Approximately every five years the United States renews its commitment to our food system, farmers, school children and to all Americans. The Farm Bill, a massive piece of legislation last passed in 2018, helps determine how much and what kind of food the country will grow, as well as what foods will be super cheap in the grocery store and fast-food places. Most often the work is left to representatives from farm states, but this go around history is being made. Cory Booker, senator from New Jersey, will be the first “urban” senator to sit on the committee.
The Farm Bill is not a sexy piece of legislation, but we all should be attracted to the text. Farm Bill Matters because it determines what America eats, food that dramatically affects our health and the health of farm animals and our planet. The graphic below shows how the approximate $428 billion package is allocated.
For the next couple months, The Food Party! will read Food Fight - A Citizens Guide to The Next Food and Farm Bill, by Dan Imhoff.
We’ll tackle a couple chapters a week and report on back. Please join us. Since the book was published in 2012, more up-to-date information from NSAC, a 501c3 organization, will be included. Our end goals are:
1) Understand more about this consequential piece of legislation
2) Follow up on concerns and visions for the new bill with federal officials
Of all the legislation that moves through Congress, nothing is more important to the health of the country than the Farm Bill. Three quarters of health care spending goes toward treating chronic diseases (metabolic disease, diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers); diseases that could be dramatically reduced by changing what we eat. Federal subsidies in the form of our federal taxes lean heavily for corn, wheat and soy, producing over-abundant yields with artificially low prices. In response, the cheap, huge harvest is used to make “ultra-processed foods” that fill grocery shelves and the Standard American Diet (SAD), creating unhealthy bodies where chronic diseases thrive.
By-the-by, you can’t make ultra-processed foods at home; you don’t have the ingredients in your pantry and they aren’t for purchase. Stats show Americans consume an average of 500 calories per day from these highly manufactured and denatured food substances. It’s hard to call them food.
Another unhelpful part of the bill considers vegetables and fruits specialty crops, meaning they don't get much support from the federal government. So while the USDA My Plate encourages fruits and veggies to fill ½ of our plates, our tax dollars subsidize the exact opposite style of eating in the Farm Bill.
- graphic from USDA
Watch Marion Nestle, molecular biologist, nutritionist, and public health advocate, discuss health ramifications of our SAD diet in a recent Edible Education session at UC Berkeley.
Passage for the next Farm Bill is set for September 2023, and summer will see creation of the text. The time to learn and take action is NOW.
We’ll discuss a few chapters at a time.
Please read along with us, or just tune in.