Fixing the Farm Bill
Farm policies are polluting the planet and sickening Americans. That was the takeaway message at a congressional briefing on April 19. PCRM’s director of government affairs Elizabeth Kucinich and president Neal Barnard, M.D., were joined by agriculture experts to discuss plans to fix a badly broken system.
Animal waste from factory farms contaminates waterways, leading to disease outbreaks among humans and aquatic life. The widespread use of antibiotics on factory farms has led to a proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, making it harder to treat infections.
Dan Imhoff, author of Food Fight: The Citizen’s Guide to the Next Food and Farm Bill, pointed out the largely hidden influence of the Farm Bill on the American diet and on the agricultural practices that support it.
Larry Baldwin and Don Webb of the Waterkeeper Alliance described how permissive policies have allowed hog farming to become an environmental disaster.
Dr. Barnard tackled the nutrition side of farm policies, proposing major reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps. One in seven Americans now participates in SNAP. However, unlike the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which specifically omits many unhealthful foods, SNAP puts candy, soda, fatty meats, and cheese on a par with vegetables, fruits, and other healthful foods. That is, they are all free of charge. The result is that SNAP is a boon to junk-food purveyors, but it removes all barriers to foods that are harmful to children’s health.
SNAP also perpetuates food deserts. Because the program pays retailers dollar-for-dollar for soda, potato chips, candy, energy drinks, canned meats, and other less-than-nutritious foods, retailers have no incentive to stock healthful foods. They have no reason to provide apples or oranges, when potato chips and candy are fully covered by SNAP and have a much longer shelf life.
Sixty-three percent of the government’s agricultural subsidies for domestic food products in recent history have directly and indirectly supported meat and dairy production. Less than 1 percent of these subsidies have gone to fruits and vegetables.
Learn more at PCRM.org/FarmBill.