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Almost a Farm Bill?

(article, Kim Carlson)

More than a year ago, we published an [/articles/opinion/Farm+Bill+matters "opinion piece" newpage=true] by Dan Imhoff on the Farm Bill. At the time, Imhoff was hopeful about the direction of farm policy in this country, and he suggested that we might be able to cut subsidies to growers of inedible crops and give more money to organic and small-scale growers. 

But that's not what's happened. 

As the San Francisco Chronicle reported last Sunday, the Farm Bill that's finally emerged from Congress — the merging of the House version of the bill and the one from the Senate — is a $300 billion behemoth with, in a curious political twist, a formidable detractor: President Bush, who has threatened to veto it. Says the Chronicle:

bq.It is the rarest of moments: President Bush and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are on a collision course over a giant farm bill, but it is Bush who is broadly aligned with liberal Bay Area activists pushing for reform, while the San Francisco Democrat is protecting billions of dollars in subsidies to the richest farmers.

bq.A conference committee approved on Thursday most of a nearly $300 billion farm bill that will lock in the nation's food policy and environmental stewardship on millions of acres of private land for the next five years. Hoping to survive a veto, lawmakers doled out money to everyone from thoroughbred racehorse owners to food-stamp recipients.

As Food Navigator reported last week in a story about biofuels, the president has been sounding almost like a locavore himself:

bq."One thing I think that would be — I know would be — very creative policy is if we would buy food from local farmers as a way to help deal with scarcity, but also as a way to put in place an infrastructure so that nations can be self-sustaining and self-supporting," said the president.

How far he's ready to push this ideal, however, is anyone's guess. But revising food policy in the U.S. is probably not high on Bush's list of priorities during his last months in office. Too bad; farmers like Zoë Bradbury could use a little help.