Monday, March 10, 2014

Farm Bill shifts toward healthy eating, offering more for organic farmers, fruit and vegetable growers

Perhaps overlooked in discussions of the recently passed Farm Bill is how it has changed from past bills to reflect the cultural shift toward healthier eating. The new Farm Bill offers more incentives to organic farmers, fruit growers and hemp producers, Jennifer Steinhauer reports for The New York Times. "While traditional commodities subsidies were cut by more than 30 percent to $23 billion over 10 years, funding for fruits and vegetables and organic programs increased by more than 50 percent over the same period to about $3 billion." (NYT photo by Jim Wilson)

The bill gives fruit and vegetable farmers greater access to crop insurance, which Steinhauer calls "a major victory" for them and Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) "who negotiated, prodded, cajoled and finally shepherded the bill through Congress over two and a half years." She told Steinhauer, “Past farm bills pit regions against regions. I said that we were going to support all of agriculture.” 

The bill has huge incentives to make the switch to organic farming, with money to make the transition rising from $22 million to $57.5 million, and "Money for oversight of the nation’s organic food program nearly doubled to $75 million over five years," Steinhauer notes And while cuts in food stamps were a major issue in debate about the bill, "Programs that help food stamp recipients pay for fruits and vegetables—to get healthy food into neighborhoods that have few grocery stores and to get schools to grow their own food—all received large bumps." (Read more)

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