Farm Subsidies

Big Corporate Agriculture subsidies- the true cost of a hamburger should be $90. The UN estimates that subsidies account for 1/3 of all meat industry income. Thanks taxpayers. Too bad you can’t afford some raspberries with that burger! No subsidies for fruits and vegetables unless they are genetically engineered! Environmental Working Group has the details.

As Dan Imhoff of Watershed Media, a rancher and CAFO expert, wrote “I am often asked what audience members can do to affect change in the food system. To my mind, individual action takes place in radiating circles, starting with the personal and moving out to the local, regional, state, national, and global. I am increasingly drawn to the personal and local, where influence and outcomes are most powerful and tangible. Raise your own fruits, vegetables, or chickens and you know exactly what goes into the entire process. Work on a campaign to protect open space or build a school garden and you can have personal contact and investment.

Things are not so clear or accessible at the national level. The Farm Bill, driver of federal food policy, is so complex that it is hard to know where to begin. Absent campaign finance reform, you are swimming with the sharks: grain monopolies, corn growers, farm bureaus, livestock associations, sugar lobbies, ethanol processors that pour billions of dollars into the political process.

We can’t let this intimidate us from righting a broken food system. By pulling back to the regional level, it might be possible to form an alliance of concerned voters with political power at the national level. In January 2011, the City of Seattle approved a Farm Bill platform. Given the growing awareness of the importance of food and farm policy on the West Coast, it is reasonable to expect that city councils in Olympia, Portland, Eugene, Ashland, Ukiah, Santa Rosa, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and all the way down to San Diego may consider and eventually sign on to a similar document. Its main tenets share a lot in common with a California Farm Bill platform drafted by the nonprofit Roots of Change in Los Angeles in November 2010:

  • a health centered food system;
  • sustainable agriculture practices;
  • community and regional prosperity and resilience;
  • equitable access to healthy food;
  • social justice and equity; and
  • systems approach to policy making.

While the Farm Bill is the Big Kahuna in the food and agriculture system, there are other forceful unifying levers. In 2008 California passed Proposition 2, an animal welfare initiative that will ban three forms of egregious confinement systems: cages for laying hens; confinement stalls for pregnant sows; and veal crates for male dairy calves. Proposition 2 can’t be dismissed as a purely California phenomenon. It passed with 63 percent of the vote. Seven states have now banned certain animal confinement systems, and the Humane Society of the United States has introduced similar initiatives in two more key states: Washington and Oregon.”

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