation of sustainable energy crops and strengthen local ownership

    A Fair Farm Bill for the World’s Hungry: The Farm Bill could make food aid more efficient and stop pushing farmers in poor countries off the land

    A Fair Farm Bill for Competitive Markets: The Farm Bill should address the domination of agricultural markets by a few big companies.

    A Fair Farm Bill for Conservation: A better Farm Bill would do more to support farmers who improve soil and water quality, and enhance biodiversity.

    A Fair Farm Bill and Immigration: A fair Farm Bill would help family farmers in Mexico and the United States.

    A Fair Farm Bill for Public Health: The U.S. Farm Bill could do a lot to support a healthier food system.

     

     

    Links on Hunger Issues (Some in DC)

    Capital Area Food Bank

    DC Hunger Solutions

    Government Programs in DC

     

     

    Center on Hunger and Poverty

    Community Food Security Coalition** One of my favorite sites with amazing loads of information!

    Center for Food and Justice (Occidental College)

    Food Research and Action Center (FRAC)

    Farm to Family Connection

    Food Security Learning Center

    USDA Hunger & Food Security

     

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