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Organic Consumers Association

Senate Ag Committee Votes to Harm Environment, Starve Hungry, and Help Rich Farms

  • 2012 Farm Bill: Healthy Food Not Corporate Welfare
    Organic Consumers Association, May 9, 2012

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's 2012 Farm Bill Page

At the end of April, the Senate Agriculture Committee marked up their version of the 2012 Farm Bill, passing the Orwellian-titled "Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012," by a vote of 16-5.

"A farm bill that cuts programs for the hungry and the environment to help finance a new entitlement program and unlimited insurance subsidies for the largest and most profitable farm operations should not be called a 'reform' bill." That was the reaction from Craig Cox, Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources of the Environmental Working Group.

The Washington Post summed it up this way: "[The Senate Agriculture Committee] voted to eliminate the wasteful "direct payments" subsidy program when the five-year farm bill expires at the end of September. But it offset much of the savings by expanding subsidies for federal crop insurance. Rife with opportunities for fraud and abuse, this program hurts small farmers and distributes resources upward in the income scale even when it works as designed."

Ferd Hoefner, Policy Director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, offered this criticism:

"By failing to place limitations on crop insurance subsidies and to re-attach soil erosion and wetland conservation requirements to crop insurance programs, the Committee has failed to do the full reform that is needed. ...

"...the Committee failed to provide adequate funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, thus limiting critical resources that new farmers need to succeed."

"The Committee did not fund the rural development title, nor did it make needed improvements in farm to school programs. It also limited the funding for programs targeted to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

"We ... echo Sen. Brown's (D-OH) concluding statements: without a strong investment in rural development programs we will miss the opportunity to truly make this bill a jobs bill."

Writing on the opinion page of the San Francisco Chronicle, Ken Cook, president, and Kari Hamerschlag, senior food and agriculture analyst, of the Environmental Working Group issued this call to action:

"[I]f eaters and taxpayers don't speak up, we'll get agribusiness as usual. On April 18, Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee voted to slash $33 billion from the food stamp program while leaving farm subsidies unscathed.

"The subsidy lobby is pushing a new $33 billion entitlement program to guarantee the income of profitable farm businesses. That's on top of $90 billion in subsidies for crop and revenue insurance policies.

"And after getting its grip on your money, for the next five years, the subsidy lobby will regretfully inform you that nothing is left to invest in healthier eating, hungry kids or clean water. They'd value nothing more than your silence in response."

EWG's proposals are fleshed out by Hamerschlag in her post, "Subsidy Buffet for Agribiz, Table Scraps for Good Food":

"[T]he committee ... cut $4 million from organic research funding (to $16 million a year) and cut funding to support Beginning Farmers in half, to $10 million. Never mind that we have a serious shortage of young farmers and the average age of all farmers is hovering around 57. ...

"According to a recent Government Accountability Office report, simply capping crop insurance premium subsidies at $40,000 per farm could yield as much as $10 billion in savings over 10 years. This would be nearly enough to spare conservation and anti-hunger programs from the proposed cuts while affecting just 4 percent of the subsidy recipients, who currently collect more than 30 percent of the total!

"According to the same report, reducing the average crop insurance premium subsidy by 10 percent might save another $10 billion over 10 years. This would be more than enough to significantly pay down the deficit and cover the modest $200 million annual cost of the Local Farms, Food and Jobs bill and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher bill.

"A portion of that subsidy savings could also be used to not just restore but actually double funding for organic agriculture, reinstate funding for the socially disadvantaged farmer program cut by the committee and double the number of low-income schools participating in the Fruit and Vegetable Snack program."

Investing in organic creates jobs. According to the Organic Trade Association, organic farming creates 21 percent more jobs than industrial agriculture.

Please take action today!

Learn more at the Organic Consumers Association's campaign page:
2012 Farm Bill: Healthy Food Not Corporate Welfare 

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