New 2012 Farm Bill Causes Disagreement in California

By: Saira Malhotra

On Sunday, the San Francisco Gate reported on the new Farm Bill. Famers, conservationists and environmentalists hang on with baited breath as they anticipate the possibly immediate implementation of the 2012 Farm Bill. The Bill is the most significant environmental Bill that Congress passes and establishes the U.S. food policy for a five year period. Agriculture accounts for 40% of the U.S. soil and impacts more than just the food it grows and the bellies it fills. It leaves its impressions in the water, air, and wildlife.

The 2012 Farm Bill is shaped by leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees who are pushing for $23 billion in budget cuts. The 2008 Farm Bill exceeded the budget by $300 billion.  The committee is comprised of Midwest and Southern farm state law makers from both parties who can by-pass approval from their own committees and Congress and take this suggested legislation directly to the 'super committee'.

As stated in the San Francisco Gate, the Farm Bill is built around budgeting for 'farm support programs and renewable-energy research to food stamps and conservation initiatives'. Therefore, it is of no surprise that many feathers have been ruffled. California accounts for 12% of the agricultural revenue in the United States and yet they are concerned that they have no voice in this new Bill. If the budget cuts are employed, and when push comes to shove, states like California fear that commodity crops (corn, rice, peanuts) will be supported at the expense of sidelining their specialty crops (fruits and nuts).  In addition to cuts in the area of specialty farming, it is also feared that organic farming, environmental safeguarding, research programs and food programs (SNAP - food stamps and school lunches) will not escape the clutches of budget cuts.

The California Association of Food Banks and the Center for Food Safety are amongst the many organizations in disagreement with this Bill. A consortium of like-minded organizations has filed a petition of 16,000 signatures with California's congressional delegation and Gov. Jerry Brown to defend the States needs. "We're concerned about nutrition programs...More people than ever are receiving assistance now from food programs' said Karen Ross, California's secretary of food and agriculture.

This is not the first time concerns have surfaced regarding prioritizing funds for securing 'overproduction and insurance of cheap ingredients for industrial foods' said Daniel Imhoff, author of the book, Food Fight: The Citizen's Guide to a Food and Farm Bill. Many share  Imhoff's view point that, "What we subsidize should contribute to an all-around healthier food system".

Photo: USDAgov

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