Friday, May 23, 2008

Farm Bill Gets Passed!

Here is the CJFC's letter on the long-awaited passing of the farm bill...share it widely!

CFJC Statement on the Passing of the 2008 Farm Bill
The farm bill passed by Congress reflects the tireless work of food justice, anti-hunger and sustainable agriculture advocates, as well as the entrenched power of the agri-business lobby in Washington DC. The bill includes important new funding for nutrition, beginning and minority farmer, sustainable agriculture and local food system programs. Unfortunately, it also includes a continuation of commodity programs that subsidize the production of a few crops (mostly corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton and rice) to the benefit of mega-farms and corporate agri-business, and at the greater expense of public health, the environment, farming communities worldwide.

We congratulate everyone who helped to bring about the few gains that are in this farm bill. Among the bright spots in the bill are: increases in food stamp benefits; $5 million a year for community food projects; $18 million a year each for minority farmer outreach and beginning farmer programs; $46 million a year to support the specialty crop industry; and approx. $100 million through the life of the bill to support organic farming (see below for more bill details). Unprecedented public concern and action made these good things and others in the bill possible and have helped to raise the bar for achieving further improvements in food and farm policy in the future.

While we acknowledge the improvements, we are deeply saddened that Congress missed the opportunity to implement commodity reforms called for by so many across the country, and across the world. While new funding for programs that promote sustainable agriculture, support small farmers and increase access to healthy food will help to advance the work of farmers and organizers on the ground who are committed to a just, diverse and sustainable food system, these programs will struggle to address the impact of continuing a fundamentally flawed commodity policy that will result in continued family farm loss, environmental degradation, and poverty and hunger worldwide.

While minor reforms were adopted, such as closing the loop hole that allow farmers to collect multiple payments for one farm, the $289 billion dollar bill will direct more than $5 billion a year to commodity growers in direct payments regardless of whether they need assistance. The bill also authorizes a new disaster program that will direct up to $760 million a year to bail out producers who plant commodity crops on drought prone lands, and a $200 million a year bio-fuels program that will continue to pull land from food production into fuel production.

Next to the more than $6 billion a year in commodity spending, the few $100 million a year for programs that rebuild local food systems, increased access to healthy food in underserved communities and supports organic, beginning and minority farmers pales in comparison. Similarly, the $60 million in international food aid that was included in the bill will do little to off set the damage caused by our devastating commodity policy abroad.

We thank those members of Congress who lead the fight for meaningful reform, and call on those who were forced to compromise to help find the path around politics, to good policy so they can stand with their colleagues in the future.

As we look forward to the implementation of the 2008 farm bill it is critical that we work to maximize the benefits of our gains. New funding for farmland protection, beginning and minority farmers, regional food business development and specialty crops must be directed toward rebuilding regional food systems that stimulate rural and urban economies, create jobs, improve community health and nutrition and address the crisis of climate change. By leverage these new resources we can build a stronger base to help bring about the fundamental food and farm policy changes needed to ensure a democratic, just and sustainable food system for the future.

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