California "is destined to cede billions of dollars to entrenched commodity interests in the Midwest and South" as the bill "sets the nation's food policy for the next five years," writes Carolyn Lochhead, the paper's Washington correspondent. "Subsidies in the new legislation would encourage corn and other commodity crops that are a major component of processed foods and animal feed rather than the produce that is the staple of a healthy diet."
That, of course, is nothing new, but is worth noting in a nation with an obesity epidemic, as is this point: "Because they did not rely on federal payments, California fruit and vegetable growers led the country in innovative farming methods, adapting to market demand and diversifying risk." But that doesn't mean they haven't been trying to get in the Farm Bill. They succeeded to a small degree four years ago, and are hoping to at least maintain those gains this time. "The state's fresh fruit and vegetable growers are pleased that the Senate bill preserves hard-fought gains in the last Farm Bill in 2008, including research for organics and produce, farmers' markets and more fruit and vegetable purchases for school lunches and other federal food programs," Lochhead reports.
Michael Dimock, president of Roots of Change, a San Francisco philanthropy pushing localized production of fresh food, told the Chronicle that Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the first ag committee chair from a major fruit-and-vegetable state, "has done the best she can given the realities in Congress right now." (Read more)