Tomorrow night is One Big Night Out, and today on my radio show (from 1–3 p.m. on FM107.1) I am running a live auction to benefit the flood relief efforts in southeastern Minnesota. Visit FM107 for details on the auction and on participating restaurants for OBNO.
I had the opportunity last week to speak to Tom Buis, the president of the National Farmer’s Union; Doug Peterson, the head of the Minnesota Farmer’s Union; Al Franken; Senators Coleman and Klobuchar; and many of our congresspersons about the 2007 Farm Bill. The United States' farm and food policies, which Congress will renew this year in the "Farm Bill," deal with many issues. Chief among them are agricultural production, food and nutrition assistance, rural development, renewable energy, equity, and conservation policies. Many of these policies do not adequately cover all of our nation's farmers, and they do not provide accessible, healthy foods for many Americans. The effects of the Farm Bill may arguably be more profound and far-reaching than almost any piece of legislation tackled this year. This bill dictates just about everything that you can imagine, from how the U.S. utilizes vast tracts of land to what children eat in school cafeterias.
Big Business and the multi-nationals hijacked the bill over the last four decades, and they keep squeezing it. Disagree? Well, in 2002, the last time the bill came around, labeling and country of origin info was included in the bill by the legislators, but it got delayed for five years thanks to some pressure from special interests who don’t want us to know where our food comes from. Thanks to Rep. Colin Peterson (and others), it should be included this year without fail. At a bare minimum, we need to know where our food comes from. According to almost everyone in the know, several crops (rice, cotton, corn, oilseed, and wheat to name a few) receive over 90% percent of the subsidies that the bill doles out. Michael Pollan has made a career on this issue, but another book you should read is Daniel Imhoff's Food Fight: The Citizen's Guide to a Food and Farm Bill. Imhoff contends that small farms have been surmounted by enormous farms growing one crop and that we've glutted world markets with underpriced ingredients, setting off a chain of negative economic events in countries around the world (like Mexico), increasing illegal immigration, and jeopardizing national security on a variety of other fronts. Add to that the accepted fact that the abundance of cheap materials in so many of our foods has helped lead to our obesity crisis and you have an idea why this bill is so important. I know some people disagree with much of this, but frankly, these are the same people who believe that global warming and Darwinism are myths.
Need another excuse to join Slow Food USA? I found the following on one of their websites.
Recognizing that Slow Food USA seeks to offer the nation an antidote to industrialization's destruction of diversity in ecology, culture, and cuisine; that its members are guided by the vision of an ecologically healthy, culturally and gastronomically rich, and humane world; and that we seek a food system that is Good, Clean, and Fair, Slow Food USA is joining with other organizations and communities in the nation who seek a Food and Farm Bill that provides a healthier balance of interests and wider distribution of the benefits that accrue as a result of our nation's defining farm and food policy.
Looking for more on the subject. The Farm and Food Policy Project and FarmPolicy.com have lots to say, and I would encourage everyone who reads this blog to e-mail their legislators and candidates and let them know how you feel about it. Remember, Minnesota has an agricultural history and tradition, and it's one of the top ten states when it comes to ag production. This bill will affect you more than you know.
Scary Farm Bill stat of the day: Sam Goldfarb wrote several months ago on The Seattle Times webpage that, “…currently, the federal government hands out more than $7 billion a year to so-called 'program' or 'commodity' crops such as corn and wheat, but less than a tenth of that to 'specialty crops' like fruits and vegetables, although the annual values of production of the two kinds of crops are almost equal."