Quick Farm Bill Update

The 2012 Farm Bill is a big, big, BIG piece of legislation, so I can’t cover it all here. Essentially, the Farm Bill is a piece of legislation written and approved every five years that funds most government programs that relate (even remotely) to agriculture. The bill is usually approved through our government’s standard legislative process. However, because our congressional representatives won’t play nice with each other (excuse: budget crisis), and because the Farm Bill is an enormous amount of money, the approval of the Farm Bill is now the responsibility of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, a.k.a. “Super Committee” (more info on them). Currently, most Farm Bill discussions are being held behind closed doors; the rationale appears to be that because the decisions to be made involve enormous amounts of money and an extremely short time frame (the first 2012 Farm Bill proposal is due November 1st), the public’s input would just complicate things.

Some -maybe all- of you received an Action Alert from Common Ground about the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which some political entities are trying to undermine by denying it Farm Bill funding. Denial of funding is, unfortunately, the name of the game in American politics right now, so many other programs and initiatives dependent upon the Farm Bill are at risk of being cut or dramatically reduced: nutrition programs like food stamps, farmland conservation programs, programs promoting local food systems, etc. The House Subcommittee on Agriculture is auditing such programs as I type; you can learn more about that here (there is also a link at the bottom of that page for the 2008 Farm Bill, if you want to see what was approved the last time around). The current Farm Bill legislation is not available online, as far as I can tell, but you can look up info about it on basically any U.S. news site; the New York Times even has a whole section dedicated to the Farm Bill.

Main points: the Farm Bill is a lot of money. A lot of programs could be cut. The regular citizen input process has been suspended. Your input matters more now than ever – make the effort to share your perspective. If we don’t share our views, we risk letting corporate lobbyists monopolize the public input on the Farm Bill. (I hate writing “the Man” statements like that, but in this case it’s true – if individuals won’t share their points of view, only corporations will.) If you don’t know your U.S. House Representative, find him or her and his or her contact information here. Our U.S. Senators’ contact information is here. Just call them already: it’s only five to ten minutes of your time, and it helps make a difference!

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