Farm Bill Represents Small Victory Over Big AG


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A Farm Bill, passed this week of January, 2014, will be better for small food producers compared to previous farm bills.  A coalition various groups has united against long-term policies favorable to industrial agriculture.

Advocates of small farms and sustainable practices can thank the efforts of Senator Jon Tester, an organic farmer/rancher in Wyoming and Representative Chellie Pingree of Maine, an organic farmer.

The health and environmental ravages of big agriculture are beginning to catch up with us, and many people have taken notice.  New policies that can promote better practices like organic farming may now start working, although the final farm bill is not necessarily a victory for sustainable farming as much as it is a defeat for the agricultural giants, according to the Organic Consumers Association.

A key victory is the defeat of the King Amendment which would have negated state and local laws regarding the production or manufacture of agriculture products.  Senator Tester had worked earlier this year to keep a provision favorable to the biotech industry out of the bill, and to assure that a provision favorable to the biggest meat packing houses at the expense of small operations was not included.

Funding for organic farm programs is a big victory.  Funding programs, although quite small, will begin to help domestic farmers transition to organic farming to meet this growing demand.

According tho the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the bill keeps investments in important programs for beginning farmers, local food systems, organic agriculture, and healthy food access, and also relinks conservation requirements to the receipt of crop insurance premium subsidies.  “We are pleased that the bill renews support for innovative programs that invest in the next generation of farmers, the growth of local and organic agriculture, and economic opportunity in rural communities,” said Ariane Lotti, Assistant Policy Director with NSAC.

Pigs happily express their pigness at Polyface Farm in the Shenandoah Valley, an organic operation which uses natural processes.  (Photo courtesy of Angela Potter)

Pigs express their pigness at Polyface Farm in the Shenandoah Valley, an organic operation which uses natural processes, but does not rely on government programs (Photo courtesy of Angela Potter)

Rep. Pingree did not vote for the final farm bill.   However, she said, “I wish I could vote for this bill because there are some good provisions that we fought for to help sustainable farmers.  But in the end, it’s just too much of a giveaway to corporate special interests.”

In conclusion, NSAC’s Lotti said, “Given a lengthy two-and-a-half year process and the importance of renewing funding for the most innovative programs for the future of agriculture, we support moving forward but will continue to work for the real reform this bill lacks.”

 

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