Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Senate Farm Bill - half a harvest.

The Senate passed the trillion dollar 2012 farm bill by a vote of 64-35 last week. All the ins and outs of this massive legislation are not yet clear, after all, much of the deal-making took place in a supercommittee that met in secret. The full Senate Agriculture Committee spent just three hours in deliberations.

Bob Goodlatte
for constituents or Big Ag?
According to analysts, the bill that finally emerged is, while not great, better than feared. It essentially preserves decades of policies that uses "insurance" to promote growing of soy, corn, and other commodities. Big Ag tried to knock out conservation provisions required for the insurance but an amendment that passed by a narrow 52-47 means farmers will have to meet some fundamental conservation guidelines to receive the taxpayer subsidized insurance. I already can hear Bobblehead Bob haranguing against too many regulations. But, I have to meet certain requirements for my car or homeowners insurance and it isn't even subsidized by taxpayers.

The bill also keeps many of the programs of Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food such as initiatives to help beginning farmers/ranchers and to help farmers realize more profits by adding value to their produce. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition highlights some of the good things that were preserved or added to the legislation on June 19 and on June 20. Since these programs are favored by the Obama administration, I imagine Bobblehead Bob, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, will automatically oppose them no matter what their impact on constituents. In this election year, politics will trump policy and I'm sure the House GOP leadership has already issued its marching orders.

We have a bicameral legislature and passage in the Senate doesn't guarantee anything. In the House of Representatives we can expect tea party wingnuts to push deep cuts to the Senate bill, especially for hunger programs like SNAP (food stamps), which was already cut in the Senate, and the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiatives. Big Ag, with its legions of lobbyists and deep pockets lavishing campaign and PAC contributions far and wide, will come out of this just fine. Their taxpayer subsidies and favorable treatment will assure their future profits. Ah, is that what you mean by "sustainable agriculture?"

More in a prior CCC post and at Mother Jones.

1 comment:

Fresh Food said...

Come on, in your mind ONLY the parts that Boob Goodlatte supports are bad and the rest of the subsidies in it are bad??? That's awful - the whole damn nationalized ag system is rotten.. All of it picked over by large business's legal/lobby teams and if not approved of, eventually finding a way to work around the regs and at the expense of small and regional interests. Its time for it all to go and for our Congressmen to have the courage to do nothing in this regards. I would trust the worst farmer in the Valley more then wisest Congressman or EPA/FDA/USDA bureaucrat to look out for my food interests- even your chickens.