Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Munchable Soapbox: Farm Bill Catch-Up

This used to be a country of farmers. In the 1920's, over a quarter of the population derive their living from agriculture. Now, the number hovers at 1%. And these farmers are no longer young, either. We need to rethink the policies that govern the agricultural and food sectors of the country, if what remains is to continue.

2012 is the year the Farm Bill, our massive piece of food and agriculture legislation, is up for re-authorization. The last time we chatted about the topic, nearly four months ago, there was a bit of concern that quick and dirty amendments would be made to the the Bill before 2011 came to a close. That obviously didn't happen, but there are changes on the horizon.

Last week I attended an event at the George Washington University Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration. A stellar cast of characters, including former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, and current Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, answered questions about the upcoming re-authorization, and what direction the bill should take.

All participants agreed that the nutrition assistance programs, which make up nearly three-quarters of the bill's funding, need continued support and attention. And the conservation programs looked as though they might be seeing the chopping block, but after a recent Senate committee hearing, it looks like we may be ok for now.

One of the contributors to New York Times' Room for Debate a couple of weeks ago felt the same - programs that protect the healthy eating choices and the health of the environment should come first.

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