Friday, June 22, 2007
Food & Farm Bill of Rights

Over the past year Julie and I have become more and more aware of how what we eat is tied into justice issues like environmental sustainability and Fair Trade. The reality is that our current farm policies in America support practices that are harmful to the environment and to our health. They also flood the global market with cash crops (like corn, soybeans, etc.) that drive prices down artificially, making it extremely difficult for farmers around the world to sell their crops at a fair and livable price. These policies also drive small farmers here in America out of business as well. And, besides being an example of un-fair trade, since this is accomplished mainly through government subsidies, it actually also thwarts the free market system, artificially driving down prices on commodities that ought to cost significantly more and undermining global competition.

It is because of realities like this that Earl Blumenauer, a congressman from Oregon, has proposed a "Food & Farm Bill of Rights". It sounds like a good idea to me, and I'd encourage you to sign the petition in support of the following:

  1. Americans have a right to a policy free of special interest giveaways: Current farm policy favors corporate special interests. Fully 70 percent of the payments go to the top 10 percent of farmers, and even more of that benefit is concentrated for the large processors. What’s more, aid is so concentrated in a few powerful states that the support received by most states is almost negligible. We deserve a food and farm policy that serves all Americans, not just the politically-connected.

  2. American taxpayers have a right to a fiscally responsible policy: Today’s Farm Bill contains some of the federal government’s largest programs. We deserve a food and farm policy that ensures our tax dollars are invested in fiscally sound policies and programs that fit in with the priorities of the American farmer and taxpayer.

  3. Americans have a right to a policy that serves all farmers: Our current farm policy ensures high profits for a few select commodities while neglecting the needs of many other valuable commodities and smaller producers. In fact, 60 percent of America ’s farmers and ranchers get no support whatsoever. We deserve a food and farm policy that supports producers and helps them access new local markets, thereby generating jobs by adding value to their products.

  4. Americans have a right to a safe and healthful food supply: Recent crises in food supplies (Hurricanes Katrina and Rita) and food safety (fresh spinach and tainted pet foods) are painful reminders of the vulnerability of our food supplies and distribution systems. We deserve a food and farm policy that guarantees a safe and healthful food supply in this country, in good times and in bad.

  5. American children have a right to good nutrition: Children who are hungry perform poorly in school and are at greater risk for long-term health problems. We deserve a food and farm policy that makes sure our children are well nourished by allowing more healthful choices and opening up access to fruits and vegetables.

  6. Americans have a right to local supplies of fresh food: Too many Americans do not have the option of buying affordable, locally-grown fresh food. We deserve a food and farm policy that includes programs that deliver healthy food to all communities, regardless of location, class, or economic standing.

  7. Americans have a right to a policy that promotes energy independence: The pursuit of heavily subsidized corn-based ethanol is a fool’s game fueled only by massive government subsidies and regulations not justified by the science or economics. We deserve a food and farm policy that enables our farmers and ranchers to produce vast quantities of renewable energy: wind, solar, in some cases small-scale hydro, geothermal and biomass.

  8. Americans have a right to a policy that protects the environment: Virtually every urban area is surrounded by productive farmland that also provides important environmental services – wildlife habitat, carbon sinks, clean water – as well as landscapes and vistas that define our sense of place. We deserve a food and farm policy that promotes good stewardship of the environment and our natural resources.

  9. Americans have a right to preserve farmland from sprawl: In many areas of the country the pressures of sprawl are forcing farmers off of their land. We deserve a food and farm policy that gives farmers the tools they need to protect their land – and our heritage – from development pressures.

  10. Americans have a right to a policy that fosters sustainable farming practices: The current farm policy offers conflicting messages about good farming practices, sometimes promoting sustainable practices while other times offering incentives that undermine the long-term health of our soil and water resources. We deserve a food and farm policy that enables farmers to be responsible with their land so that they can pass it on to the next generation.

If you want to go even further I'd encourage you to also get involved in Bread for the World's 2007 "Seeds of Change Campaign" which is likewise focused on farm policy reform.

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posted by Mike Clawson at 5:19 PM | Permalink |


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