Why care about the Farm Bill?

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Why should people in New Jersey be concerned with the Farm Bill?  Doesn’t it just affect people who live in places like this?

Photo Credit: http://www.activistpost.com

The Farm Bill is a comprehensive piece of legislature that deals with both farm and food polices.  The legislation really should be called the Farm and Food Bill, conjuring up images like this:

 

Photo Credit: http://www.njfoodbank.org

People in New Jersey should know about the Farm Bill.  Roughly 2/3 of the Farm bill goes to SNAP (food stamps) spending, a benefit used by 45 million Americans (Delaney, 2012).In 2011 there were a little over 800,000 people in New Jersey (nearly 1:10 residents) receiving SNAP assistance (Sagara and Stirling, 2011).

Photo Credit: Washington Post

 

Almost 80% of the costs in Farm Bill go to Food stamps and nutrition programs which help low-income families pay for food.  Other expenditures include :

  • Commodity programs, $43.2 billion over 10 years.  Commodity usually means any agricultural product but in the Farm Bill it typically refers to five commodity crops (corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and rice). These five crops receive the most government subsidies.
  • Crop insurance, $94.6 billion over 10 years. This is insurance available to farmers against loss or damage to growing crops as a result of natural hazards  (hail, drought, flood, insects).
  • Conservation, $57.7 billion over 10 years. This includes programs to help farmers protect against soil erosion and to use ecologically friendly methods like drop irrigation.

Everything Else:

  • Trade, $3.4 billion over 10 years. These programs involve promoting U.S. crops overseas and offering food aid abroad. The government also provides some technical assistance to farmers in developing countries.
  • Energy, $1.4 billion over 10 years. This includes money for biofuels as well as energy efficiency in rural areas.
  • Miscellaneous, about $6 billion over 10 years. This includes everything from forestry programs to rural development to research and development. There are programs for promoting farmers markets, selling off timber on federal lands, and even research into organic agriculture (Breakdown of Farm Bill by Plumer, 2012).

 

Fast Farm Bill Facts:

  -Every five years, Congress renews the Farm Bill through the re-authorization process and the five years is up in 2012.

-The Farm Bill has a great impact on the food we eat, the price we pay for food and our access to healthy food.

-The Bill gives large subsidies to companies/farmers that produce commodity crops. This makes it harder for farmers to grow specialty crops like fruit and veggies.

-National monopolies have formed as a result of these subsidies- the commodity program- 4-5 companies produce most of our crops. This has led to less variety of crops and in who produces our crops. Food is regionalized rather than localized.

 

Learn More About the Farm Bill:

http://www.farmbillfacts.org/farm-bill-facts

Food Research & Action Council:

http://frac.org/leg-act-center/farm-bill-2012/strengthening-snap-in-the-2012-farm-bill/

Food and Water Watch:

http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org

 

Make a Difference By Influencing Government Policies

Take online courses at The Citizens Campaign website: http://thecitizenscampaign.org/tool-kit-glance

Get involved in grassroots politics with Sustainable Agriculture: http://sustainableagriculture.net/take-action/

 

Support Local Businesses and Agriculture:
Buy seasonal, local, and organic foods at grocery stores when possible.

Join a CSA or community supported agriculture:

The Sustainable Farm at Rutgers: http://aesop.rutgers.edu/~studentfarm/join.html

Local Farm CSA in South Brunswick http://www.vonthunfarms.com/frequently-asked-csa-questions/csa-program/

Rutgers Garden Farmer’s Market: http://rutgersgardens.rutgers.edu/farmmarket.htm

New Brunswick Community Farmers Market: http://www.nbcfarmersmarket.com/

References

Delaney, A. (2012, June 21). Democrats not trying to prevent food stamp cuts, breaking promise. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/21/democrats-not-trying-to-p_n_1614248.html
Plumer, B. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/post/the-senate-farm-bill-in-one
Sagara, E. and  Stirling, S.(2011). New jersey real-time news. Retrieved from            http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/11/number_of_nj_residents_on_food.html

Written by Erin Maguire, AmeriCorps Intern with the New Brunswick Community Food Alliance

The New Brunswick Community Food Alliance (NBCFA) brings together city residents, college students, community leaders, and local government to build a sustainable and just food system in our city. Our mission is to ensure that all New Brunswick residents have access to nutritious, safe, affordable, and culturally appropriate food at all times.

Interested in building a sustainable, hunger-free New Brunswick? Join the alliance today!