U.S. farm bill to favour the big guys

From Russ on the Volatility blog:

“It’s that time again. Farm Bill season is upon us! It’ll actually be an agonizing, protracted process; the unlamented previous House Agriculture chairman Colin Peterson had wanted to get much of the work done in 2011; new and unwanted chairman Frank Lucas says there’s no hurry. The thing probably won’t be done before the election, and maybe never.

At any rate, we’re off to a stuttering, smoky start with the first official hearing in the Senate committee last Thursday. Ag Secretary Vilsack promised or threatened that the next Farm Bill will be “smaller”. This echoes the previously congealed conventional wisdom.

Although most of the rhetoric has focused on cutting the direct payment program, we know that favorite targets will also be the crumbs for relocalization, small farmers, organic production, sustainable practices, and other things which got some modest support in the 2008 Farm Bill. These are already being targeted by the crafters of the Appropriations Bill.

Since the price tag for these is negligible compared to Big Ag subsidies, which so far remain sacrosanct even in budget-cutting rhetoric, we can assume that here as usual the deficit terrorists are lying. Once again they’re using deficit fear-mongering as the pretext to gut miniscule programs which could possibly help rivals to corporatism, while this gutting is then portrayed as real action on the deficit. But the real corporate welfare gravy train continues unabated.

We went through this same palaver about cutting subsidies in 2007. The reason direct payments (first instituted in the 1996 bill as a “temporary measure”) are the whipping boy right now is because whereas some subsidies adjust inversely with the market price of crops, direct payments are fixed regardless of the recipient’s prosperity. So even as prices soared, recipients continued to receive fat welfare checks.

Nor are these welfare barons necessarily farmers. Especially where it comes to wheat, rice, sorghum, and cotton, many or most of the payments are rents going to absentee landowners, not farmers.

Cotton brings up another issue likely to be the subject of lots of sound and fury. In 2009 the WTO issued a judgement against US cotton subsidies on behalf of Brazilian cotton interests. What was the US response to this? Pure corporatist Tower of Babel. To preserve the cotton subsidy, the US government bribed the Brazilian interests with a $147.3 million annual payment. (Yes, decline-and-fall-of-empire watchers, they’re paying tribute.) This tribute is also funneled through the provisions of the Farm Bill….”

Read it all on Russ’ Volatility blog.


Tara Duggan, on “Going to the Farmers Market isn’t enough”,  from the Bay Citizen

“Sustainable agriculture has become so entwined with the subject of food in the Bay Area that it pops up regularly in this blog, whether the subject is fine dining or cooking at home. Urban dwellers who support the idea of sustainable and local agriculture – and there are legions of them in Northern California—usually do so on the consumer level, whether by participating in a cow share or by just trying to shop organic at the supermarket. But at last week’s Cooking for Solutions Sustainable Foods Institute at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a constant theme was that green food shopping is no longer enough.

With food policy issues making waves around the country, most importantly the 2012 Farm Bill, several speakers at the Monterey conference urged supporters of sustainable food to get involved on a political level. Susan Prolman, executive director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, suggested people get in touch with organizations advocating changes to the 2012 Farm Bill. (Marion Nestle recently listed several in her blog.)

The farm bill is much too complicated to deconstruct here (though this Facebook page looks like a helpful resource.) It’s demonized by sustainable food and nutrition advocates for its billion-dollar subsidies to commodity crops like corn, soy and wheat—which tend to create the kinds of foods that make us unhealthy—and its lack of support for farmers that grow the fruits and vegetables the USDA always tells us to eat (and are mostly grown in this state). And then there are the proposed cuts to the SNAP or food stamp program, also part of the farm bill….”

Source: The Bay Citizen (http://s.tt/12uhj)


Filed under News

2 responses to “U.S. farm bill to favour the big guys

  1. We know that Farmer’s Markets are not enough. So, then, what else does help?

    The Milkman

  2. tal

    Farm subsidies: The report card
    Devinder Sharma exposes the real beneficiaries of farm subsidies, and explains how approximately 80 per cent of the entire subsidy for agriculture goes to the agri-business companies. :


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