The Farm Bill: How Policy impacts Our Food, farms and how to get involved

Hi Everyone! Abdi and Anthony Here from Growing Green. We have been talking about how policy can help us all have healthier food, healthier communities and a healthier planet. While we chose to write about the Farm Bill, a group of Federal policies that impact our food, our fellow Growing Greeners Adriana and Robert are writing about the Green Code, a local effort to make Buffalo’s land use policies more green and food friendly. Well we hop you enjoy and please vote for our blog entry if you think we’ve got good info.

What is the farm bill? The farm bill is the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the federal government. The comprehensive bill is passed every 5 years or so by the United States Congress and deals with both agriculture and all other affairs under the authority of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Some of the things that the food bill covers are:

  • The farm bill influences the federal food stamp program. The farm bill decides what food stamps can buy, how much they can buy, and were they can buy with the food products.

  • The farm bill covers policies that decide what food is in public school lunches.

  • The Farm Bill also impacts food and agricultural subsidies. A subsidy is a form of financial assistance paid to a business or economic sector. People who make high fructose corn syrups get more subsidies right now than the healthy food growers. The real prices of fruits and vegetables have increased greatly between 1985 and 2000 by 40%! Those healthy foods are now hard for the schools to afford and keep us in healthy shape. Due to big subsidies the healthy and necessary foods that we need are priced higher while the subsidized unhealthy foods, such as soft drinks, AKA liquid corn syrup, decline in prices by 23%! so even foods that are more processed and that require more labor to produce cost less. Take a look at your school lunches.

Why should we care about the farm bill? The Farm Bill covers a wide range of topics, including payments to farmers to support the prices for crops, nutrition programs such as food stamps, international trade, conservation, energy. So many different issues that it pretty much covers everything we eat, and grow! It is affecting because it is making it more difficult for people to get there hands on healthy food and is making it more difficult for farmers to grow the healthy food because they cant sell it. The Farm Bill isn’t the only legislation to address these issues, but it is one time when we have an opportunity to speak out on things that concern so many parts of our lives.

Who is responsible for deciding what is in the farm bill? Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency, The U.S. Forest Service, Great Lakes Basin Program for Sediment and Erosion Control, National Watershed Coalition are the partners of the Farm Bill and are responsible for things such as funding and finding more resources.

How can we get involved? The first step in taking action on the farm bill is to learn more on what the farm bill is about. Finding something that you feel strongly about will motivate you to get involved.

  • You can become more aware of how the food and agricultural policies have affected your food: in schools, in stores, for farming practices and economically. Take a look at the following movies about food: King Corn, Life and Debt, or Food Inc., Supersize Me, The Future of Food, Global Banquet: Politics of Food, Prince Charles’ Harmony Documentary, The Garden, The Story of Food, The Meatrix-these last 3 are good for kids! Try these books about food: Fast Food Nation, Omnivores Dilemma, What to Eat, Let Them Eat Junk, Stolen Harvest, Diet for a Small Planet, Stuffed and Starved.
  • Some great websites to get more information are: Foodsecurity.org, Foodfirst.org, Greenforall.org, http://www.greenforall.org/resources/healthy-food-for-all-planthing-seeds-of-change/, Smallplanet.org. On these websites they will tell you how you can learn more about the food system and how to get more involved in food justice issues and food policy.
  • Take a look at your school lunch menu. You can get one from your principle. If the choices for food are mostly processed foods or foods with high fructose corn syrup ask your principle or local school board how to get more healthy food in your school.
  • Another way you can get involved is by contacting a member of Congress and telling them how the farm bill is affecting your city or town and how they can change the bill for the better. For help finding your local representative go to: www.lwv.org once your there you can to over the take action bar, and click on find your representative.
  • You can also help support local farms by joining a Community Supported Agriculture program-where you can get healthy food direct from a local farm, volunteering at an urban agriculture organization, buying locally produced food from a farmers market, food co-op or grocery store or growing organic food yourself!!

When should we act? The farm bill changes every 5 years and it affects all citizens in the U.S. Congress begins discussion of the new Farm Bill two years in advance, the next bill should be coming out on 2012. Just like when you have homework due in a month. Should you wait a month to start working on it??? Probably not. If you think about it this policy affects so much of our lives, our health and our communities and our world. What’s more important than that? So whether its something big or small find something you are passionate about and do something about it today!

Green our City with the Green Code

Hello this is Adriana and Robert from Growing Green. We are a part of Healthy Kids Healthy Communities of Buffalo and we are excited to be part of the planning for buffalo's new Green Code. A zoning code is a series of rules that explain how and what land is used for. Buffalo's current zoning code was written in 1951 and is now very very outdated. A lot of things have changed since that era and it is time to write new rules. A new green code can help protect our neighborhood and our city. It can also can prevent land uses that do not fit in our neighborhoods, like polluting factories. It can also encourage uses that help make neighborhoods better , like urban farms, gardens,parks and more recreational sites. Do you want to be a part of this planning? Then come help us by participating in a workshop in your neighborhood. You'll have a chance to tell the city what your neighborhood is like now, how it is changing , and and what you would like it to become. The Locations are:

Riverside High school March 1st 6:30-9:00 P.M.

North Park Academy March 2nd 6:30-9:00 P.M.

Bennett High School March 1st 6:30-9:00 P.M.

Lafayette high school March 3rd 6:30-9:00 P.M.

South Park high school March 3rd 6:30-9:00 P.M.

Montessori School March 2nd 6:30-9:00 P.M.

East High school 9:00-11:30 A.M.

Col Matt Urban Center March 5th 1:00 P.M.-3:30 P.M.

Hutch Tech high school February 28 6:30 P.M.-9:00 P.M.

Come to one of these workshops in your community and help to make this effort a success. :)

GG Youth beginning Lois Gibbs Fellowship

Hello and this is Adriana and Anthony from the youth enterprise group. Yesterday Anthony and Robert began their Lois Gibbs fellowship about environmental justice. The fellowship was inspired by Lois Gibbs, who led the fight to get children and families out of a toxic environment, the Love Canal. She told the story of her and her neighbors and how they organized for environmental justice. The Love Canal is in the northern area near Buffalo and there were many companies dumping a lot of toxic waste into a dump-site that had a school built and homes over it. The chemicals started leaking into the peoples basements who lived in the area and the toxic chemicals got into their heating systems. These chemicals were so poisonous that 56% of children born in the neighborhood were born with birth defects. Lois Gibbs was a mom whose young son became very sick from the exposure to the chemicals just by going to school and living in his neighborhood. Lois Gibbs was telling us about ways she and her neighbors fought to secure the safety of the residents in Love Canal. Food justice is related to environmental justice because they both affect people in my neighborhood. It's not right that people have to live without healthy food our without healthy neighborhoods, we all deserve better than that. Also we're connected to our land, which provides us with the food, water, animals, plants, and materials that we need to live. We have to protect these natural resources so that we can have a future. I want my grandchildren to be able to see the oceans, grass, and animals that i was able to see.We still have a chance to save the future. In fact we are the future.