Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Big Story is Food: Cash Cows and Cowboy Starter Kits

Is it true that government farm subsidies are going to the wealthy and not to the family farms of America? What is the outcome of the subsidies? Why are Americans going hungry? We are facing instability in the US jobs market, foreclosures in the US housing market, and the US family farm is being overlooked by Congress yet again when we need family farms as much as they need the help of the subsidies. But where are the subsidies going? Bill Moyers: "What was supposed to be a temporary financial safety net for imperiled family farmers has become a huge boondoggle for a fraction of wealthy farmers, including landowners who've never gotten close enough to a barn to slip on the manure. But you don't have to take my word for it. Listen to a team of journalists from the Washington Post (Expose - Farm Subsidies) —which by the way, won six Pulitzer prizes this week." The Center for Rural Affairs asserts that, "The single most effective thing Congress could do to strengthen family farms is to stop subsidizing mega farms to drive their neighbors out of business by bidding land away from them. The 2007 Farm Bill should set an enforceable payment limits on loan deficiency payments, marketing loan gains, and all other income support payments. This limit should be strictly applied to everyone, regardless of how many corporations they create. The bill should eliminate loopholes that allow large operations to receive millions in loan deficiency payments and marketing loan gains through generic certificates or by forfeiting commodities to USDA to pay off loans." The only way that Congress will ever care about rural development and family farming in general is if rural America builds connections with Urban and Suburban America to join forces in a common cause: the stability of our food basket. If our bread basket is empty, we cannot and we must not simply "eat cake" produced from grains grown in Argentina. We must remember and support the families that built our country by the sweat of the brow with their hands on the plow.

This is not out of charity but out of the knowledge that locally provided goods are far superior in multiple ways to those transported over long distances from mega-corporate farms. Not only is the quality of the product better, but the local commerce is better for the local community. Strong local communities equal a stronger America. What is that phrase??? Oh yeah, "all politics are local." Apparently not, if the farm bill subsidizes corporate farming to the harm of the family farm.

It's time for all Americans to realize that the pain of the rural American is the sign of a "heart" problem. We must all gain an understanding that the pain of the rural American is the pain of every American. City-folks wake up! The milk you drink for breakfast doesn't come from a carton and cereal doesn't come from a plastic bag.

Learn more about it: USDA - America's Farm Bill 2007 Current Updates: House Committee on Agriculture - Farm Bill Bill Moyers Journal, PBS, investigates the effect of the Farm Bill. Nature Conservancy Magazine: Read about the history of the farm bill, Green Fields. Plenty Magazine: The Farm Bill Explained - What's at stake for all of us Grist: Crunch Time for the Farm Bill Food Fight: The Citizen's Guide to a Food and Farm Bill by Daniel Imhoff and Michael Pollan Blog for Rural America: The 2008 Farm Bill, A Slap in the Face Wikipedia: U.S. Farm Bill Take Action: Send a message to your Congressperson and Senators Buzz it up

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