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Forget the Farm Bill: Where We Should Set Our Sights This Year For Real Change

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Politics and Democracy page and our USDA Watch page.

I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but I don't care about the 2012 farm bill. Here's why.

The sustainable food and agriculture movement has a lot of momentum and a lot of opportunities right now, but only limited resources in terms of lobbying power. The movement has a large amount of people who care, but a relatively small amount of money compared to entrenched agriculture interests. It has a few strategically placed sympathetic appointees and elected representatives in the government. But, unfortunately, Dennis Kucinich alone cannot pass the vastly revamped farm bill we need.

But outside of Washington, the ranks of those who care about localizing our food supply and making agriculture more sustainable are growing every day. After all, delicious food is a powerful recruiting tool. The sustainable food movement is not powerless. Not nearly. But the movement can make far more progress if it focuses its energy on more winnable issues. Focusing on the farm bill for the whole of 2012 will use up endless resources and result in relatively little gain.

Taking Big Ag Head On

Taking on the farm bill is taking on the entrenched agriculture interests that gave us the food system we have - pesticides, processed food, factory farms, and all - head on. The Agriculture Committees in the House and the Senate are each filled with congressmen and women who are from districts that benefit from keeping the status quo and who receive plenty of donations from agribusiness. In the 2012 election cycle, members of the House Ag committee have collectively taken in $3.7 million in contributions from agribusiness. For comparison, their next biggest donor was the communications industry, which gave them a mere $834,600 in donations. The Senate side is the same, receiving $9.5 million from agribusiness, making it also their largest group of donors.

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