In efforts to meet a pre-Thanksgiving holiday break deadline, the House and Senate ag committees are working via a joint panel to create the national food and farm policy for the next five years, with what could have significant repercussions for the nation's farmers markets.
Policies of this scale have taken as long as a year to write in the past, but the ag committees are working to complete this one in a matter of days. Once written, it will be sent off to the "supercommittee" for approval.
While nothing is firm as of yet, some estimates could see the new farm policy bill cut as much as $15 billion from funds for commodity farmers and as much as ten percent could be pulled from programs including food stamps. But, the commodity cuts are "agribusiness as usual," according to Tom Philpott. He writes in Mother Jones, "Like the old system, the new insurance scheme would apply only to farmers who grow those subsidized commodity crops. The new setup would be cheaper than direct payments—projected to cost $3.5 billion per year versus $5 billion—but it continues to ensure that corn and soy will continue to blanket millions of acres: agribusiness as usual, in other words."
As for small farmers, a number of bills and programs that could help them transition to organic and help communities establish new farmers markets are facing major budget cuts—as much as half of their funding could be lost, states Philpott, "[T]he most egregious thing about the backroom farm bill being slapped together is that it completely shuts out grassroots participation in crafting national food and farm policy."
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Image: Stepan Mazurov