Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Farm Bill and Food Safety

The recent $307 billion Farm Bill was passed into legislation, despite a veto from the president, which was overridden. This farm bill had the potential to overhaul our agriculture priorities and do away with subsidies which only pay for certain crops like corn and soybeans to mega-farms, but fell short of most advocates hopes.

On the upside, the farm bill is recognizing the need for access to healthy foods in many urban environments where convenience store junk food is the norm. The bill introduces a Healthy Urban Food Enterprise Development Center to increase access to fresh and healthy food options. Of course, they're also spending money to study the effects of "food deserts", as though there haven't been enough studies already conducted in this area...

In previous years, subsidies were only provided to farmers growing certain cash crops, like corn and soybeans. New subsidies will go to farmers of "specialty crops", what you and I would call fruits and vegetables, in an attempt to divert some subsidy money away from imitation calories like high fructose corn syrup. In the same vein, $1 billion will expand healthy snacks for kids programs in farm to school programs.

Increased support for farmers markets, support for socially disadvantaged farmers and farm-workers and support to use food stamps at farmers markets are more steps in the right direction.

This may sound far away from you, but let me remind you that we all need to eat everyday. In light of the recent tomato-salmonella contamination, it becomes apparent just how opaque and fragile our current model of food production truly is. As of today, the CDC still doesn't know the source of the contamination, and the first reported cases occurred over two months ago!

What to do? Buy local. Join a CSA (community supported agriculture). Shop at a farmers market. Ask your grocer where the produce comes from. Eat foods that are in season locally - you'll be amazed at the taste of a non-refrigerated tomato! As each of our dollars become more precious, use them wisely to purchase the healthiest and tastiest food that dollar will buy.

1 comment:

Birdsong said...

Luci, what an excellent analysis of the up and down sides of the farm bill; it is terrible that much of the midwestern corn crop will be lost to flooding, but most was going into fuel and not food, with little thought to how people will eat in the long run.