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Farm bill updates

(article, Kim Carlson)

The Web is spinning these days with updates, speculation, and editorializing on the farm bill that’s making its way through Congress. Two pieces on Culinate — by Dan Barber and Dan Imhoff — have discussed the background, problems, and potential with this bill, but as the year rolls on and the behemoth continues its way through Congress, there's a lot to keep track of:

On May 4, over at Grist, Tom Philpott was pleased by the progressive proposals put forth in a farm bill introduced by two legislators, but then later learned it was just a “marker bill,” or one that’s not intended to be voted on. The bill encourages building infrastructure so that farmers can feed people who live nearby; to that end, the bill includes measures for funding farmers at the state level with federal money. 

A week later, Mental Masala weighed in on the farm bill on The Ethicurean, noting that this very month the bill is being rewritten in Congress. Unfortunately, the head of the House Agriculture Committee declared that the bill will be entirely written by his committee, thus shutting out the authors of the marker bill mentioned above (who are not on the committee).

Helpfully, this post also passes on a link to a farm bill action guide. The guide has good suggestions for what we citizens can do to effect changes in our laws, from signing up for updates via the American Farmland Trust to attending local meetings with our congressional reps. 

Besides Grist and the Ethicurean, another good bookmark for a farm-bill watch is Sam Fromartz’s blog Chews Wise. Fromartz, who wrote Organic Inc., keeps a finger on the pulse in Washington, as does Parke Wilde at the blog U.S. Food Policy (although he hasn’t written on the farm bill recently). 

Yet another source is Farm Policy, which, in its detail, underscores the complexity of lawmaking in the United States in the 21st century — even about something so basic as food. 

And finally, just yesterday Michael Pollan, who has done a great deal to raise awareness about what he calls "the food and farm bill," posted a list of sources about the farm bill on his website. As Pollan, who declares himself a journalist and not an activist, said in an email announcing the list: 

bq. From what people in Washington tell me, we shouldn't underestimate the power of letters, calls, and emails to our representatives.

Keep an eye on the news.