a Farm Bill activist was never so easy—or so important
There’s unprecedented support for public engagement by sustainable
ag groups in shaping the 2007 Farm Bill. Reframing the comprehensive
funding package for the US Department of Agriculture as a “food
bill” has tapped into new popular interest in food safety,
origin, energy impact and global warming. Opportunities to learn
and act include:
- Accessing “matrix” issue assessment within proposed
legislation at the Farm and Food Project, with separate grids
for conservation, diversity, farm viability, nutrition and rural
provisions. Website includes recommendations, support for involvement.
- Choosing to “Be a Farm Bill Hero” by using the
set of tools offered by the National Campaign For Sustainable
Agriculture, a broad coalition of farm and support groups. Their
site offers pages on organic issues, renewable energy, competition
and concentration, sustainable livestock and stewardship initiatives.
- Getting briefed on trade issues at the Institute for Agriculture
Trade Policy’s Ag Observatory website. Read A Fair Farm
Bill for Competitive Markets and parallel reports focusing on
overall US ag impacts, renewable energy, the world’s hungry
and world agriculture.
- Learning about Risk Management Accounts, a keystone of Food
and Agriculture Risk Management for the 21st Century Act (FARM
21). Under this bi-partisan proposal, the current system of farm
subsidies—counter-cyclical, loan deficiency, income loss
and direct payments—would gradually be transitioned to a
more cost-effective and responsive system of farmer-held income
stabilization accounts. The aim is to move into a new era where
farmers manage their own assets and harvest what makes sense for
them and their land.
Something completely different:
Buy out remaining subsidies to give farmers fresh start
Agricultural policy in the United States is interventionist, expensive,
inequitable and damaging to American interests abroad, says the
introduction to “Freeing the Farm: A Farm Bill for All Americans.”
The 20-page position paper was produced by the free-trade oriented
It claims that over the last 20 years, the “opportunity cost”
to American consumers and taxpayers of supporting agricultural producers
has totaled more than $1.7 trillion.
As the most politically possible solution, the Institute advocates
that the government buy out the damaging and expensive support for
farmers by paying them a fixed amount of money, which they would
be free to spend as they wish.
Judge stops planting of GMO-alfalfa;
orders test for GMO-contamination
A federal judge has banned further planting of genetically modified
alfalfa seed, ordering that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
be completed on the GE crop. The decision basically re-regulates
Roundup Ready alfalfa, which the USDA deregulated in June 2005.
The judge had earlier ruled the USDA had not adequately assessed
the risk of GE alfalfa contaminating conventional and organic crops.
His ruling requires the seed makers Monsanto and Forage Genetics
Inc. to provide the locations of all existing Roundup Ready alfalfa
plots to the USDA within 30 days so that growers can test their
crops for possible contamination.
Monsanto says it may appeal the ruling. Pat Trask of Trask Family
Seeds, a South Dakota conventional alfalfa grower stated: “It’s
a great day for God’s own alfalfa.”
Bee die-off concern intensifies:
paper outlines pesticide cautions
A detailed summary of pesticide families to avoid in order to protect
honeybees was recently posted at the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research
and Education Consortium (MAAREC) Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)
page. It focuses caution on the use of the neonicotinioid family
of insecticides, such as imidacloprid and colthianidin.
Massive bee die-offs are reported across the US, in Europe, Canada
and Brazil, prompting increasing efforts to find a cause as potential
impact onthe food system is taken more seriously.
Food price inflation could
rival global warming in years ahead
Global food prices may double in the next five years, as demand
rises, production evens out and energy demand competes with human
consumption, a financial analyst predicted recently.
Food input prices are now putting more upward pressure on producer
inflation than at any time since the early 1980s. Between March
of 2005 and March 2007, the price of US wheat rose 34 percent, corn
by 47.4 percent, barley by 59.4 percent and cattle by 41 percent.
UK government promotes seasonal
eating to save the planet
A new government website advises shoppers to help the planet by
preferentially purchasing British food when in season. Information
alerts consumers to hothouse tomatoes and all produce shipments
imported by air due to their energy impact, and says fresh, seasonal
and unprocessed foods can cut energy use and increase what consumers
learn directly from farmers about how their food is raised and who