Approximately every 5 years, a comprehensive Farm Bill is passed by the United States Congress. The current Farm Bill, known as the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act was passed in 2008 with many of its provisions set to expire in 2012.
With much of the 2008 Farm Bill expiring soon, the US Senate is currently debating reauthorization of some of the provisions as well as a number of amendments that are of much importance to small farmers and consumers seeking to procure healthy food from them.
While there is certainly much that is wrong with the Farm Bill and over 190 amendments to it have been filed, seeking perfection in the political process is not possible. A smarter approach is to seek out and support positive aspects of the bill that have a good shot at approval and that could greatly further the cause of small farms and consumer access to healthy food in America.
Vote YES on the Paul Amendment #2180 to legalize interstate sales of raw milk
Vote YES on the Tester “Seeds & Breeds” Amendment #2234 to support NonGMO seeds and dedicate a portion of USDA’s research to classical breeding
More and more, agriculture research is controlled by corporations who are focused on expanding their genetically engineered crops, and every year farmers are left with fewer choices of seeds that are not genetically engineered. Farmers who want to avoid growing genetically modified (GMOs) simply don’t have good alternatives. And when farmers have no options, consumers have no options.
In the last Farm Bill, Congress directed the USDA to make classical plant and animal breeding a priority for funding, but the agency imposed hurdles in the grant-making process that have undermined this Congressional mandate. Tester’s amendment would require the USDA to dedicate at least 5% of the grants for research to support classical breeding, as opposed to research on genetically engineered crops. The amendment does not call for any new expenditures by the government, merely an allocation of some existing research money for non-GMO research.
Vote NO on the Feinstein Amendment #2252 to impose uniform standards for egg production
Senator Feinstein’s bill was developed by the US Humane Society and the United Egg Producers and requires various changes in the living conditions for caged laying hens. Although pastured producers do not use cages, they will still be affected by the bill’s requirements for labeling eggs and euthanasia. The bill’s exemption for small producers covers only those who handle eggs solely from a single flock of three thousand birds or fewer. Thus, if small farmers work together to create a joint brand for marketing purposes, they will not be exempt from the bill no matter how small their individual flocks are. And those farmers who are trying to expand consumer access to high-quality food by maintaining large enough flocks for wholesale or restaurant distribution will be subject to the bill.
The egg bill requires that eggs be labeled as either “eggs from free-range hens,” “eggs from cage-free hens,” “eggs from enriched cages,” or “eggs from caged hens.” There is no option for labeling the eggs as “pastured.” This means that pastured producers will be forced to label their eggs with the same label as a factory farm that allows the minimal access to the outdoors required for the free-range label, placing pastured producers at a significant competitive disadvantage. The bill also places the American Veterinary Medical Association, an organization that has repeatedly supported factory farm production practices, in charge of what constitutes humane euthanasia for laying hens. It is unclear whether on-farm slaughter will be allowed, creating a significant problem for pastured producers who sell stewing hens once their layers are no longer productive.
While the conditions in factory chicken farms undoubtedly need to be changed, this bill is not the right way to do it.
Thank you for your help in helping something positive come out of the next Farm Bill which will dictate agricultural and food policy for the next 5 years!
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. Her work is dedicated to helping families effectively incorporate the principles of ancestral diets within the modern household. She is a sought after lecturer around the world for conferences, summits, and podcasts.
Her work has been covered by major media including USA Today, ABC, NBC, and many others.