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(article, Culinate staff)
Every five years, the federal Farm Bill comes up for debate and renewal. Since the last bill was passed in 2007, that means the next one is on the docket for 2012. And the hassling has already begun. Once again, activists (including the Environmental Working Group and Food & Water Watch) are calling for the feds to make the Farm Bill into a Food Bill, supporting consumers and small farmers over Big Ag interests and industrial-food subsidies. But the overall news ain't good. The current emphasis in Congress on budget-slashing means less funds for the Farm Bill, and the long-term trend of budget-slashing in journalism means less reporting about the Farm Bill, at least from the traditional press. Recent federal rule changes have already dinged small farmers, and Big Ag is about to be allowed to use even more pesticides than before. Oh, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) may have just been deregulated entirely by the USDA. Mark Bittman recently used his New York Times op-ed column to update readers on the still-sorry state of factory farms in America, despite the failure of the "ag-gag" law to pass in Iowa. On the upside? Ethanol subsidies, as noted before in Sift, are no longer politically acceptable.