Behind closed doors, lobbyists for food system giants are pressing lawmakers to continue the status quo or make cuts elsewhere. Whose belts do they think should be tightened?
- NUTRITION: nutrition programs that provide critical access to food in this time of economic crisis. These programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called “food stamps”), the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, and affordable school lunch. When nearly 50 million people in the U.S. live in constant threat of hunger, cutting the budget for these programs is an outrage.
- JOB CREATION: programs that support family farms, create jobs, and keep money in rural communities. In a recent letter to the co-chairs of the “super committee,” House Agricultural Committee Chair, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D, ME) wrote “While efforts to reduce the federal deficit remain paramount, we must place an equal if not greater emphasis on policy changes that will put Americans to work and boost economic growth. Local food systems can yield significant benefits to the economy and create thousands of jobs. According to a recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a modest amount of funding or 100-500 farmers markets could create as many as 13,500 jobs over a five-year period.”
- SUPPORT FOR FARMERS AND FARMLAND: a hodgepodge of programs to address environmental quality and to provide essential support to vegetable farmers, beginning farmers, and socially-disadvantaged farmers. One of the most puzzling parts of the Food and Farm bill is that the majority of the foods that we eat (things like vegetables, fruits, and beef) are referred to as “specialty crops.” Cutting the already meager portion of Food and Farm Bill funding that goes to producers that make real food- not corn for ethanol and animal feed- is egregious. As the average age of US farmers steadily reaches retirement age (the majority of farmers today are in their 60s) it’s critical to the future of our food and agricultural economy that we continue to support the next generation of farmers, especially those from diverse communities. Related to that is ensuring that developed farmland continues to be used to grow food instead of being developed and thus saying goodbye to the investments that generations of farmers have made to the soil and surrounding terrain. And yet programs for supporting new farmers and farmland conservation are instead treated like an ATM for subsidies for Big Ag. Under a Senate Ag committee proposal, these programs could lose up to $4 billion. That’s nearly 20% of their current budget.
- FOOD SAFETY: FDA funding which goes towards (already underfunded) farm inspectors who we need more of to keep us safe from outbreaks of food-borne illness. Unless the “super committee” comes up with a better plan, FDA funding could be reduced by nearly $200 million from the 2011 level. This would lead to fewer FDA staff, including those who inspect our domestic and imported foods. Large food facilities are already sorely under-inspected- just look to recent deadly food-borne illnesses in eggs, cantaloupe, and spinach.
That’s no way to balance a budget: that’s a recipe for disaster.
Click here to tell the super committee to follow our recipe for change.