Well done critique of the food politics that we currently live and die with. Yes instead of encouraging “fencerow to fencerow” agriculture (even for seemingly well meaning reasons), we need to assess our true needs and grow the proper food accordingly and grow it well with less inputs and environmental destruction in every succeeding generation. And instead of running into each other over middling legislative issues, we need a movement of big ideas like food sovereignty and human rights to push fairness for all that allows everyone to chime in as needed and to allow us to move past crisis campaigning. When, for example, will the US food organizers work side by side with the rest of the world’s organizers? When will we embrace true import-replacement strategies? When will all pieces of the food chain be valued?
Farm Bill Fiasco: What is Next for the Food Movement?”, a Food First Spring Backgrounder
By Christopher Cook
Deciding how America will nourish itself and sustain its farms would seem a top policy priority— yet as the US Farm Bill demonstrates, sustainably grown, healthy food and livable incomes for farmers and workers remain an afterthought in a process controlled almost entirely by agribusiness and a handful of farm-state legislators. Despite strong public opinion supporting local food, farmer’s markets, organic agriculture, food workers’ rights and access to fresh produce, agribusiness and commodity interests continue to dominate food and farming policy.
That’s largely due to their prodigious lobbying clout: agribusiness spent $137 million last year muscling Congress to do its bidding and another $46.6 million on federal candidates (about 60 percent Republican) in 2010. This phalanx of power includes commodity producer groups like the American Corn Growers Association; corporate food processors and purveyors such as Kraft and Dean Foods; the Farm Bureau; dairy and meat industry giants; and seed and petrochemical corporations like Monsanto.
On the other side, armed with ideas and passion but little money, stand hundreds of groups from across the US pressing Congress on an array of policies—including commodity subsidy reform, fair prices for farmers, public monies for local foods and small farmers, and conservation and nutrition funding. With a handful of lobbyists and diverse interests, they fight doggedly for small wedges of the Farm Bill pie.
But is the Farm Bill a productive venue for food movements to make meaningful change in food and farming policy?