As we head into the season of super suppers, Congress is preparing for some hard conversations about what’s for dinner. In August, when our government almost shut down because Congress couldn’t agree on how to balance our budget–they came up with the idea of a “super committee” aka. the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to decide which programs to save and which to scrap–including those that impact the food we eat. Between now and Thanksgiving, this group of 6 Democrats and 6 Republicans will come to the table with the task of trimming our budget by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.
Today marks the deadline for various groups—including those representing agriculture—to submit their recommendations to the super committee. If they can’t reach consensus on an action plan by Nov. 23, automatic across-the-board cuts will kick in to the tune of $1.2 trillion–affecting everything from defense to healthcare. If they are able to come to an agreement, Congress will make the final vote to approve the super committee’s proposal on Dec. 23.
We’re on our toes. On the chopping block are some of the programs that make it easier for all of us to eat good, clean, and fair food:
• SNAP (aka food stamps)
• Conservation programs—such as Value Added Producer Grants for small producers, grants for organic fruit and vegetable production, and funding for community food projects
But there’s an opportunity here! Also on the chopping block—for the first time in history—are programs that make it easier to eat overprocessed foods that are bad for us and the planet. We’re talking about direct subsidies for commodity crops (like corn, soy, wheat, etc) in particular. This is a critical moment for the future of food and we want Congress to do the right thing: save the programs that promote good, clean, and fair food and scrap the ones that promote an unhealthy, unsustainable America.
While the politics of spending cuts and tax increases can get a bit messy on the Hill, one thing is clear: We can’t afford to skimp on keeping America nourished and healthy. Last month, when 30,000 people took the $5 Challenge—to cook Slow Food for less than it costs to buy fast food—we saw a nation ready for change. We need policy that makes it easier for everyone to grow and eat food that reflect our values: food that’s good for the people who eat it, good for the farm and food workers who produce it, and good for the planet. So will the super committee be the super heroes or super villains for better food and farming?