Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Farm Bill Finale

With all the sites for info on the Farm Bill, you'd think one would have gotten up a quick update on what was actually passed (which the President has vetoed, but Congress has the votes to over ride).

Some lobbying groups have published what's in it for them, but it's a little like the blind men and the elephant trying to get a picture of the whole.

It's certainly safe to say that it didn't go far enough to reform subsidies, especially given the impact of subsidies on agriculture in countries not rich enough to have them. Some crops were added and there is more support for fruit and veg, not a bad thing if you are going to have subsidies at all. About 10% of the cost of the bill is for crop subsidies.

I think most of us who had things to say about US farm policy early in 2007 realized we weren't going to win this time - but there is progress because conversation about the farm bill seemed much more widespread this time. Or is that just the people with whom I hang out with?

To those who didn't want this bill passed, I have to say that I am not sure programs for the hungry and the malnourished could go much longer without the enactment of some legislation. The widening gap between rich and poor in this country and rising food prices are combining to increase pressure on domestic food aid programs at a time when stocks in food banks, etc., are down. It's not a pretty picture. 2/3 of the cost of this bill is for food stamps, emergency food aid, and nutrition programs.

Some other things: there were incentives for biofuels. Apparently some were of the kind we like to see - conversion of waste to energy sources. Some most clearly were not - crops for fuel instead of crops for food.

I'll be trying to find out more over the next few weeks.

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