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The 2012 Farm Bill leaves the Senate

(article, Culinate staff)

Last week, a version of the 2012 Farm Bill passed the Senate. As Grist noted, this is both good news and bad news. Good, in the sense that the every-five-years legislation is finally moving. Bad, in the sense that the bill passed by our senators isn't great, and will probably get worse once the House gets to chop away at it. 

What's at risk? Funding for food stamps tops the list, as well as money aimed at land-conservation efforts. What improved? Farm subsidies, which were reduced. And what didn't make it? Amendments requiring labeling of GMO foods and banning the ownership of livestock by meatpackers.

The New York Times didn't like the bill, either: "When the House gets around to producing a bill, it is likely to be no less generous to big farmers and even stingier on food stamps and conservation."

As Marion Nestle pointed out in her wrap-up for the Atlantic, most food-politics watchdogs were skeptical about the current version of the Farm Bill. She called for food activists to recharge their batteries for the House fight — and to focus especially on the crop-insurance battle — but admitted that the Farm Bill itself is daunting to everyone:

bq. It's difficult to know what to say about a 1,010-page bill that affects literally hundreds of programs, some big, some small, at such astronomical cost — an expected $97 billion per year. The bill is so big and so complex that it is unreasonable to expect legislators to understand it well enough to vote on it intelligently. Think of it as a prime example of special interests in action.