Budding food policy wonkette. This is a stew photos, news articles, recipes, and short posts by your truly on topics ranging from healthy school lunches to international food aid. Keeping the conversation fresh and players honest.

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Posts tagged young farmers

What The Hell is Going On With The Farm Bill?

Happy Saturday!

Both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees recently passed their own versions of a massive piece of legislation that controls U.S. agricultural and nutrition policy. The previous bill—The Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008—expired on September 30, 2012. Last year the Senate approved a proposed bill renewal, but the House did not take the floor and lawmakers decided to extend most programs through 2013. Now Congress is done preparing another farm bill and they are both terrible from a sustainable agriculture point of view. There are murmurs it might not even pass again.


Local food advocates need to play the game of thrones pay attention to these debates. While the bill is chock full of bipartisan subsidies for largest-scale farmers to grow commodities like corn, soy and cotton, it’s also a source of revenue for agriculturally-related conservation programs and contains millions of federal funds that support organic farms, young farmers, organic research and farmer’s markets. The parts of the farm bill most dear to sustainable agriculture advocates would be the parts least likely to survive as stand-alone bills that need to be voted on every few years. We know where this path leads.


Anyway, here are a few highlights from the proposed bills:

1. The House bill cuts projected spending in farm and nutrition programs by nearly $40 billion. Just over half, $20.5 million, would come from cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps [The Senate’s version only cuts $4 billion but it finds cuts elsewhere, in conservation funding, by $3.6 billion].

A report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan Washington research group, said the cuts in the food stamp program would eliminate two million people from the program, most of them children and older people. The report said the cuts would come in addition to a reduction that food stamp recipients would experience starting Nov. 1., when benefits that were increased under the 2008 economic stimulus expire.

Republicans criticized Obama in last year’s presidential campaign for his expansion of the program and many House conservatives have refused to consider a farm bill without cuts to food stamps, which make up 80 percent of the bill’s costs. The issue was hotly debated, with members quoting Bible verses to support either side. Poor form to suggest food stamp cuts in times like these.

2. Both the House and Senate versions of the farm bill would eliminate the controversial and wasteful subsidy program known as “direct payments” to farmers, which are made annually whether they grow crops or not. Currently, farmers who grown corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton and other crops receive about $5 billion in direct payments. BUT that money would then be redirected into other subsidy programs, including crop insurance and new subsidies for peanut, cotton and rice farmers. Did you know we still subsidize sugar? #Lobbyists #SpecialInterests #TheWorst

3. The Senate version of the bill includes a provision that would link participation in the crop insurance program with the adoption of conservation practices, includes additional protections for disappearing grasslands, and a bunch of other really cool things. The House version boosts funding for “new farmer” programs and a few local food initiatives.


Both House and Senate have promised a vote by the end of June.


Five Things You Didn’t Know About Sustainable Farming

Yes, yes, yes! Sustainable agriculture embodies what Earth Day is all about; protecting our landscape from urban development and providing healthy and nutritious food for our communities.

Starting next month, a new speciality license plate to promote California agriculture and fund farm education programs. The largest farm state in the nation, California has an output of almost $43.5 billion a year and grows nearly half of the nation’s fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

The proceeds will go to a grant program administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which recognizes that California has a branding problem when it comes to the state’s agricultural contributions.

"It’s really good to get the message of how important our agricultural contributions are and make the public aware."

Looking for an apprenticeship (hint: the time is now!), a food job, or land? The National Young Farmers Coalition has recently released a new resource for young farmers and ranchers looking for all this and more. Standing on the shoulders of giants!!

You’ve heard of speed dating, but if you’re a young farmer, you might want to try weed dating. This event was sponsored by the Greenhorns, a farmer support organization in New York state (they make documentaries too), and we’ve mentioned it on Grist before. “Weed dating” poses a solution to an age-old problem for young people working in isolated, rural areas. As weed dating co-organizer Lulu McClellan puts it, “From what everyone has told me … you really don’t want to be farming without a partnership, whether that partnership is romantic or not. You want to find someone you can commit to and work with because it’s just too much for one person.”

The fruits of my labor are finally up!

Despite being over-scheduled this term, I decided to take up an internship at a local start-up in Hanover, FarmPlate. I had a really fantastic term working as their Editorial Intern and being in such a dynamic environment. I especially loved contacting these trailblazers and inquiring into come of the challenges of being a part of a movement that is constantly being outsourced by bigger, corporate farms. These are the people that grow our food and their stories are definitely worth reading.